Today’s young artists face their share of obstacles and struggles, which make their journey in the creative world rather unique. Starting from a lack of support to facing social backlash, artists nowadays are working hard to leave a footprint. It is through social media platforms, a boon of this generation, that artists are now able to share their work with a larger audience, be it to create a movement or to simply express themselves. However, this exposure did not come to them easily nor is it easy for them to live out their passion.
Problems at home
The creative arts have always been considered less significant because of the focus we tend to put on more technical subjects. As such, parents usually prefer their children emphasise more on mainstream education, which ensures more career options. With such a stigma surrounding the arts, our young artists have faced major obstacles in their homes and are yet to manage and overcome those and work freely with passion.
In 2014, Shaan Washique Akbar, one of the current admins of Comically Drawn, had given up drawing to fully concentrate on his academics. However, in 2018, Akbar decided to pick the pencil back up and re-embark on the journey. This step did not come easy for Akbar growing up in a strict household.
He said, “When I was younger, I did not have the flexibility to experiment because my parents refused to buy me materials. It was too expensive for them to invest in.”
With two major obstacles; academics and a lack of materials, Akbar’s journey came to a halt. However, when he resumed, even though he started using everyday pens to draw, another issue arose.
“When I got older and started using drawing as an emotional outlet, my parents saw this as a waste of time,” said the dejected artist.
But things changed when Akbar’s parents saw their son being noticed by relatives and was actually selling his work. Eventually, they started to ease up on the pressure.
For Fabliha Nawar Afra, artist and manager of the Facebook page Makeart by Fabliha, it was her safety that emerged as the primary concern. In her field of face-painting, she was receiving a lot of hate and threats because of the way she portrayed her artwork.
“My father is a conservative person so we share an awkwardness in-between us. Now I’m waiting for his acceptance, because I will not just change my passion for his arcane mindset. My mother supports me but my father is harsh on her,” she said.
As a person, Afra faces an internal conflict because in her attempt to get recognition from her family, she tends to hide her work from them and hopes that one day they will understand what she does and why she does it.
Given that any form of art is time consuming and requires a certain level of commitment, it becomes difficult for artists to pursue art as more than just a hobby. Due to the lack of (but growing) career options related to the creative field, artists have to overpower various boundaries and constraints other than from their homes.
Is it a sustainable career?
Salahuddin Ullash, former game artist at Mindfisher Games, focuses more on the digital arts and has developed a rather unique style.
Over the years, he has worked on improving himself and making a career out of his passion. His progress is visible as one scrolls through the posts on his Facebook page Hue_more.
The artist was able to convert his passion into a career by enhancing his skill set and focusing on digital art.
“My parents were always supportive. Maybe they knew that I would not be able to succeed in the more technical fields, so they just let me do what I loved,” said Ullash with a sigh of relief.
Ullash may be considered to be living the artist dream by being able to focus on his passion for a degree and doing freelance illustration, branding, promo videos, and making game assets. A number of doors opened up for him when he started going digital and for this, he believes digital art is more welcoming than traditional avenues.
“Art became more than an escape route when I took it as a profession and it was awesome that I was getting paid for it too,” he added.
Ullash is lucky that all has come fair in his venture into the art world. Others have not been so lucky.
Tahseen Nur a.k.a Mr. Pencilist has established himself as a versatile, reliable and talented wall-painter, who is able to artistically and aesthetically make a place soulful. So far, he has decorated the walls of multiple well-known restaurants, cafes, and apartments, but one of the main obstacles he has faced in his line of work is payment in due time. “They do not want to spend much money for the wall arts,” Tahseen put rather bluntly.
From personal experience, Nur has noticed that people take more time to pay the last instalment of a commission despite paying him in advance timely. This, Tahseen claims, “becomes a source of frustration for the artist.”
Appraisal was a problem for Adib Reza Rongon, cartoonist and artist of ARTillery. For a long time, Rongon did not understand the value of his work. It was not until he joined the group Cartoon People that he was able to understand how much he should be charging for commissions and other projects.
“We had to set a standard. If I gave my artwork away cheap, other artists would suffer,” Rongon explains.
At one point, the cartoonist started to question the worth of his own work and took whatever he got, but soon enough, his outlook changed and he started to ask for what he felt he deserved.
Rongon expressed his anguish, “People would say things like ‘why I was charging so much for just drawing two lines.’ That made me think that maybe my work was that bad.”
Despite such encounters, guided by his peers and seniors, Rongon was able to move past his doubts and establish himself as an artist and as a cartoonist who knew what he was doing.
Both Akbar and Nur use their art to express emotions in black and white, and to tell stories respectively. This not only acts as a personal outlet, but makes their art more relatable.
“It is not about how good an artist draws, but about expression. It is a silent message with the type of art that moves people,” said Akbar.
Nur felt a different urge to connect through art. He said, “I wanted people to know that they are not alone. At least, they’re not the only ones feeling the way they are. You know, so that they feel connected.”
Rongon as a cartoonist said that there is more to cartoons than meets the eye, and portrays a peaceful weaponisation of his work.
“When people see cartoons, they laugh and it gets them thinking, ‘How is this so funny?’ and I want that. For people to think critically about something. When people think critically, they begin to understand a philosophy,” said Rongon, while explaining what he feels about the broader aspect of cartoons.
Rongon uses satire to make serious political and social issues easy to grasp for the general public. Despite facing numerous threats, he saw the bigger picture — creating a movement.
“I receive death threats and hateful comments when I make cartoon strips regarding sensitive issues. Eventually I stopped paying attention and focused on the next matter at hand,” he said with conviction.
Such a series of comic strips is his ongoing project Rongdhong, which he started in March 2019, to highlight issues like women’s safety, climate change, and other political issues, with a touch of satire and humour.
Rongon holds to the notion that all art comes from a place of love. His journey of growth and efforts of breaking through barriers to create the reality he sees, makes him Dhaka’s artist-warrior— striving to create change.
Like Rongon, the journey has been equally threatening for Afra. Being a woman and pursuing face-painting and body-art, her intentions were misinterpreted by various groups of people.
“I want to make a statement and despite facing criticism from conservative groups, I think my work is an impactful way to do so. But not everyone appreciates it.”
Afra has received her fair share of negative criticism and online harassment, but at the end of the day, she strives to inspire others, but also acknowledges that society is not ready for such bold statements.
Fabliha Nawar Afra was able to combine two of her hobbies — makeup and drawing. She realised she could merge these two activities when she saw multiple artists on Instagram and Facebook such as Kimberley Margarita and Molly Bee (@beautsoup).
One of the basic problems local artists face is a lack of inspiration and job opportunities. At times, artists face creativity block and are unable to get working. Other than that, some artists have difficulty finding part-time jobs or reaching out to an audience which would further assist them to get commissions. This is where social media and the Internet come into play and help artists transcend boundaries to make the entire world their oyster.
Various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, DeviantArt, Patreon and such have given artists a broad field to share their work and learn from others as well. Not only are artists able to communicate with various communities around the world, but are also able to do freelancing.
Art can be powerful. Young minds today not only weaponise art to create a change but also to ignite a flame of hope and happiness, which are difficult to find in this postmodern world. Throughout time, artists have faced unique obstacles, however, it is their efforts to surpass these restraints to create a more colourful and relatable reality which make them artists, creators and visionaries of their generation.