Beyond Paper – Nature on Canvas
Fatima: By looking at the extraordinary paintings on your Instagram page, we noticed the theme of most of your paintings revolve around nature. So I wanted to ask, “What kind of relationship you have with nature”?
Benish: I am a nature lover, so nature inspires me a lot. Every detail of nature fascinates me. I reflect upon all and sundry aspects of nature and try to understand the different colors of nature and how can I bring these colors into use for my paintings?
Fatima: Ahan. So for you, what do you think is the perfect time to paint?
Benish: The perfect time for me to paint is in the evening. But I also prefer midnight when there is complete silence.
Fatima: Yeah, midnight painting also offers less distraction.
Benish: Yes, I agree. But when it comes to painting outdoors, then I paint in daylight. Especially when I was studying at NUST, it was a big opportunity for me because the environment there was always mesmerizing. I used to sit outside my department with my sketchbook and would draw and paint something randomly.
Haiqa: Yeah, the environment at NUST is very engaging, and it is very fresh in the spring season, and you are surrounded by beautiful vibrant colors of flowers.
Fatima: Is there any specific brand of oil paints that you would suggest?
Benish: Yes. I will suggest “Marie’s oil paints”. It is a Chinese brand. And the good thing about it is that it is easily available in Pakistan and at a very reasonable price.
Fatima: At times, artists go through a time when they have no inspiration for painting. So, do you also face artist’s block? If you do, how do you overcome that?
Benish: Yes definitely, I do face that a lot. I think when you face an artist’s block, nothing can help you. You can’t force yourself to paint, and you shouldn’t. Give yourself some time to come back to the urge naturally. Often it happens to me in the middle of some project I am working on and with all art supplies around me, but then my mind and inspirations would just go blank. In such cases, I will suggest not to force yourself to do something.
Haiqa: Do you listen to music while painting?
Benish: I can’t paint without listening to music haha….
Haiqa: Does music inspire you for painting, or do you listen to it for some other purpose?
Benish: Yes, it does inspire me. I listen to different genres, usually soothing music, English songs, or sometimes Ghazals. It depends on my moods. Music helps you escape this world and takes you to a fantasy world where you get the inspiration you are looking for.
Haiqa: Is it difficult to part with your work?
Benish: Yeah, sometimes when the demands of the client and my interests are different. Then I paint something that covers both my and the client’s interests.
Fatima: Do you get any challenging customized demands from clients?
Benish: It gets challenging when you are given a deadline. I remember one order, like two months back, for which I was given a deadline of fifteen days. And it was a large painting, about 5 by 5 feet in size. It was something challenging for me because I don’t compromise on my performance and quality. And I worked for fifteen days, day and night to get the job done. So yeah, that order was pretty challenging for me.
Haiqa: Do you think artists in Pakistan are underappreciated?
Benish: Yes, totally. Because this is something we all have experienced in our country that those who study art are considered as less intelligent than those studying science. Many talented students opt for engineering just because of the fear that they would be called less intelligent, and the fear of the myth that only science students get well-paid jobs.
Fatima: I agree.
Haiqa: Do you like your major in electrical engineering?
Benish: Yes, I do like my major in electrical engineering. But I like art more.
Fatima: As you said, people around us may be discouraging. Were your family members supportive?
Benish: Very supportive! They were very supportive. Alhamdulillah.
Haiqa: A picture is worth a thousand words. As an artist, do you agree? Why so?
Benish: Yes, I agree with this, but this also depends on levels of professionality. As for professionals in this field, this statement is true, but beginners may find it doubtful.
Haiqa: What do you think about digital art?
Benish: I like it and want to debut in digital art but not yet. Maybe soon In Sha Allah.
Fatima: What is your favorite color? The one that you think you can’t paint without.
Benish: Surely green.
Haiqa: Which painting is your favorite among your works?
Benish: My favorite painting is the one I have recently painted, a 5 by 5 feet painting. In which I have created an illusion of transparency around a gold leaf. And the interesting thing is that a drama is being shot at the client’s house, so the painting will be shown in an upcoming drama series on Hum TV. In Sha Allah.
Fatima: Wow, that is amazing.
Fatima: In your recent painting, you have used gold leaf. So can you tell us how to use gold leaf?
Benish: The gold leaves are in the form of thin delicate foils. And it is not that difficult to paste it. There is a special glue available for this purpose. After pasting it, you have to dry it and brush it at last,
Fatima: Thank you so much, Benish, for your time. It was really fun learning about you and your passion. Have a great week ahead.
(Parts of this interview have been edited for sake of conciseness and clarity.)
Conducted by: Fatima Rizwan and Haiqa Rehan