By Sekka Team
Boasting nearly 20,000 followers on her Instagram account, Fatemah Dashti- who is more known as “@Fatemahsthoughts” on social media- is currently amongst the most popular young and rising Gulf artists with a social media presence. And the reason for 22-year-old Kuwaiti artist’s popularity is clear: her artworks, a variety of acrylic paintings, oil paintings and digital pieces, that creatively depict self-love and self-care statements such as “You will bloom if you take the time to water yourself,” “Love yourself” and “Your stories are valid,” comfort and speak to all of us, especially in these challenging times. Her other artworks, which center on a variety of social causes like promoting gender equality and combating nepotism and sexual harassment, also reflect and respond to timely conversations in Kuwait and beyond, which has caused them to go viral in many instances.
We speak to the young artist, a graduate of architectural engineering from the University of Liverpool who is currently pursuing a masters in sustainable architecture there, about the beginnings of her art journey, discuss the social issues that are closest to her heart and that she enjoys depicting through her art, ask her about the formula for artists’ success on social media and touch upon her future plans. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When and how did your art journey begin?
Fatemah Dashti: I’d say I started doing art at an early age; the first proper piece of art I remember creating was when I was 13. It was a portrait of my late grandmother, and it was my way of expressing my feelings through the use of art. I was always interested in art as a child and was always trying new things, ranging from painting, to creating miniature objects from clay, to crocheting.
How did you discover and develop your art skills?
Fatemah Dashti: My art classes at school properly introduced me to art. Art was one of the classes I had actually looked forward to attending and didn’t dread. That meant something to me as I had stumbled upon something I actually enjoyed. I then experimented with art and used the internet to explore and learn some techniques growing up. Later on, when I went to study abroad in the UK, I attended art classes and met a range of different artists from different backgrounds. It felt like a safe space and I was so comfortable with just creating and being myself.
“Self-care, self-love, feminism and the importance of mental health are amongst the common themes my work is centered on. All of them are very dear to my heart.”
How would you describe your art style?
Fatemah Dashti: I wouldn’t say that I would be able to give a specific description. I think my art style is quite different in terms of how I draw figures or body parts. I draw a lot of eyes too, which I get asked about a lot. I would like for people to interpret my art style as what they see it as. I don’t like to put clear cut labels on things. But if I really had to, I’d simply say it’s a form of expressive art.
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What mediums have you explored? Which do you prefer? Why? Which do you hope to explore in the future? Why?
Fatemah Dashti: I’ve tried oil paint, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed acrylic paint. When I paint, my go to is acrylic paint, and I like to use oil pastels in my paintings either. I like to use some polymer clay for fun and recently I’ve been using my iPad to create digital art. I’ve been enjoying that because there’s so much you can do with it. I’d love to get into clay and pottery in the future… I feel like it’s a completely new way for one to express themselves, as well as use their hands.
Why do you go by the handle “Fatemah’s Thoughts”?
Fatemah Dashti: This handle started off as a handle for a weekly blog that I used to write in in high school. I then made an Instagram account and it has been with me ever since. The use of “Fatemah’s Thoughts” instead of, lets say, “Fatemah’s Art” feels less limiting to me. Thoughts can be anything and they can be expressed as anything, be it through the use of art, writing, talking etc.
Your art also tackles a variety of social issues. Tell us about the reasons behind that and share with us some of the causes that are the dearest to your heart.
Fatemah Dashti: My art is an extension of who I am as a person. I use my art as a way to express and share how I feel towards various social issues. People can also relate to it and that is a form of connecting/ reaching out to others through the use of art. Self-care, self-love, feminism and the importance of mental health are amongst the common themes my work is centered on. All of them are very dear to my heart.
What inspires you to create art?
Fatemah Dashti: To connect with others, and to make people feel less alone in the things that they go through. To have a voice, to try and shed a light on things I feel are important and to use the platform I have to try make a difference, however small or big that may be. It still means something.
“It’s fascinating to me how humans can connect through art.”
Self-love and care are also common themes in your work. Tell us a bit more about the reason behind that please.
Fatemah Dashti: I think when it comes to self-love and self-care ( at least for me personally), it’s so easy to be so distracted with life and forget to take a step back and have time for yourself. It’s so important to stay in touch with your feelings and to give that same attention that you give to school, university, or other people, to yourself.
What is your art process like?
Fatemah Dashti: Most, if not all, of my art is based on something I feel, maybe something I read and even my surroundings. As soon as I get an idea I start working. There’s no fixed process; when an idea comes, I make it happen and see what I can come up with. It’s exciting when I finish something I’m working on and post it on my social media. It feels rewarding when I see complete strangers interacting with and relating to my art. It’s fascinating to me how humans can connect through art.
Social media presence has become very important for artists to become known and to thrive. How do you think fellow Khaleeji and Arab artists can distinguish their artworks in a world where the number of artists seems to be increasing everyday on social media?
Fatemah Dashti: I guess by keeping things simple and staying true to themselves. To me, art is part of people; it carries parts of people, their experiences and their surroundings. This is what makes art different. No two people have the same exact feelings, surroundings and experiences, and if that is channelled through art, it can be quite a thing.
“Sharing art on social media also means you can’t control what people do with your art.”
As a person who also creates digital art pieces, where do you think the place of digital art is today?
Fatemah Dashti: There’s a lot of talk with regards to this topic, I think digital art is still art. It’s pretty dominant today and I think it’s very interesting to see how people utilize it.
What are some of the challenges of digital art?
Fatemah Dashti: I’d say that some artists/people in general don’t see it as a “legitimate” form of art sometimes. I guess it’s because it doesn’t use the traditional physical mark making that, let’s say, a pen and paper do. I personally don’t agree; art making and the way through which people make art is limitless and very flexible.
What are some of the downsides, if any, of an artist sharing their work on social media?
Fatemah Dashti: People stealing their work and making use of it without their consent. For example, printing art on objects and selling them. This actually happened to me a few times: this random Instagram account took one of my illustrations and printed it on hoodies and put the hoodies up for sale. I had no idea this was happening till one of my followers sent it [the link to the Instagram account] to me. I’ve also had people repost my work and remove my signature from it. Sharing art on social media also means you can’t control what people do with your art.
How do you deal with copycats?
Fatemah Dashti: There’s a difference between inspiration and imitation. I myself am always inspired by the people around me, that’s completely normal and being on social media also made me realize that it’s so easy for artists to end up with a similar idea, or maybe even style, without having seen each other’s work before. There are so many artists on Instagram! It’s still also important that imitation isn’t taken lightly; it’s not fair for someone to carbon copy someone’s art and pass it out as theirs. I don’t think I’ve ever been exposed to someone exactly copying my art. I’ve had a few people message me saying they were inspired by my art style and that makes me feel good. I remember messaging artists I love about how much their art inspires me, especially when I first started getting into art.
Beyond a social media presence, how do you think an artist can grow?
Fatemah Dashti: Interacting with people in real life; that’s the best way of communicating (to me at least), and it’s really motivating and educational to be around people.
What are your future plans?
Fatemah Dashti: To finish my degree, and to keep creating, learning and trying new things.
To find out more about Fatemah Dashti, visit her page on Instagram.
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