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The Art of Change with Jabeen Qadri

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We hear it all the time – art can change people. Creativity in itself can change people, but we did not know to which extent until we've had a chance to speak with freelance illustrator Jabeen Qadri.

Jabeen was stuck in a field of study which made her unhappy. She knew deep down that her place was with ink and colours. The day she switched to art and fashion design, her life changed for the better – and from that moment on, Jabeen has kept forging ahead, without looking back once.

For this Member Spotlight, we've discussed the beauty of art and the way it can drive change with Jabeen, who was so kind as to share her story with us. Keep reading!

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How did you get into the industry?

I was studying Actuarial Science and Risk Management and it made me really depressed, so I decided to switch to art. I had always wanted to study art but didn’t think I could make it as an artist. I took admission in a diploma for Fashion Design and I really enjoyed illustration. Somebody saw my work online and offered me some children’s illustration work. And that was the start of it.

I discovered this whole new world of illustration and started exploring different freelance jobs and art styles. One day I decided to venture into digital illustration. I got myself a Wacom and took some online courses. And 3 years later, here I am.

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Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I’m based in Karachi, Pakistan. Currently I am creating children’s book illustrations for Paramount Books. I make illustrated products and social media content for my own startup, The Wishing Well, which is about mental well-being. I’m also going to start working with Her Pakistan/Oh My Period on menstrual health awareness campaign.

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If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I guess if illustration hadn’t worked out, I would have started my own fashion label. Really hippie chic, gender neutral clothes and an all-women team. Probably donate a percentage of my earnings to an NGO working for woman’s rights.

Can you explain your creative process?

I get ideas at 2 am and I start searching right away on Pinterest for something concrete that is somehow related to what I have in mind. I won’t lie and say that I make a lot of sketches. I usually just make one sketch and I start coloring it right away because I’m too impatient. I have 2-3 styles of coloring and brushes that I use in Photoshop. I experiment with them until I find the perfect one for a particular artwork.

I also keep an idea sketchbook. I draw loose sketches in it from time to time and look back at it for inspiration whenever I want to start a new project.

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How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

I wouldn’t have been able to venture into this industry if it wasn’t for social media and those freelance and portfolio websites. Also, I think it’s much easier to draw on a tablet for commercial purposes than traditionally.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

I keep a balance between commercial work and personal work to stay motivated. I like working on personal projects from time to time that talk about social issues and rights and also do some volunteer work, where can I experiment with forms and colors. I recently volunteered to make social media designs for women’s day march. Projects like that give me a nice break as well as I realize how much potential I have and how much further I can go. I like knowing that my art has made a small, tiny change in the world. And that keeps me motivated.

At the beginning of every year I make a goals list with all the competitions I want to enter, all the clients I have to reach out to, volunteer work I have to do, etc. And I love checking things off from that list.

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What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I worked for Pakistan Reading Project on a contractual project. There was a completely different art style and there was a ton of work for a short time, and on top of that, I had to sit at an office desk 9 to 5, which I was not used to. But I had a really humble and understanding supervisor and I managed to pull it off really well.

How do you recharge away from the office?

Well, I work from home. I work from my bed, which is not very good for my back. I try to limit my work hours and after work I watch Netflix or sit with my mom and sister and we video call with my nephew.

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What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Know your worth. I cannot stress this enough. I guess you don’t get paid well right from the start. I was very underpaid at the start. But once you’ve been in the industry for a while, start charging for your time and effort.

Some clients will say that you’re charging too much but the right client will value your worth. Also, don’t take on more than you can handle. It’s not healthy for you at all and you will end up hating your work. Take breaks. Go on vacations. Buy yourself something nice. Don’t keep working all the time.

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