On Drawing Conscience

I love drawing. I absolutely love drawing.

Last night after dinner, my two younger brothers, my mom, and I were having a conversation about ‘smartness’. I said we are all smart in our own way. I asked her to describe the ‘prodigousness’ of each one of us. For example, my brother, Muhsin, could tell time by the age 2 and a half, and could read by the age of three. Maryam could talk before she could walk, and asked a lot of questions. Mine had something to do with drawing in perspective.

Drawing has always been a thing I did. I used to draw a lot of attempted realistic portraits in high school. Drawings of people and animals. And then I stopped. Not entirely, occasionally I attempted a realistic portrait or two. What I did do instead though, was draw in less realistic styles. In cartoons and doodles. Sketches. The reason was not because I wasn’t able to draw realistically, I knew I was capable of drawing in the vein of realism. It was precisely because I thought that I was capable that I stopped, because when people complimented on my work and when I looked at my work, I could feel a sense of pride coming in. And that flavour of pride made me uncomfortable. Astaghfirullah. Even back then, when drawing ‘realistic’ living things, I did not aim for perfection. I left some things unfinished. Compliments came, pride came, and I would immediately try to shake it off. “Awh thanks, but really, it isn’t that great.” Which is true, the drawings are just average, but you know how our minds have these delusions of grandeur.

Why these feelings though? It had something to do with this Hadith:

Daripada Ibnu ‘Abbas, “Aku mendengar Muhammad berkata, “Barang siapa membuat gambar di dunia ini, dia akan dipersoalkan serta diminta supaya memberikan nyawa kepada apa yang dilukiskannya pada Hari kiamat nanti, tetapi dia tidak akan mampu melakukannya” .” (Hadis Riwayat al-Bukhari Kitab Pakaian (7/72), no. 846)


Narrated By Ibn ‘Abbas : I heard Muhammad saying, “Whoever makes a picture in this world will be asked to put life into it on the Day of Resurrection, but he will not be able to do so.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 007, Book 072, Hadith Number 846)

So I had guilt whenever I attempted realism. Well, not when I was actually drawing it though, because when I draw I’m in a different frame of mind and just draw because I enjoy it so much. The feeling always came after. When I looked at it and thought that it looked good. When people complimented on it.

So then I took a turn to sketches, to cartoon styles, to doodles. It still made me happy. I didn’t feel as bad when people complimented on it, because the compliments weren’t about how real they looked, but just about the design or the creativity. I also didn’t mind if people thought they were childish. I wasn’t trying to portray a realistic image, instead I was just portraying my thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Diagrams of poetry, if you may.

I felt that if my intentions were never to make it appear life-like, then it should be ok.

It’s been several years and my style has evolved over time, though not that much. My preference for drawing hijab-clad girls found a small audience, including non-Muslims/not-yet-Muslims. It made me happy that even those who don’t directly relate with the hijab that my girls were wearing, they still liked my work. I didn’t draw da’awah doodles, I was just being me, but if being me and showing my identity could be a form of that somehow, or just make people aware of people like me, then, cool.

Lately though, I’ve taken a turn to realism again. Slightly somehow. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. As an artist, I go by what I feel like. Experimenting with styles. I really felt like drawing this, so I just did. It’s not really realism, just more realistic than doodles are.

I really enjoy drawing, I know I’ve said that before. Here, I personalized an image of a certain Lana del Rey, just because I felt like it, and named her Lana del Noor. It is totally random. I love mixing colours. A couple of days later, I drew this:

Which isn’t realistic at all, but it was fun to draw. I drew this after work because I was craving for some yummy colour mixing. I didn’t use brown at all  except for the eyebrows, so the colours really stood out more this time.

A few days later, in the office, I was thinking about all this, about how I feel about realism, about my art, and I had to ask Izyan. Really, is it ok to draw? I know I could do realistic portraits if I wanted to, but should I? 

She reassured me, it’s all about the intentions. Drawing is fine, it can be a form of da’wah. As long as perfection in the image isn’t aimed, i.e ‘sempurna’ and ‘cukup sifat’, it’s ok. Jangan cukup sifat lah. It isn’t allowed when it’s as if we want to challenge God and give a soul and life to the image; as in the previously quoted Hadith; as if we can make something so perfect and lifelike as God does. Wallahualam.

I am in the process of re-defining my style, because I want to combine all the things I like to draw into one style. Semi-realism, doodles, abstract, inking, colours, hijab, imagination. I’ve always wanted to do this, but I just wasn’t quite sure how to combine my different styles that I’ve experimented with into one. Last night, I drew this:

It’s my attempt at a cohesive style. I know I don’t want to attempt hyper-realism, though maybe if I tried and practiced I could. But I don’t want to take the risk. I happen to like experimental styles, so I shall continue to explore that. Hyper-realism may be about the skill, but I don’t intend to have my art be solely about skill with little to do about imagination, experimentation, and self-expression.

With all that said though, I am not the best artist, nor am I even trying to be. I just want to make art that makes me happy, which hopefully, will also make other people happy.

InshaAllah it will all work out.


6 thoughts on “On Drawing Conscience

  1. I’m glad you touched on that topic (about the hadeeth). 🙂 I, too, started thinking and re-thinking this whole hukum-drawing thing a long time ago, and really there are many interpretations and guidelines one can take. I think it’s important that we respect the different opinions and understand the reasoning behind each. I feel, mainly, it’s about not-trying-to-be-God (like you mentioned), and also avoiding idol-making like the Jahiliyyah times. So in a way, what the art is used for is also important. (I guess that is why some say picture-hanging is also not encouraged, etc.)

    Anyhow. I felt myself finding my own creative niche (which turned out to be not-illustration/drawing/painting-like-artists-do — which I still have interests in, and love as a viewer), but making stuff with my hands. Even in this trade I prefer not to go with any images with faces/humans/etc. Lagi satu to be on the safe side, I avoided getting paid to draw portraits, because when it comes to money, things get even more serious and important.

    To conclude, I think your recent portraits are brilliant experiments mashaAllah, but like you said, intention and purpose is important too.

    • Yeah. For me, I draw how I feel and what resonates with me, and I always keep a Muslim identity intact in my drawings. To me, although I don’t really make da’wah drawings (because I am not knowledgeable enough, I think), I do think of it in that way, by sticking with my identity. Sometimes my drawings have important messages that I want to convey, so I hope it is all good. I have always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books like the ones I used to read when I was a kid (like in my old post Growing Up: Muslim Media) so I hope one day that will be a reality, InshaAllah.

  2. what can i say, you are very very talented…looking at your drawing my mulut xleh tutup, lawa sgt2, serius, u could be someone

  3. Pingback: The Amelioration | Moon HMZ

  4. Hi awak, sy nk mohon share ur sketch of lana del rey with hijab tu at my instagram aite, great drawing cant help it, hehe if its ok with u, minta kebenaran ni, thanks! 🙂

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