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Rising Stars: Meet Rijaa Nadeem

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rijaa Nadeem. 

Rijaa, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I was once asked what my oldest memory of painting is. I don’t believe I have one since I have been painting for as long as I can remember. Art has always been a huge part of my life and my identity. It is and always has been my most genuine and strongest form of expression. 

I was born in Pakistan, which is where I grew up. I have studied the painting masters practiced their techniques and trained under artists for most of my life. As I grew older, I knew that my career path would revolve around art in a huge way. It was never a conscious decision that I made but rather the obvious choice of path. The more I learned what my choices were, the more my mind expanded with the possibilities of what I could accomplish. It was right before college when I was introduced to a whole new form of expression. That is when I fell in love with film. I decided to change my medium and spent the next decade creating art through filmmaking. I have had the amazing opportunity to create some meaningful films with some very talented actors and filmmakers. In addition to this, I worked on numerous movies, television shows, and documentaries. I’ve always had two career paths running parallel to each other. One is when I create art which I personally feel connected to and the second is where I create film for commercial purposes. Both paths have taught me how to be a great storyteller and have helped me increase my skills. 

Last year when the pandemic happened, it shook up the whole world as we know it. It brought me face to face with myself and what I thought my priorities were. 

This is when I turned back to painting since I did not know how else to express myself. And once I did, it reminded me of my strongest tool of self-expression. Since then, my art gained a life of its own and my path was diverted once more. I have had the honor of creating some amazing paintings for myself and for others. People have reached out to me to create commissioned pieces for them which I customize completely based on who they are. My process includes asking them questions to get a full understanding of the person. The visuals and colors then automatically create themselves in my head. Creating custom pieces for others is the most rewarding part of being an artist. When they see a piece and are able to see part of themselves reflected in it, that is the most gratifying moment for me. 

Today I feel confident in my voice and style of expression. It has taken me many years of hard work and practice to get here and I’m proud of the journey that it has been. I have had my pieces exhibited in numerous exhibitions, gotten multiple commissions, and continue to grow as an artist. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When you decide to follow a path of passion, it is never a smooth road. I have spent a lot of time building my craft and enhancing my skills. No one becomes good at what they do overnight. My journey is full of long hours, hard work, and practice. It takes discipline and focus to be able to dive into your work to such an extent. But that was only part of my struggle. Not only did I have to struggle with it being a very unconventional path, I also had to struggle internally with my own self-worth and confidence as an artist. 

One of my biggest challenges was the ability to trust myself and believe in my own potential when all odds were stacked up against me. Being an artist means that you are putting out your vulnerabilities in a visual sense for the whole world to see and judge. It takes an emotional toll on you. It has been a long road but today, I am proud to say that I have found my own voice regardless of anyone else’s opinions of me and my work. To me, that is my superpower. To be able to believe in myself and my work. It has allowed me to create art which is the most genuine form of my own self-expression. It is also what has allowed me to keep growing in my craft and become a better artist. I still have so much growing to do. There are so many things I want to accomplish and so many ideas that I want to create. It feels like I have only scratched the surface. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I have spent most of my education and career studying different characters. As a writer, my main goal was to understand the layers of each of my characters and then present them in the most authentic way. This education has passed on to my paintings. All my paintings are inspired by real people I have met at some point in my life. I create backstories for each character and then paint them in a surreal abstract format to exhibit their true essence as compared to what I see on the surface. It’s similar to taking a still frame from a movie. Each painting has a specific emotion behind it and my goal as an artist is to get this emotion across genuinely. The reason I’m able to do this is because I create these characters with no judgment. They are raw and vulnerable. And that is what allows them to feel authentic. While I evolve as an artist, my style is naturally becoming more pronounced. I enjoy working with colors and believe that every emotion and every person exhibits a very specific color. Japanese art has been one of my biggest influences. They use negative space in a way to make the composition powerful. I enjoy exploring this negative space and use it in a way that it becomes part of the composition itself. I take pride in my ability to capture emotion in my work that others can relate to. I believe the authenticity of my characters is what sets me apart from others. 

What matters most to you? Why?
As an individual, the most important thing to me is my freedom to be myself. I come from a place where freedom of expression is not as celebrated and hence a lot of people around me were not ever able to be their authentic self. The freedom to be myself is what allows me to be authentic in my work. I believe everyone should have the freedom to live their lives being their most genuine self. Only then can we ever reach our true potential. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Najee Rashad

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