Digital Artist Series – Interview with Mahafuj Ali (@mali’s)
The world has gone Digital so why not art? The evolution of digital art has bought revolutionary changes in the art sector. Art is more accessible now, and thanks to various social media platforms, you can connect to the artists all the more easily and enjoy, learn, pursue or purchase art as you wish too. With a myriad of excellent apps and hundreds of useful tutorials, there is no limit to what you can achieve through digital art. Team Weekendtrivia have had the chance to know some wonderful digital artists creating unique arts in their own niche. And we are doing an interview series with such artists. Hop on and enjoy the ride..!
The first artist of this series is West Bengal-Australia based artist Mahafuj Ali. From a small village to Australia, Mahafuj has come a long way in his life. Professionally an architect, he is a self-taught artist and a rejection in Visual arts did not deter him in any way. His artworks speak a lot about his experiences, and it is a delight to observe. Read on to more about him.
Follow him on –
Instagram – @mali.aali
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MALI2013/
Twitter – @Malicartoonist
P.S. All the pictures and videos are owned by ©Mahafuj Ali and reproduction in any form, without prior permission, is prohibited
Q. Please introduce yourself.
I am presently based in a small town in Australia since the past two years and working as a landscape architect. I was born in a tiny village named Nidaya, on the banks of river Hooghly. The village had no electricity, running water or television, but I had limitless access to fields, ponds, rivers, bamboo groves and lot of books. My parents had given me all kinds of books in my childhood. My father used to work in krishnanagar and eventually we moved there, a city about 100 km north of Kolkata, where I spent most of my school days. After school I went to Shibpur, Howrah for my Architecture and then Ahmedabad for my Masters in Landscape Architecture. After my studies, I worked mostly in New Delhi and then came to Australia. All the places I have lived in, made a great impact on my drawings and thought process. I have not attended any art school, I tried once to get into visual communication, but was rejected. Then I drew every day, spent my spare time sketching and kept on creating for myself. No one directs me to sketch something. It’s only me and a piece of paper.
Q. What made you start your art page? Please share what is your Instagram profile is all about and how did your journey start?
I think at the age of 5-6, I started to read comics, and then found love for drawings and cartoons, but I was never the kid who drew very well. At the end of my school life, I used to draw on the back pages of notebooks, sketches of mostly teachers and funny classrooms incidents and to my surprise my friends could recognize those characters, so I kept on drawing. All through my college days I used to keep a sketch book always in bag, and the sketches were mostly of building and nature around as well as human activities. It was a kind of a diary for me, filled with classroom situations, teacher’s expressions, our tours to various places, train journeys. When I was working in Delhi, I used to make birthday cards for all my colleagues they all used to wait for that card more than the cake. My friends always encouraged me and I thought I should create a page to collect these memories. When I started, the content was very personal and random. Eventually I started to create art work about environmental & urban issues, current affairs, human emotions, childhood memories and started to tell stories through art.
My Instagram profile is still kind of made of very personal memories, experiences while Facebook page covers various social issues and sometimes political events.
Q. Is being an artist your full-time profession or do you work elsewhere? Is it possible to make a sustainable career out of art in today’s world?
My profession is not art, but I use art as a tool in my profession. In our profession, we make lots of concept and presentation drawing for the client to understand about the proposed project, and the medium of sketches, art or cartoons is a very useful way to make them understand and its way faster than any software. Along with that, I do freelance work as an artist, illustrator or cartoonist, but only if I am really interested in that project. I rejected a couple of offers during Indian election time because the work profile was kind of propaganda-driven. I believe, an artist should have honesty and ethics, otherwise, there is no pleasure in creation. I think if we are really passionate about art, then there are a thousand possibilities in today’s world and art can enrich any other profession too.
Q. What would you consider your biggest achievement so far?
I think through long practice, now I am partially able to tell stories through my illustrations and when people can connect to that and they smile, That’s a kind of self-fulfilment. That’s a great joy when they send me messages about how touched they are with some work of mine.
Another occasion I can recall is being amongst the top cartoonists of India in a contest organized my Times of India and they published our pictures in front page throughout country. I liked that not because I got the place, but loved how my old friends, colleagues, seniors reached out to me after ages, called me up to say they saw the newspaper and felt proud they felt. That was a real pleasure to reconnect with them.
Q. What is your signature style of art that represents you as an artist? What does your work aim to say? Do you address current world scenarios through your work?
