Dragons, mermaids, dwarves and an all round sense to keep any fantasy enthusiast reeling. These are some of the qualities any concept artist/illustrator would love to have, in some cases, need to have. The industry has been flourishing on themes and ideas of fantasy, bringing all kinds of magical beings to life.
Today we talk to one such artist whose work has, very recently, come to the surface on social media and art-sites. Hazem Ameen has been making fantastic illustrations that will capture your attention instantly because of their strong story-telling nature. And if you are an artist, you will see that most of his compositions are absolutely spot-on and that his color sense and lighting are nothing short of spectacular. What’s more, the man is only 20 years old. Here’s what we learned by speaking to him –
Give us a background of yourself. Where are you from and are you from an artistic family?
Great question. Originally from Kerala (Coconuts), I grew up in Dubai, UAE. I spent my most of life there before moving back here about five years ago. Nowadays I’m bouncing around, looking for freelance or in house jobs where I can find them. Unfortunately, no I am not from an artistic family. Hah! Although I’ve sold my parents on my set career course ever since I was an annoying two year old scribbling on the wall, I come from a place where the concept of being anything apart from being a doctor or an engineer (and a smattering of other jobs) is quite alien.
About your work, we would like to know what your artistic influences are. Along with that, we would like to know your imaginative influences as well, considering almost all your works have a very strong story-telling essence from various pop culture storylines. Some from your own stories, we guess?
As a wise man (who’s name I forget) once said, ‘Great Artists don’t imitate, they steal’. My inspirations cover a big spectrum. From anything I see in small rural towns and villages here in India, or the big ass metropolis of the Middle East, experiences with different people, watching a tons of TV shows/movies/games (being a geek in general), reading up about history, nature or anything I find interesting really! Personally I think I’m a very fantasy centric artist. Some of my greatest Inspirations include the mainstream artists such as Even Mehl Amundsen, Clair Wendling, Izzy Medrano, Anthony Jones, Ross Tran and Chase Stone (I couldn’t possibly fit them all here). But definitely the old fantasy masters such as Paul Bonner, Karl Kopinski and frickin Kim Jung Gi. But what I love about these artists is not just their fantastic skills but also their discipline, outlook on life and grind to get better.
Plus : I read a lot!
Now, being 20 years old, we daresay you are leaps and bounds ahead of the digital artists in the same age group, at least in our country. How did you reach this level? Any courses or purely self taught?
Although I have went to art college twice (dropped out of both) I would say I’m self taught, because I learned literally NOTHING about art there, Although it did teach me other things, it just added to my resentment of art schools in general. On the other hand, I can’t fully justify myself as being a self taught artist, since in this day and age, the Internet is melting pot brimming with art tutorials, personalised courses with industry legends and lots of free content, not to mention the ability to contact professionals directly. Personally I have never taken a course apart from paying for occasional Gumroad here and there. But I don’t really think age matters anymore. I know artists who start when they are 14 and others who start at 40. Everyone’s different, of course. Figure out how you learn. An older person might be more effective at managing their time and more knowledgeable but restricted in terms of time and responsibility, while a younger person might not have those problems, but struggle in other ways. Some people take ten thousand hours, some five thousand, others twenty thousand. But I promise everyone that if you are consistent, work at it, observe and study what you love, You WILL get better. It’s basic science. Practice doesn’t make a man perfect. It makes you better. Slowly over time. So keep drawing! But have fun!
How was your experience of attending the Schoolism seminar in Dubai and of meeting the awesome Even Amundsen?
Great Question! Schoolism Dubai was a blast! Apart from being my first workshop ever, I got to connect to a ton of like minded artists and industry legends! The exceptional creators from Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar – Christophe Lautrette, Mike Yamaha and Mike Dailey respectively. I learned a lot from them in so many different aspects about not just art principles, but also about how they go about their lives and how they think as artists. And as you well know, I met the Norwegian Viking Even Mehl Amundsen. I’m sure you know of his work. (If you don’t, what’s wrong with you? Look it up!) Even and I have been friends on Facebook for two years before we met, and what I realised back then was that he wasn’t just a great artist, but also a kickass person in general. As a beginner trying to mimic the success of giants, Even always helped me find my footing when I asked for it. And for that, I owe him a lot. Meeting him in person was awesome, as we have a lot of similar interests and I hope to meet many more of my heroes in the future.
So have you worked on any professional projects? And what is your dream studio/client?
I only started freelancing recently, and although I’ve done some work for smaller clients, the only big client under my belt so far is Paizo, the creators of the Pathfinder role playing game. There are definitely a lot of companies I’d love to work for, including Blizzard, Magic The Gathering, Riot games, Games Workshop (though any fantasy artist will tell you that). I’d also be interested to work in movies. (The new Fantastic Beasts seems to have really cool looking creatures) But in the end, what I would really love to do is work for myself. World building is my true passion you see, and my biggest Inspiration of all time are writers such as George R. R. Martin and Ray Bradbury. These guys create worlds in their heads. I’d love to get to a point where I can do that. So, in an ideal world, I’d just be creating personal work.
Many people starting out in the industry get demotivated because of several reasons. It may be lack of skill or impatience with their progress or not understanding what to do to improve the quality of their art. What would be your advice for the beginners?
My advice would be this: If you are doing something for the first time, and you suck at it, congratulations. You’ve just proved to yourself that you’re a normal functioning human being. Everyone sucks at the beginning. There’s absolutely no point in being intimidated by that. Everyone takes their time to grow. When you see an amazing painting that blows your mind away, you’re not seeing the hundreds of paintings/sketches/studies that person has done building up to it. You’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. And don’t rely on passion or motivation or ‘drawing when you’re in the mood’. Those are fleeting. Build discipline. Be consistent. Building willpower takes time. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. And for the love of art, STOP comparing yourself. It sounds cheesy but I’d recommend this in every other aspect of life as well. We are all different. With different learning curves, a different upbringing and with different opportunities. But we are also the same. We all have a functioning human brain, and everything else is exploiting it’s capability.
Go and check out more amazing pieces made by Hazem on these links –
Interview by Vivek Nag
All the artworks displayed in this article have been used with the artist’s permission. All rights to these images are reserved with the artist alone.