Artist Fatima Baig had a multicultural upbringing in Pakistan. Growing up in an ethnically diverse culture, she came across women from various ethnic backgrounds, and although they spoke different languages and dressed up differently, they came together as one while working towards the community. The strength and multiplicity that women brought together whilst empowering each other in a society that was, for a major part, male-dominated is what inspires Baig even today.
Baig grew up to become an artist and, today, her pop art with women as its central theme has made her a known face not just in Pakistan but also worldwide. Baig showcases the cause of women and the diversity they bring to the frame through her artistic ability. Her depiction of colour-saturated photos displaying women across nationalities, complexions, body types and professions reflects feminine strength in more ways than one.
In an interview with SheThePeople, Fatima Baig talks about her diverse upbringing in Pakistan, what makes her a trailblazer in pop art, how her work represents feminine strength and freedom, and why art forms depict shared spirit.
Artist Fatima Baig Interview
A native of Rawalpindi, Fatima Baig turned to art as a young child. It never crossed her mind to study any subject professionally other than art and design. Baig, who worked at different design houses after her degrees in fine arts and philosophy communication design, quit her day job and started making digital art.
“I was drawn to making vector art at this point because I was so used to working on the computer. It was easier for me to finish a piece digitally as compared to traditional art where I could never decide when to stop because there was always something that I wanted to add or change,” she recalls.
Baig draws inspiration from Saeed Akhtar, a famous traditional Pakistan painter. His work including portrayals of strong women has always been a source of inspiration for her. She also finds France’s digital illustrator Malika Favre’s work to be purely vectorial. “I used to think of vector art as only graphic images, but studying her technique encouraged me to explore the medium in depth and develop my style,” she shares.
Baig observes how she recently shifted from using technicolour to a more monochromatic colour palette. The switch has been unconscious, but it makes sense when she reflects on the past few years and how she is adjusting to the changes both internally and externally.
“I think my work is very personal. It’s more inwards than it is outwards. It’s like a therapeutic communication with myself and where I think I find closure in the finished artwork.”
Some part of her work reflects her understanding of the mind, revealing her fascination with exploration and representations of the world around us. When it comes to choosing her subject, there is no one rule she follows. “Sometimes, I know exactly what I want to draw. The other times, I start with a simple portrait and see where it takes me. I have a large collection of reference images; sometimes I use my old work and create something new. I don’t have a fixed process and it depends on what state of mind I’m working with, and I think I like the freedom I have with digital art.”
Baig’s artistic journey not just taught her a lot about representations around us but also helped her unlearn the notions around rules. “I lose interest very easily so digital art helps me as I can make multiple versions of the same art and finish the one that I like instead of leaving it unfinished.
“I had to unlearn the notion that an artwork isn’t genuine if it doesn’t abide by certain set rules or methods that everyone follows. I have understood over time that all artists have their own valuable journeys and their discoveries are personal.”
Becoming a freelance illustrator and designer
No pressure or deadlines made her enjoy the process of choosing her subjects and reflecting feminine strength digitally. While Baig did not think much of her illustrations back then, it was her friend who suggested she upload them on Instagram. “It then became a great way to self-task and keep a schedule and I started regularly posting on Instagram. The positive feedback and messages encouraged me to continue making more art and I started getting work enquiries. It’s how it became more than a hobby and I started my journey as a freelance illustrator and designer.”
“I use the moon and stars/cosmos a lot in my work. Again, I feel it’s a reflection of the inner world and the shared spirit that no matter who we are or where we are, we live under the same sky and we’re all a tiny part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Why she chooses women as her central art theme
Having observed distinct ethnicities around as a young child, Baig always found herself intrigued by the common strength that women shared irrespective of their cultures. What always stood out for her as a child was the ease and confidence with which women from different cultures worked together, irrespective of differences. “Since women are the main subject of my portraits, I think it’s that expression of feminine strength and beauty that I try to reflect through the portraits.“
Baig’s approach to bridging the association between women and the spirit of empowerment is something that deeply connects social media users to her art.
“As a child, I’d observe how women from diverse cultures dressed in different traditional clothing, wore unique symbolistic jewellery, the languages they communicated in, and what inspired me most was how, despite the differences, they shared a common sense of empowerment and worked together as a team.”
Suggested reading: How Abstract Artist Sahaya Sharma Kapur Blends Art & Psychology
Being brave with art
Baig’s work exists outside of outdated notions. She is one of the few artists who fearlessly works with bold colours. Noting ‘balance’ as the key to her creativity, she says, “I’ve always loved bright colours. I think the key is balance. In my work, I use negative space to balance out the vivid and vibrating colours that might otherwise become quite heavy on the eyes.”
While creating spectacular art and defining powerful standards of women breaking free and owning their strength is empowering, it also requires a certain notion of fearlessness. For Baig, being brave with art means expressing honesty. “For me, being brave with any form of art is expressing yourself without the fear of being vulnerable. I see a lot of artists using their work for activism and I’m amazed at how empowering art can be.”
“Whether you have a fierce approach towards social activism or it’s a state of mind that you’re representing through your work, you’re putting your emotions out there knowing that you could be misunderstood, and that takes courage.”
Solitude and community are illustrations of two sides that represent Baig’s personality. Two of her favourite pieces of artwork shown below depict that. Believing that art, more often than not, can prove to be a coping mechanism, Baig reflects on how artists also illustrate the opposite of how they feel. “Sometimes, I start with a negative image depicting a dark mood, but the result becomes something beautiful with bright colours and flowers or the moon which is completely different from what I intended to express. So, the process of working on a piece becomes an experience where I’m constantly evaluating how my mood shifts in between and ends when I finish the piece and upload it to my profile.”
Advice to aspiring artists
Her suggestion to aspiring artists is something she gained insight into along the way. “A healthy comparison is good but if you’re only looking at where other people are standing today and not how they started and how different it was for you, then you’re only discouraging yourself.”
“Everyone has their journey and it changes the way how success might look, so it’s integral that you don’t compare your growth with someone else’s trajectory.”
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