Having harboured a lifelong vision of succeeding as an artist, Aminath Shimanie Shareef set out to fulfil her goals early, by electing the art stream whilst pursuing secondary education. However, these dreams were kept alive by braving unrelenting forces throughout her artistic education - working through teachers who were never satisfied with her work.
Although Manie, as she is known to friends, began learning the ropes in Aminiya School - by the time she wrapped up her higher education, she had already carved her place as a skilled illustrator amongst the Maldivian artist communities.
Predominantly self-taught, she credits much of her versatility to youtube tutorials as well as books and other sources of information and made her industry debut in 2008 when she was scouted to be an illustrator for the 2008 Colombo Fashion Week.
Today, the stunning 31-year-old wife and mother of two, is both an inspiration and to the discerning eye, proof that one really can have it all.
In a decade of experience across the fields of advertising and marketing, Manie has blossomed from artist to businesswoman, defeating the odds and generating a steady, strong income. She’s come a long way from her beginnings as a marketing executive, having been most recently hired as Marketing Manager at Nada Salon & Aesthetic Studio, one of the country’s leading beauty establishments.
In this capacity, she has had a part in curating and creating all of the brand’s collateral over the past five years.
Aside from her ‘day job’, Manie has now established herself as one of the most sought after artists in the Maldives, lending her creative talents to a number of influential, lasting campaigns. Some of her best received work include awareness and crowdfunding campaigns for Family Legal Clinic, a non-profit that provides free legal consultations to those in need.
Also making waves are her depictions of Maldivian culture in some of FlyMe’s Inflight Magazines. Her work as an illustrator/designer and digital marketing can be seen on GetaHero (Maldives’s Service’s Directory) as well.
However, it is just a glimpse into the beautiful world within Manie’s imagination, to be sure.
“I’ve wanted to be an artist for a long time now. I can’t pinpoint the decision to any specific moment. It was always something I wanted to do, even as a hobby.”
“My first job was in the field of marketing. So, primarily, my career was built around marketing. But I’ve always worked as a graphics designer and an artist for several projects”.
“It might not be financially feasible in the Maldives to everyone, because the marketing of art is just beginning to develop - but it is already larger than it was. I wouldn’t call it a risk, but it is definitely challenging''.
“These days, there are a considerable amount of art collectors. I think a market that values and pays for art is slowly emerging”.
“I wouldn’t - I would say that a substantial amount of jobs exist within the arts. For those who are ready to take up the challenge, there is so much potential to make one's way in the field, even in this country.”
“This is a tough and time-consuming profession. But I never thought that me choosing to work and earn from art was a crazy idea. It definitely has been a tough ride - having a full-time job, being a mom and a wife. It’s been hard for me to juggle everything. It takes quite some commitment.”
“The fact that I get to do all of this also means that I do have a good support system (moral support) too. And definitely help that I get from loved ones. And a lot of it drives me because I pursue it with a lot of passion”.
“There are two main ways in which I draw.”
“One is based around culture, drawn in an illustrative way. A lot of my work is based on written works about the history and culture of Maldives. A lot of research goes into this too… “
“I also draw specialized illustrations that are more of a ‘cartoonish’ style, a form more suited for children’s books and the like.”
“Those are the two styles that I passionately pursue, but my work as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator does require I show more versatility in my style according to client needs.”
“My initial style and the one I have adopted now are vastly different.”
“I’m mostly self-taught. There are setbacks since I didn’t study design but now this knowledge is accessible via the internet, right? I try to polish up skills I don’t have by browsing tutorials…”
Sharing an all too common feeling between creatives, Manie noted that she has never illustrated a piece she considers “perfect”. But a lot of people received my painting of a *‘Giraavaru’ lady quite well, and I think that’s one I’m most happy with so far.
“(I am) constantly trying to correct things that I am not content with,'' she said, adding that she does notice a gradient of improvement as she progresses from one project onto another.
*The Giraavaru people are the indigenous people of Giraavaru Island and are said to be some of the earliest settlers of the country, in the central atolls.
“In the beginning, I always drew whatever came into my mind all at once, it became the final piece.”
“[At the time] If it turns out bad, it turns out bad...but during my International Baccalaureate (IB), I understood the importance of conducting proper research, sketching out variations of one idea before moving on to the final creation.”
Having since grown accustomed to the method and tailoring it to suit herself, Manie described the process as varying, iterating that for instance, less sketching is sometimes required to reach the completed stage of her artwork.
