We recently connected with Rijaa Nadeem and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Rijaa thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Do you think your parents have had a meaningful impact on you and your journey?
In order for me to be successful, I had to work extremely hard and learn certain skills. But throughout my life I was given tools, guidance or opportunities by others which helped me grow. Simply put, I am who I am today because of my parents. I doubt they understood when I was young who I would become. That is the beauty of having kids. You have no idea who they will turn into. My parents didn’t teach me how to be a successful artist. Instead, they taught me everything about how to view the world with compassion and how to be resilient.Those two skills together is what makes me into a strong artist.
Let’s start with compassion. My mother is the most loving human being I have ever met. She gave her heart and soul to her children. She taught me how to love unconditionally. She taught me how to look at others without judgement and a heart full of empathy. The way she looks at the beauty in the world is something she passed on to me. It is not always easy to see the beauty as the world can be dark and cruel. My mother never lost sight of what’s important, which is love and acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and others around you. I remember a specific incident when I was young, about 6 years old. I grew up in Pakistan where were surrounded by immense poverty. One night, I was sitting in my car with my mother when a transgender beggar came to our window. Back then, the LGBTQ community was not widely accepted even though as a country we are now making progress in accepting them. I was young and did not understand the reality of this person and so I asked my mother why this person was the way they were. My mother calmly explained to me how some people are born a certain way biologically and not everyone’s the same. She explained to me that they are trying to be themselves and that we should show the utmost kindness as a lot of people did not. She made me understand this person was human just like me and so deserved the same respect as anyone else. To a child, this was very powerful and shaped my view from there onwards. I have a lot of compassion for the LGBTQ community and thoroughly support their cause. This moment stuck with me so much that I decided to make my first film as a filmmaker about a transgender person living in Pakistan. My goal with this film was to show their humanity just like my mother taught me to. As an artist, the empathy and compassion that my mother taught me is exactly what makes my art so relatable to many. It is my biggest strength.
My father is not an artist and doesn’t exactly understand this world. However he has always supported me because it is something I have a passion for. He taught me how to be resilient and to never give up. When I was making my film in Pakistan, so many things went wrong. It was one of the most challenging projects I have ever worked on in my entire life. From the crew, to the locations to the cast, there was one obstacle after another. I remember sitting down with my father the night before the shoot ready to give up. I told him I could not go on to make this film and I was going to cancel the shoot. However my father would not let me give up. He made me understand that I came back to Pakistan to make this film and that I was not going to leave without shooting it. He pushed me to continue and he supported me immensely every step of the way. His resilience helped me tremendously. That potentially could be one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life. He taught me the value of being resilient and showed me the importance of continuing even when all odds are stacked against you. I shot my film and it went on to be screened at numerous film festivals around the world. It was my first film and one of my most precious films. This film was a product of the skills both my parents taught me.
And now that I embark on my journey as a painter and artist, these qualities are what gives me the confidence to take the leap. My compassion allows me to make meaningful art about confidence, love and acceptance. My resilience is what allows me to continue moving forward without giving up. I know that I can face any challenge that comes my way and I’m ready to face it with dignity and grace.
My parents gave me the tools I needed to follow my passions and be relentless.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
I am a filmmaker and artist based in Dallas along with Los Angeles. My life started in Pakistan which is where I grew up. Fate eventually brought me to Texas where I finished my education in directing, producing and screenwriting. Right after I started my career in television. I have spent the last decade of my life working in different areas of media where I have produced and directed projects in television, films, Augmented reality, virtual reality, commercials, events, social and digital. The beauty of working on so many different projects has been that I have a very extensive knowledge of all the different parts of the world of media and entertainment. The one consistent objective throughout all the projects that I have worked on has been stories. The goal of each project was to tell a very specific story. I have spent most of my life learning how to develop characters and tell their stories.
As a painter, I was trained under numerous artists in Pakistan and have spent my life enhancing my craft and painting style. A few years ago I started exploring painting in a more focused way while I was still producing full time. Since then, my art has taken on a life of its own and keeps on growing everyday. I have been part of numerous exhibitions and do commissions for private clients. I recently attended an art residency in Italy where I worked alongside talented artists and was able to evolve my style even more.
Utilising my experience in storytelling, I have been able to create art with strong and meaningful content. When I work on commissions, I create art for people in a very collaborative way. A lot of people who come to me don’t have a thorough understanding of art however they want something that is original and custom made for them. I start out by asking questions about who they are and what they like. By having these conversations, I am able to build an idea of what I can create that would be meaningful for them. I involve them heavily throughout the process because I want them to feel like they are part of creating the piece. I send them options for ideas, sketches, colors and build the piece for them slowly so it truly represents who they are. The most rewarding aspect of this for me is when they view the finished artwork and are able to see a piece of themselves reflected in it. When I create a custom commission, I guarantee that it is the only piece that will exist and I do not make prints of it. I want the piece to be unique for them alone.
I take a lot of pride in my ability to use my culture, background and all my diverse skills in order to create art that is unique to me and represents my voice. I have developed my own style as I’ve become more confident in my perspective. And when I work with others, I use that style in order to create something new that represents me along with them. My strength is my ability to tell authentic and meaningful stories whether it be through films or paintings. The goal is the same even if the medium is different.
What do you think is the goal or mission that drives your creative journey?
That same drive and passion to create art has been consistent for me throughout my life. However as I have gotten older, my style and reason for creating has evolved. When I was younger, I created art to express myself since that was the most genuine way for me to do so. I used art as a tool to express my sorrows and fears. Art for me was a way to deal with all my difficult emotions.
Now that I am older and so much more confident in my own voice, my reason for creating art has changed. Art has now become a way for me to create content that can empower others. I don’t only use it for my fears now. I use it to portray my happiness and ambitions.
The main reason I create is because that is what I know how to do best. I believe everyone has a purpose in this world. My purpose has always been to create. If my art can have even the slightest bit of a positive impact on someone else’s life, then I consider my purpose fulfilled. Simply put, creating art brings me the highest amount of joy. I use it to find beauty in this world and create my own environment.
Looking back, are there any resources you wish you knew about earlier in your creative journey?
I believe that the most miraculous thing we have in this day and age is our access to the internet. It has changed how humans live, communicate, learn and do anything in our lives. About a decade ago, in order for you to learn new skills you would either need to take a class, buy a book or find a master to teach you. However, with the internet you have every tutorial and piece of information that you need at the palm of your hands for free. You have to do the due diligence of seeking the information.
As I evolve in my painting and directing style, I learn new techniques by researching them online or by watching youtube tutorials. These can be such powerful tools if you use them right. Once you find the information, then the only way to get better is by practise. I research the paints I use, where to order them from and what tools to use for the effect I want. I look at reference images on google or instagram to decide what I want to create and then use those images as a guide for composition and color reference.
The beauty of having everything available to you is that anyone can learn whatever they want to. There used to be a barrier to learning which we do not face anymore. I have learned that a lot of folks who want to paint are too afraid since they are intimidated by it and don’t know where to start. My advice to them is to just start. No one starts out by being an expert. You become an expert by practising and putting in the time to enhance your skill. Don’t let fear hold you back. You have all the resources you need available to you just like I did. Take the leap and put in the time. I promise you, you can learn whatever you put your mind to.
- Website: www.rijaanadeem.com
- Instagram: @rijaanadeem
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rijaa-nadeem
- Other: https://www.tiktok.com/@rijaanadeem