Art: Sara Alfageeh
My journey begins my first year of university where I had gone off to major in psychology. That lasted about 20 minutes? I ended up pouring more time and energy into the drawing class elective I took "for fun" (or so I told myself). That same year, the first volume of Ms. Marvel by G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona debuted as one of the top-selling Marvel comics and it quite literally changed everything for me. Here was a wildly successful series about a girl who identified like me, who went to mosques that looked like mine, who was funny and nerdy... and people liked this?! I never had an example like that to aspire to before, even after being a lifelong comic reader. That blew my mind. I immediately switched into an art major after just one semester at university.
I was so hungry to learn. I had a very deep imposter syndrome, because I had only started to learn to draw for a couple years — while my peers all talked about drawing since they were kids. I had to learn to stop seeing myself as a student, and recognise the illustration industries that I was being expected to join, because I also did not have the same safety net other students had. I decided to jump into the deep end. It was quite an intimidating process!
My practical process begins by settling on a concept. Whether it is an entire brief from a client, or a single word that sparks my interest. Then: research and thumbnail. I explore the concept further with tiny sketches, look at how other visual artists have tried to tackle similar themes, and look in the opposite direction and find references once a couple composition ideas are figured out. After this come the sketch compositions. I come up with a few different potential sketches to see what holds up the strongest, keeping it loose and messy and not trying to be too precious with ideas. The middle of the process consists of clean up and line art where I commit to a sketch and develop it with a clean drawing, which is followed by adding some variations of colour until I find something that adds to the story I'm trying to develop. The final tweaks involve walking away from the work and taking a break so that I can come back with fresh eyes to make sure that there wasn't anything I missed. This involves using tools such as photoshop, a Cintiq 22hd tablet, and sometimes an iPad.
I'm offering a different and exciting new perspective through my storytelling. I always want to see what I can offer differently to a viewer. By depicting my characters very energetic and often joyful, in positions where they are depicted as the protagonist, I wanted to create images I wanted to see first, and I think that genuine pursuit translates in my work. However, I do not see my work as political.
I want to depict cool themes and concepts, and show people an alternative that they might be missing out. If that translates as a political motive or message to some people, then so be it. My work doesn't exist in a vacuum, but within the dimensions of my work I offer a world where my characters don't have to explain or apologise for the way they choose to present themselves.
I've come to realise that whenever I draw purely for myself, for my own joy and passion, those pieces manage to have the widest reach. For so long, while I was emerging as an artist, I denied myself the opportunity to pull from my own identity and experiences and tried instead to prove my skillsets by creating what I thought other people wanted to see. Once I let go of that expectation, I was able to create something totally new and exciting — not just for me but for others as well.
Sara Alfageeh interviewed by Asia Khatun
You can purchase Sara's work here: Through the non-profit shop store.mipsterz.com, where all proceeds goes to the NY, Boston, and LA based muslim creative collective MIPSTERZ; www.inprnt.com/gallery/saraalfa/ ;
Sara's young adult fantasy graphic novel SQUIRE comes out February 2022, pre-orders will open in July; stay tuned!
You can support Sara's work here: www.sara-alfa.com