“If its an independent illustration, I base it around a concept floating in my mind for a couple of days but if it’s a briefing sent by a client, the illustrations will be based mostly on what is required.”
“I experimented a lot, but found that I was most comfortable with watercolour and the sorts - in particular, fluid paste.”
“However, now I find it easiest to work digitally. I think it’s the easiest form, in terms of convenience.”
“Right now I have a very tough schedule. Time is something I try not to waste. So running around find materials and all is not easy.”
“Thus, going digital has become more convenient, but nothing beats the feeling of physically playing around with paint and figuring things out as you go on a piece of hand-painted artwork.”
“My ultimate personal goal is to capture what comes to mind, perfectly.”
“...To practice enough and to draw without references!”
“I also plan to contribute to the art community with better means, which is something I’m already working on.”
“I do a lot of research on a great many artists. In order to bring out something perfect, I think you have to follow and practice on the advice of different individuals.
“I would say, practice and experiment a lot. Practice is the best way to improve.”
“There are quite a few now. Platforms are being created as well. Multiple NGOs have been formulated too…”
Detailing her experiences, Manie highlighted Maldives Artists Community (MAC) and Avahteri Gallery, expressing that both groups were working to initiate platforms that would further develop artists within society.
“Then there is the tourism industry. Many resorts, especially the newest ones, do search for artists to work with. Getting exposed to these places may provide a significant helping hand in terms of earning an income”.
She added that currently, “some small-medium enterprises have publicised a real need for designers with the introduction of digital marketing and social media marketing platforms. These avenues might be how you generate an income”.
“It depends. It takes quite some time to release an artwork at a satisfactory price.”
“If you have not established a name for yourself in the industry, or if it isn't being considered by someone who actually understands the process that goes into making a piece, your art might not fetch a suitable price compared to the effort put in..
“Thankfully, I now manage to get a satisfactory amount, though I won’t say it has always been like this.”
“I personally don’t believe that I have reached the right capacity to host a solo exhibition but, thanks to an offer from MAC, I did hold one in January”.
“Honestly, I was not all that satisfied with it, and that’s why I say I’m not at that level. I want to really prepare myself to reach that target”.
“I take it as constructive criticism, and particularly, if the feedback is from creatives within the field, I try to accept it and work on it”
“I have never been offended by such feedback though. It's a matter of learning to grow from your experiences.”
“I think it is about learning to put your ego aside and knowing that there can always be room for improvement - not taking any of it personally.”
“ At the same time, it is also important not to be too hard on yourself.”
“I don’t know what to say specifically. Many people have given me advice. Compliments too...I think I appreciate advice the most.”
When it comes to improving yourself and your skills, what is your go-to?
“As I mentioned earlier, I turn to watching tutorials, researching different sorts of artists and practising a lot.”
“Art has different rules on how you use colours, there are a lot of theories. Every artwork involves quite a few stories.”
“The commercial value of art is based on collective intentionality. There is no intrinsic, objective value. Human stipulation and declaration create and sustain the commercial value."
“If you take a look, you can identify artists, people that have a constant flow of work and also earn a considerable income. Then, I would try by narrating my personal story.”
“I’d tell them how far I have come from where I was before. I would probably share all that I did to get here.”
What are some challenges which exist in a local context and what needs to change?
“There are so many things. First and foremost is the establishment of art courses and relevant education within the field - improving our art education and art awareness.”
“Next off, easier accessibility to art equipment, increasing platforms for artists and the creation of the local art market in Maldives”.
“Depends on the mood. Sometimes it’s complete silence.”
“I barely work with music, mostly silence because it requires a lot of focus. Nowadays especially, I prefer to work in silence when my kids are asleep, it is just easier for me to focus then”.
“Very content. But there is so much I want to do, I want to contribute to the art community and to keep learning.”
“It's been quite the journey, I’ve managed by learning on my own, through a lot of trial and error and exploration, so I’m very pleased with where I am.”
“It does make me really happy but as I said, there is much I have yet to accomplish.”
“Overall, I would like to improve my performance in all of the fields I work in. That is; illustrations, paintings and everything else.”
“I am also working on a children’s picture book with “ Thakethi” that will be released soon.”
“And I’m also in the process of trying to bring forward some good accredited art courses and begin educating kids and young children in art, so I’m excited for what is ahead there as well!”