Name: Ameerah K.
Location: Philedelphia, PA
Bio: North Philadelphia native Ameerah K. began painting at age 7 and was enrolled in Fleisher Art Memorial where she was professionally trained in drawing, painting, and sculpture. At age 14 she became a visual major at Creative & Performing Arts High School. She was later selected to take scholarship courses at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art & Moore College of Art.
While a college student Ameerah launched Primary Colors, her independent art consultancy. After obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts with honors, Ameerah relocated her business. Now renamed Ameerah K. Art, Ameerah returned to Philadelphia taking commissioned orders from her strong following along the east coast. Thus far, Ameerah has had artwork featured by XXL Magazine, Revolt TV, Converse, Coors Light, Heineken, Power 99 FM, The GrassROOTS Foundation, Made In America Festival and many more. Ameerah’s ultimate goal as an artist is to constantly challenge her growth and having the courage to take creative risks.
Describe your experience as a current as an artist.
I've been painting since I was 7 years old. I never “grew out” of being an artist as a child. My purpose as an artist has changed as I’ve gotten older and matured. I’ve realized it’s ok to have multiple purposes. My first is to myself and to honor what I truly believe God wants me to do, and that’s share my art with as many people as possible. My second is use my art as a thread to weave people together that may not cross paths any other way. I was always the only covering muslim girl in the schools I went to and my art made me more approachable. As far as if I’m a full-time or part-time artist…I have a hard time answering that. Is art my only form of income? No, but I do consider myself a full-time artist because art shapes my entire life. I never understood why people put such an emphasis on artists being “full-time”. Being a “full-time” artists does not mean someone is more dedicated or hard-working than someone who has a traditional job. I’m an artist every minute of everyday.
What was your occupation/education prior to becoming an artist?
I took a job working for the federal government directly after graduating from Virginia State University. A job like that for a 22 year old with school loans is the security I needed. The danger in feeling secure is you talk yourself out of taking chances and being open to change. I was still painting when I went home and finding different opportunities to exhibit art on the weekends but I wasn’t as disciplined. There was a day I came into work and I was sitting at my desk literally fantasizing about a piece I left unfinished because it was time for me to go to work. I was miserable all day thinking about that piece but being stuck at work. After that, I didn't quit, but I did decide to be more disciplined. I cut back on working overtime and instead tightened my budget so I could have more painting time. I make myself paint everyday for at least an hour, even on busy days. I requested leave from work every Monday afternoon to take an art class I found out about. These made huge differences in my discipline and my art has improved because of it. I’ve had the support of my parents and my sister when it comes to designing a budget that works for me. As far as traveling, I don’t travel that much.
What was your biggest challenge in pursuing art and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge being an artist is probably not looking at another artist’s success as my failure. I‘m very hard on myself when it comes to my art so seeing someone succeed sometimes makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough. Every now and then I still feel that way but what helps me through those short moments is knowing my journey is my own and my pace is my own. Not everything will be for everyone and perhaps those success stories will break down barriers for me in the future.
Describe your biggest milestone or project/series achieved since pursuing your art.
There’s a few notable milestones that I’m very proud of but one was touring with Love Jones the play as their official artist. A year before the play was announced I had a show in honor of the film Love Jones. The show was mildly successful in attendance and I remember only making one art sale that evening. A year later when I learned of the play, I contacted them and showed them my work. Originally I only asked to be a vendor when the play stopped in my city. After seeing my work they invited me to tour with them. I sold countless prints and originals on that tour as well networked for future opportunities. The experience taught me to 1. not be afraid to reach out to people or events that match your artistic style/theme. It can be mutually successful. 2. Always be prepared for your “chance” and 3. Not to be discouraged if at first, things appear to be unsuccessful. There could be a bigger opportunity down the line.
How does your personal style and identity translate into your artwork?
I believe my personal style and identity translates into my artwork before I even put paint to canvas. As an artist I have to be proud to stand behind what I create, so everything I think up goes through somewhat of a mental survey that has to match what I represent and how I want to be known. For instance I love to paint women but I don't do nude paintings because I want viewers to get out of the habit of only equating a woman’s beauty with the nakedness of her body. Nude art can be very beautiful and it is very popular but it does not match who I am as an individual or an artist. The very essence of who I am can be found in my body of work and it’s just as much about what you see on canvas as what you won’t see.
Painting has also been a gateway to explore other forms of art for me. I’m currently studying clothing design, photography and makeup artistry.
How do you maintain your mental health and inspiration?
I have a lot of uninspired days and suffer with depression during certain times of the year. One major thing that helps me is controlling my social media. It’s necessary to have accounts on different platforms but it’s imperative that you control your feed. I only follow fellow artists and people that inspire me that way when I check into different apps I feel like I’m a part of a community of people like me dealing with the same issues. When I feel depressed, I try to “paint through” those emotions. It’s amazing how a mood can change the outcome of a painting. Painting during those times have ended up being beautiful backgrounds for future paintings. I also gesso canvases in advance if I’m uninspired so when inspiration strikes I can go straight into painting. Lastly, I read quotes from some of my favorite artists for reassurance during difficult times.
How have you been able to give back your community?
For the last 15 years I’ve volunteered for an annual fundraiser fashion show for a local masjid in my community. I often end up using my artistic ability to help complete certain tasks efficiently. This year I’m the set designer. The designs will then be sold after the event to earn more funds for the masjid. I love projects like this because I feel like my art is making a real difference and serving a need at the same time.
What is some advice or tips you would give to a fellow BGWP who is interested in pursuing art full-time and/or transitioning careers?
I would tell them being a “full-time” artist is a state of mind. Quitting your job alone is not going to make your art better or more successful. Only you know your situation, please be wise when making decisions that affect taking care of yourself financially, mentally and emotionally. If you’re trying to make more time for your art sit down and write down everything you do for every hour of the day (including sleep) and then decide if your traditional job needs to be eliminated from your schedule. If you’re watching tv for 2 hours or more, replace that with painting. If you’re on Instagram, Twitter etc. for an hour, cut it down to 30 minutes and spend the other 30 minutes sketching ideas you have in your head. So often we think to make more time we have to do something drastic like quit a job when sometimes more time is already there we just need to use it better.
What is next for you?
I’m currently working on an loungewear line with my sister that I’m very excited about. I can't announce all the details yet but we are making our debut in May and it is inspired by black women. I'm also partnering with the Please Touch Museum for multiple exhibits between now and 2019 that focus on Islamic culture. On a personal note, I’m currently studying the painting technique “alla prima” and working on incorporating that technique into my art approach. I also have been commissioned as a makeup artist for several photoshoots, and personal events since establishing my Youtube presence in 2017.
What does being a "black girl who paints" means to you?
Being a Black girl who paints means sisterhood to me. Even today I don't see many black women on a “famous” type of level who are known as painters. Not just artists, but painters. When I see another black girl who paints I feel like I’m looking at a fellow unicorn. Someone who I know is going through what I'm going through and still moving forward.