Maliha Abidi is a Pakistani-American multidisciplinary artist and author based in London and Los Angeles, who always has a sketchbook close to hand, should a moment of inspiration strike. Here, she discusses how her sketchbook practice supports her prolific output across a diverse range mediums.
Maliha Abidi Takes Us Through Her Sketchbook Practice
As an artist, my journey has been intricately tied to the sketchbooks that accompany me in every step of my creative process. I am a portrait artist, I like telling stories of people, I am inspired by my travels, as well as the complexities of our time. I often describe my art as “Come for the art, stay for the cause” because so much of my work is focused on social justice and talking about causes that are close to my heart.
Sketchbooks are not just tools for jotting down ideas; they are companions that capture my rawest thoughts and translate them into finished masterpieces. In this write-up, I invite you to delve into my practice and discover how my sketchbooks play a pivotal role in my multidisciplinary art.
One might wonder how many sketchbooks an artist truly needs. If that’s the case, then I must confess, I have more sketchbooks than I’d like to admit. My sketchbook collection extends beyond the realm of mere artistic tools. I keep one by my bedside, for inspiration often strikes when the world slumbers. These late-night sketches may be messy, but ideas wait for no one, and I’ve learned to capture them in their rawest form. Other sketchbooks have specific purposes – some are dedicated to travel sketches, capturing the essence of different cities and the colours that inspire me on my travels.
Speaking of sketchbook preferences, there are two that hold a special place in my heart. The first is an A3 size sketchbook from Daler Rowney. This serves as the birthplace of ideas for my art works, where the sketches are more refined, knowing they will be developed into paintings or digital art. On the other hand, a slightly smaller sketchbook from Royal Talens, brought home from Barcelona, acts as my travel companion, capturing the essence of my journeys and the sources of my inspiration on the road.
The materials I use in my sketchbooks are a testament to my journey as a self-taught artist. Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils are a constant, providing the comfort of familiarity since my early days of creating portraits and capturing those stories in the form of my art. Micron Pens, especially the brush pen variant, add fluidity and depth to my sketches. And lately, I’ve been exploring the world of Sennelier Oil Pastels, drawn to their unique properties and blending capabilities. My journey has been one of continuous experimentation with various mediums, unbound by rules and free to follow the path my heart leads. Being a self taught artist has taught me to not follow rules of any medium and has allowed me to have a multidisciplinary practice as an artist.
It’s fascinating how often I find myself referring back to my sketchbooks. Every single day, my sketches serve as the foundation for my creative endeavors, whether they manifest as physical paintings, drawings, digital works, or animations. The sketchbook’s pages become like puzzle pieces, waiting for the opportune moment to be plucked and added to the canvas, bringing my ideas to life with a sense of nostalgia.
The seamless translation of my sketches into finished works is made possible by the unfiltered nature of the ideas I put down on paper. Sketchbooks grant me the liberty to have my imagination untethered by expectations or pressures of perfection. By revisiting my sketches, I rediscover the essence of each idea, ensuring that the final artwork maintains its authenticity and captures the essence of its genesis.
For aspiring artists seeking to make the most of their sketchbooks, I offer a piece of practical advice: consider your sketchbook as a trusty companion. Carry a small one with you always, for inspiration can strike at any moment. Let your sketchbook be a sanctuary where ideas flow without inhibition, and where experimentation is encouraged. Embrace the joy of discovery and the thrill of unearthing hidden gems that will find their place in your future masterpieces.
Prismacolor Coloured Pencils
My sketchbooks are not just a collection of random sketches but rather a testament to my growth as an artist. Each page is a chapter in the story of my creative journey, filled with ideas waiting to be explored and brought to life. With sketchbooks as my trusted companions, I continue to explore new horizons and push the boundaries of my art, embracing the unknown with excitement and enthusiasm. One sketch can be drastically different than the other. As I walk hand in hand with my sketchbooks, I am certain that the path ahead is paved with endless possibilities and artistic discoveries.
About Maliha Abidi
Maliha Abidi is a Pakistani-American multidisciplinary artist and author living between London and Los Angeles. Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, she migrated to California at the age of 14. As a South Asian immigrant, her experiences play a huge role in her work. Her art focuses on advocating for social justice including women’s rights, girls’ education and mental health. Using bright and bold colours, Maliha hopes to get people interested in complex issues that impact our societies.
Maliha is also the founder and creator of Women Rise NFT, a Web 3.0 initiative with the focus on women’s rights and girls education through using art as a tool for advocacy.
Her work includes illustrations, animations, NFT art and illustrated books. In her spare time, she loves to travel, read books, go bicycling and explore new blends of coffee.