I still don’t have any particular style. I rather go for several styles in my work. Overall, I try to tell a story through my art with either a little humour, wit or nostalgia. I don’t feel I am very naturally talented at drawing, so I try to use a very strong concept. I use symbolism, representation of common things to which someone can relate to, but I do not make my ideas very obvious with writing and explaining. I believe in that element of fun & surprise when someone finds some subtle hidden element in the drawing.
Q. What is your favourite medium to work upon? And your favourite work tools?
My all-time favourite is black pen and white or yellowish paper, Now- a -days I am really enjoying using i- pad for digital drawings. However, I always prefer pen and paper to ideate the concept.
Q. When you start a new piece of art, how do you get the inspiration/motivation it? How long does it take approximately to finish one piece of art?
I get incredible pleasure from creating a piece of art. Even if it is bad, the process of it is enjoyable to me. And Inspiration is just the life around us. When I pick issue, I feel for it from inside, not from any influence or due to any inclination. I feel everyone should know about the issue and it should be solved or discussed eventually. Then I think about the concept, which I feel should be the most important element and should be innovative. Execution eventually happens by instinct. Sometimes the thinking process takes a long time. Making a cartoon is thousand times easier than coming up with ideas. As I am quite impatient by nature, I generally don’t give more than an hour to finish a piece.
Q. Who are your biggest influences?
I am very influenced by all the comics and stories that I have read as a child. Herge, Goscinny, Uderzo, Satyajit Ray, Narayan Debnath, Debashish Deb and then in adulthood, Mario Miranda, R.k.Laxman, Ajit Ninan, Uday Deb, and of course various authors of Bengali literature and scores of movie directors.
Q. How do you manage your family life along with other commitments and running a page?
It does not interfere much with my family life. This is only possible because my wife runs the system at home. We are both full-time working professionals and we divide work at home but she knows what to do when. But yes, every day seems shorter and when I go to sleep, I generally feel there are still a lot of unfinished jobs.
Q. What are the biggest challenges that you face as an artist? Is the creative block a common problem?
It’s the thinking process, which is the most enjoyable and the most painful. Sometimes nothing special comes to mind. But I generally use that time to create art based on something which I have experienced recently, like a cycle trip or a travel memory.
Q. Which current art world trends are you following, if any?
I do not actually follow any trend I guess, but a lot of artists’ and illustrators works influence me and I like to create art with a slice of humour and positivity.
Q. Apart from being an artist, what are your hobbies?
Riding cycle, reading books, listening to music, watching movies, cooking only my favourite dishes and travelling.
Q. Please share your experience with different brands/projects you have worked with?
I used to illustrate covers for an international urban design and architectural magazine called “Myliveablecity”, Worked with LA journal for illustrations for ecological map of Delhi region. Recently worked with ‘One million short stories’ for a unique exhibition about Harappan food and culture in National museum, Delhi. Created posters & promotional illustrations for various events of Indian Society of Landscape Architects. Currently working on a large cartoon panel for a new coffee house. I have participated and won various awards in cartoon contests. Now I am trying to write and illustrate a book.
Q. There are a lot of shoddy people on social media who either try to discredit others or stalk them. How do you deal with such people or negativity in general? Does it bog you down or affect your mental peace?
Yes, there are a lot of people who attack if something does not go in their favour. Sometimes they try to engage me in comment-war or occasionally they are just abusive. It used to hurt before and it was very disturbing. However now I have learnt to detach my mind from those but I am pretty sure, I don’t hate them who troll. It actually seems quite funny now. I just ignore.
Q. Would you like to give a word of advice to all the budding artists who are trying to make their mark through their art?
Practice and be honest. Its great fun when we think of something and then translate it to paper. If I copy some concept, I may get appreciation, but there is no inner peace and joy.
Q. What are your future plans for your page and profile? Are you happy with the way it has shaped up?
This page is totally dependent on all people who follow it. Yes, its shaped up in the last couple of years beyond my imagination. Totally grown through the people and the love of people. I am lucky enough to be loved by these 50 K people who follow my work.
I actually don’t have any proper plan. I want to enjoy the process. I am really happy how people have responded to the page. How they love, comment, share my works and miss when I do not upload. That’s a big motivation for me, to work more.
Q. Lastly, any word for our blog? Thank you for your time!
Thank you for reaching out to me. You have actually given me an opportunity to think about lot of memories. It will give me urge to do better. Wish your blog to inspire lot of people to create.
Thank you, Mahafuj for taking out time to talk to us, and having such a wonderful and heart-to-heart conversation. Team WeekendTrivia loves your work and look forward to your continuously bringing more excellent works of visual storytelling on our feed. All the best 🙂