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An Interview With Emerging Omani Artist, Waad Al Harthy

by RABIA QAISER

Waad Al Harthy, a 20-year-old Omani artist, currently studying Marketing in Australia, is an emerging artist to watch out for. She has burst into the art scene by gaining popularity on social media because of her unique approach to painting and her time-lapsed videos.

In this interview she explains how her upbringing and experiences have influenced her art, set up her goals for the future, and the impact that social media platforms can have in terms of gaining recognition globally.

Freefall

Tell me a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Waad, I’m 20 years old. I’m currently studying in Australia, completing my BA in Marketing. I’m also an artist, and I guess I’m known for the pastel and acrylic art that I post on Instagram @w.art09 and twitter.

How has your upbringing affected your dreams and goals for the future?

I have a strong mother to look up to, that supported me and my hobbies. She taught me how to tackle my goals smartly, wisely, and motivated me when times were rough. She nurtured my artistic hobby throughout my life and sent me to art classes that helped me develop some of my skills. She is one of my biggest role models as she is currently finishing off her PhD.

I spent a few of my high school years in the UK, and I guess that is when I started looking at art more differently. I enrolled into an art and design course in high school, it kind of gave me an idea of how to collect my thoughts and ideas and put it onto a piece of canvas or paper. During my free time I loved to read about art history and attended some art exhibitions too.

My upbringing was full of support from both family and friends and I guess that was what motivated me and pushed me forward to continue with my art.

(One of the pieces she created back in 2014)

Is there a pivotal moment in your life that made you want to be an artist?

I guess my pivotal moment was not, wanting to be an ‘artist’ because I guess,  I already believed I was. My pivotal moment was when I decided that I wanted to be a known one.

It was around my first year of University, I used to sketch and paint during my free time, then post it on my private Snapchat account. I received a lot of good and critical comments on them and some people used to tell me that I should host exhibitions, which at that time seemed funny to me because I believed my art was nothing compared to existing artists.

But the concept of putting myself out there was what tugged my thoughts, I wanted people to see what I had to offer. So I decided to ask for the opinions of family and friends on posting some of my art work online and majority were very supportive. So, I ended up going for it and created an Instagram account to exhibit my art. I couldn’t believe the results, and a lot of people loved it and were sharing it, which I was really happy about. That was what motivated me to start exploring other mediums because I love to try new things and I wanted to created more content that was interactive and interesting. A few months later I came across soft pastels, I could not stop obsessing over this medium because of the vibrancy of the colors and how they would easily blend. I started around March 2018 and ever since then I have been teaching myself by reading books and watching tutorials online. I am currently still learning and constantly trying to improve myself.

What is the thought process that goes into creating your work?

To be completely honest, there is no thought process it all depends on my mood and what inspires me at that specific moment. It could happen while I sit in a lecture or while I’m walking back home or when I travel to different countries.

I see that you avoid paint brushes, and I want to know if you feel as though artistic tools restrict your creativity, and by using your hands you somehow feel more connected to the canvas.

Everyone expresses their art differently, and I found a way that resonates with my feelings which is normally what controls me when I decide to paint a piece. I love the feel of the pigment on my fingers, I guess I feel more in control when it comes to blending my colors exactly the way I want. I recently started integrating acrylic paint into my artwork by using paint brushes. I did so because I believed that this technique could create more details to give the piece more vibrancy.

If given the option to live through one of the art movements in history, which would it be?
I would have loved to live in the Surrealism era, its full of imaginative pieces, ones that are not easily explained but are interesting to look at. My favorite piece of that time was The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali.

Do you think social media is a great source for one to get recognized and create their own brand, and what are the challenges that come with that?

In this growing day and age, technology is developing so fast, connecting and networking with others has become so easy because of the digital world, specifically through social media. The amount of exposure you get from these platforms gives you a lot of opportunities, because your content is exposed online and contents of others are exposed to you just as much. I believe that stimulates your mind due to the amount of information your exposed to and continuously keeps it working by thinking about current ideas and also thinking about creating new ones. Therefore, it is a good way to establish a brand and put yourself out there to start accumulating connections, networks and exposure.

The challenges that come with this is obviously negative publicity from some users or restrictions to the amount of exposure you get unless you subscribe. Another thing could be that there are others (competitors) that are performing and producing the same type of content as you. That’s why creating your own niche in this segment is important, you need to have a unique feature in your work that attracts people to your page.

In terms of my content, I realized my followers loved seeing how my paintings came to be in ‘1 minute’ (Instagram’s video time limit). I guess the way I edit my videos and the music I use tends to keep them interested to see the final piece at the end. I always start with a blank piece of paper and through that my viewers feel like they are on a journey with me when I am painting.

Have you ever faced “artist block?” If so, then where do you find more inspiration from and how do you overcome it.

There are days where I do go through artist block and it is only recently that I learned how to overcome it. I took some graphic design courses in University and one of my lecturers introduced mood boards to me. It is basically an A3 board that consist of a collage of pictures related to the specific theme you decide to paint about; this process is normally done before you start painting. If you face artist block,  then you can refer back to the mood-board for inspiration. This has saved me in many occasions.

(Waad’s mood-board from a project in University)

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

One of my biggest guilty pleasures is still watching cartoons from time to time, but not the cartoons produced currently, I enjoy watching the old ones. For example, Disney classics, old Cartoon Network shows,  Looney Tunes etc… I believe you should let go of your adult self and step into your inner child every once in a while, and we need to breathe a little from the amount of responsibilities sitting on our backs. As they say “The creative adult is the child who survived…”

Is there a recurring theme in your paintings or artworks, or you paint how you feel in that moment?

I paint how I feel in the moment and you could see that through the colors that I use… but it all mainly comes from different inspirations. It could be natural scenery like the sea and its creatures, the sky and its clouds, the stars and moon.

Oddly I am attracted to the colors produced in outer-space by supernovas and I love combing this theme with some of my work as it makes it a bit different.

You’re currently finishing BA in Australia, correct. Since moving there have you been inspired by the art culture there and how different is it from Oman.

Definitely been inspired by the art in Australia, especially in Melbourne, I love this City because of its art culture and how dynamic and interactive it is. You feel as though the city is vibrant and alive. The city hosts several events throughout the year but my favorite is “White Night” which is an iconic arts festival that takes place around the city after-dark.

Oman will always have its unique artistic features that inspire me to this day. Majority of my art projects in university were based on my Omani culture,  because it gives me a sense of identity and it tells the western world who I am and how proud I am to be an Omani.

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