A long journey with no shortcuts

Saba Qizilbash: I have a BFA degree in painting from National College of Arts Lahore and an MA in Art Education from the Rhode Island school of Design. I grew up in Abu Dhabi and spent my teenage years in Lahore. I returned to UAE in 2006 and have been living here since. 

It has been a long journey with no shortcuts. I believe I have developed my practice by patiently and consistently dedicating time towards it. It was somewhere in 9th grade that I decided that I wanted to be an artist. I remember spending long afternoons sketching still-lifes propped up on my bed. When I joined NCA in Lahore, I would have a professional drawing model come to my home in the evenings so that I could practice anatomy and proportions. By the time I was in 3rd year, I had began teaching Figure drawing from my home studio. After moving to Dubai I began teaching at university level and gradually began showing in local galleries. 

This isolation has required us to slow down certain social aspects of our lifestyle. My usual routine includes spending at an average 6 hours a day in my studio. Without the distraction of commuting and socializing, I have managed to spend uninterrupted hours researching on many areas within my practice. I imagined that I would be able to catch up on the pile of books that have been accumulating from my travels but I have found it surprisingly hard to focus. Instead I find myself wanting to experiment with newer surfaces, colour interaction within resin, newer drawing tools and landscapes. I have finally found time to understand my Nikon D7000 a bit better and try and rely on my tripod and good lighting for documentation and portrait photography. 

I try to keep in touch with the people within the art world who are supportive of my work. I make an attempt to share my studio process on my social media to garner an interest in my practice. I also remain open minded about opportunities. Its quite clear to me that I can’t exist under a rock and hope one day to be discovered quite by chance. The hard work and effort has to come from my side. 

So much of the commercial side of the art world is still such a mystery to me. I do understand this much that it's important to be consistent and regular with showing and sharing your work in order to remain relevant. 

It's extremely hard to sustain a career as a studio artist unless you are disciplined and highly self motivated. Unlike professions where you clock in hours or sit in a communal space under the watchful eye of your boss, as a studio artist you really have to set your own goals. I tell my students that you have to dedicate a consistent number of hours in your studio on daily basis. Some days you may feel uninspired. The other days you may find yourself gushing with ideas. And then there are the in between days when you just have to keep your head down and focus on completing projects.  The important thing is to enter your studio regardless of how productive you actually feel.  It is also a good practice to learn how to document your own work and keep a clear record of your past shows, research folders and albums of your exhibition openings. 

Instagram: @sabaqizilbash


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