Alaa Naeem Odeh has come a long way since drawing on her bedroom walls as a child and, with the full support of her family, continues to nurture her artistic talent. That’s when she’s not concentrating on her other roles as engineer, student and housewife!
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Alaa Naeem Odeh. I’m 28 years old, Capricorn, introvert, art lover and enthusiast. My family always comes first to me. I love Camellias, Orchids, Lavender, Basil and Peonies. I have the weirdest taste in music. Labels don’t influence me. The way I define myself as an individual is not limited to a stereotype or a place of birth. Although I secretly pride myself on being a true Gryffindor, I am a citizen of the world. I am a spiritual person too and I feel a strong connection to nature and the divine.
Tell us about your education.
My Bachelor’s is engineering and I am currently doing a Master’s in business administration.
How and when did your interest for drawing develop? What made you want to become an illustrator or artist?
I have been interested in drawing, and art in general, for as long as I can remember. My mother is a graphic designer who chose to teach art as a career. I grew up in a house with a studio full of all kinds of tools and supplies and a kitchen that was never free of dirty brushes in the sink and paint-stained towels hanging to dry. As a child, my bedtime stories were about Da Vinci and Degas. I would play dress up in her work apron and draw aimlessly on the walls of the bedroom until there wasn’t a spot left! My mother, encouraging my creative process, would simply repaint the walls to provide a fresh canvas and I would go at it again! I continued to experiment with different mediums along the years. I tried everything from watercolouring, oil painting, large scale canvas landscapes, graphite portraits, calligraphy, digital media and graphics, until I eventually found ‘my style’.
Did you take any kind of training or did it develop over time?
Online visuals were my go-to learning center as I attempted different styles and mediums – you can Google/Pinterest/Instagram anything these days! Otherwise, I believe, continued experimenting and practice was the major contribution to my skill development. And I’m still learning.
How would you describe your illustration style?
Personal. My illustrations are self-expressions; and perhaps a documentation of my journey. Frida, Picasso, Klimt and many other contemporary artists inspire my style.
What would you say is your strongest ability as an illustrator?
My strongest ability as an illustrator is probably that I draw what I feel. I think it’s because of how it all started from my journal.
Can you speak about your process coming up with and creating an illustration?
It’s difficult to express in words, I’d rather show you. But generally, I may be listening to music or I may glance a balloon or remember something I miss. Then I translate this minor episode in a sketch.
What kinds of applications and tools do you use? And how have they influenced your creative process?
I use pencils for my journal, and my journal is always with me. Then for paper-based illustrations I use watercolours and markers. I love the effect of watercolours on paper, it’s my favourite medium. For digital illustrations I use an iPad; this technology definitely made it much easier to edit and share the work and upload it in high definition quality that is far better than scanning or photographing an art work. However, it’s only a tool I use when I want to share an illustration online. In the art exhibit I participated in in 2017, I opted for paper-based illustrations of watercolours and markers.
How supportive is your family with your interest in illustrations?
My family is very supportive of my passion. They see me trying to juggle the roles I play in life as an engineer, a student, a housewife and a struggling artist. My ambitions can be overwhelming sometimes and my family, especially my husband, is my support system which is how I manage to do it all. Illustrating is not familiar to our society, and art in general is never thought of as a career option. However, I believe the tide has changed, although there’s a long way to go before this would serve me as my sole profession – but I’m on my way!
How much attention do you pay to the feedback of others on your work?
I pay just enough attention to the feedback I receive to enable it to motivate me to drive forward. I’m grateful for the good ones and I do what I can to improve myself with constructive criticism, but I never allow it to weigh me down.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To believe in myself, keep my priorities in check, and never stop dreaming.
Your message for us at CP magazine.
Oh, I can’t express enough gratitude for this opportunity CP Magazine has given me. It’s thrilling to be featured in a magazine that is passionate in principle, unique in content, and always manages to shine the light on individuals who are part of the community. I truly wish the magazine and its team all the best.