Even as a first-year medical student that had just attained a top-notch O’ level scorecard, Maahee Abdulla was best known within his friend circle as a phenomenally talented artist.
His decision to forsake medical aspirations in favour of architecture came after persistent urging from friends and family - which itself was prompted by the explosive popularity of a facebook page showcasing his artistic creations.
While the 25-year-old prepares for his master’s degree in architecture in 2020, Maahee is now recognized for his artistic talent by name worthy companies, brands and bands across the globe.
Despite a humble beginning as a freelance artist, Maahee has undoubtedly risen through the ranks, having worked for various impressive parties on several occasions.
In a burst of time, Instagram and Facebook helped convey his talent across the world, however, Maahee remarked that monetary returns from his artistic exploits brought more satisfaction compared to the income he earns as an architect.
“I drew even when I was very young”, he recalled.
Nevertheless, Maahee went on to elaborate that, at that stage, the nature of Maldives’ art life and its demands had prevented him from entertaining thoughts of developing a professional career in the field.
Recounting his journey, the artist revealed that his 'Maahy's Art’ page was first created on Facebook as the result of well-intended badgering from peers and relatives.
“From then on, I began to love what I did - and started skipping my classes”.
Along with this, came the realization that the demanding lifestyle of a doctor would leave little room for his artistry.
Maahee threw himself further into making art, uploading it and maximising online outreach until eventually making a name for himself as one of the most successful online artists in Maldives with a following of more than 100,000 on Instagram and Facebook combined.
Today, he receives multiple orders for prints of his original art pieces in addition to commission requests from across the globe.
Despite his successes, Maahee wholeheartedly acknowledged the obstacles faced by artists.
“I think that becoming an artist anywhere is a risk. Compared to other countries, the UK or US for example, opportunities for artists are still limited”.
With the statement, he also acknowledged that in this regard, the internet did serve to eliminate or minimize several barriers., expressing that due to the ease provided by social media channels, Maldivian artists of today didn’t necessarily need to worry as much about securing clients.
Having acknowledged the difficulties of being an artist, Maahee asserted that he did not regret ditching his former dreams of becoming a doctor to pursue art - a decision he describes as being “passionate” and “spiritual”.
“Maybe it’s because I still haven’t become a full time artist”, reflected Maahee, who currently juggles architecture and art, trying to achieve balance and simultaneous progress.
Wistfully looking forward to a day when he could focus all his time and energy on his art, he added, “ “I wonder when I’ll be able to become a full time artist”.
Maahee favours the Zentangle, an abstract art style that involves incorporating intricate patterns and geometric shapes to form a larger image.
Ever since his days at Iskandhar School, Mahee was inclined towards drawing patterns and shapes. The artist reminisced about the time he gained favour among his schoolmates with a drawing of a ‘Naaboli’, which is Dhivehi for the Nautilus seashell, in this fashion. Other children quickly dubbed the technique as being Maahee’s individual style.
“I always sketch my ideas in a notebook”, said the artist, launching into his creative process.
One of the numerous ideas dotted across these notebooks would often serve as a reference for the next time he found himself in a creative mood.
“Next, I divide the drawing into layers and fill them with patterns. If I dedicate the entire day to drawing, I can finish a piece in one day”.
Although he did not use colour when he started, Maahee added that he now accented drawings with a pop of colour on occasion.
The artist lamented the difficulty in letting go an original piece, since that meant he would never get it back again and simply had to return to the drawing board.
“There is a bittersweet feeling to it”.
Maahee stated that his greatest challenge while developing as an artist was learning how to set prices.
“At first, I valued drawings at 10 or 50 dollars. That happens when you’re new, you’re very reluctant to set high prices”.
The artist revealed that it was only after a manager came on board to oversee sales that he got the hang of it. Maahee accepted his manager’s advice to assign proper value to time-consuming work.
“Now, considering everything, I set prices based on paper size. Most commissions are drawn on A3 paper.”
He asserted that he no longer believed people that said artists could not secure adequate earnings. The reason he was not currently a full-time architect, Maahee emphasized, was because he could stay at home, make art and earn a larger amount of money by selling it online.
However, he conceded that he had the added advantage of having previously been exposed to a lot of people on Instagram, where he has 67,000 followers.
“I had to draw a lot to reach that point”, exclaimed the artist, stressing the hard work that got him where he is now.
Reflecting on his own experiences, Maahee stated that it was possible for aspiring artists to balance art and education, especially considering the numerous platforms that could be utilized to share their creations.
“I haven’t had an exhibition yet”, said Mahee, who describes his art as ‘commercial’ and not exactly suited for an exhibition.
“Even though I do it with passion, most of it goes towards album art, tattoos, t-shirts and other similar mediums.”
There are several other ways to benefit from it without exhibiting it as well”.