Through her experiences and connections with the people around her, the comic-loving Illham Alshahab uses her art to journey through her creative perspectives of the world. She displays some of her illustrations and animations on her art account, @unagilham, that reflects Ilham's own colourful yet mysterious disposition. Below, we talk to the (only!) 23-year old artist on her introspective creative process, how to improve your versatility and more.
When did your journey as a creative begin?
As a child, I've always liked the art of narrative storytelling, with a little bit of mystery in them. I think it started out when I first got into reading comics, I love finding the little clues hidden in each frame, often foreshadowing what is to come.
Professionally, I started out by going down the advertising path, but I made these contemporary comics in my free time. I branched out into making animations as well, and exhibited for the first time in 2019 in Singapore! Since then I've exhibited a few times for my comics. Besides making illustrations and animations, I am currently focused on branching out to more interactive mediums for my work.
What is your life ethos and how does it relate to your creative journey?
For as long as I can remember, I've always been introspective. Knowledge of self is at the core of my ethos. I believe looking inward gives me a better understanding of myself and my environment.
This translates into my work as well. I aim to build connections with other people with my work by being vulnerable in what I do.
What are some of the things your artworks are constantly seeking to explore?
I often explore the crevices of my intimate world and the complexities of our human experience.
What was the most significant/impactful project for you thus far — why?
It was something I worked on while attending Dhan Illiani's workshop. The piece is called 'Arriving To Return'. It is unlike my other illustrative work that is currently out there, but rather simple.
It speaks about the passing of time, and how things move in a cycle. This is something I constantly think, read and write about, and to have been able to create a piece that is so simple yet says so much, was a refreshing experience for me.
I still have it up on my wall, and every time I look at it, it tells me a different story.
How do you see the world?
I am a strong believer that the world has all the answers if you know where to look. I'd like to think that I am quite in tune with the universe at times and often when I'm troubled by a question or a thought, I would find an answer just close by. My place in the world is right here, and things are going to turn out fine.
What type of artist do you wish to be, and what's your ultimate goal as a creative?
I don't quite know if there is a 'type' of artist I'd like to be. All I know is that I want to continue to make work that is genuine and true to myself and the things I believe in. I want to present my most vulnerable self in my work, as a way to reach out to other people.
What is your favourite and least favourite part of the creative process?
I love, love, love the clarity that comes with the creative process while I'm in the midst of letting the idea sort of sit a while as it's still half baked. This is the part where I get to explore all the things I've felt before, that could relate to the idea and the experiences that I have learnt lessons from.
I am a strong believer that the world has all the answers if you know where to look.
My least favourite part is when I begin to feel like I need to put out art for the sake of having content. This often comes when I sort of beginning to settle with an idea that doesn't fit quite right, but I decide to do it anyway because, well "I haven't posted in months!! Will people still remember that I am an artist?" Thankfully I always stop myself in time because it simply feels insincere!
What’s your guilty pleasure(s)?
Oof, this is something my friends and family know all too well. I tend to fill up all of my time with work because I am afraid of being idle. I'm slowly learning to take it easy this year, for my own sake and for the sake of my work as well! A dear friend of mine always tells me, "Rest is movement too."
How would you describe your creative and artistic style? Do you feel much has changed?
I feel like the root of my work has always been the same, I like to tell stories that are mysterious, subtle and leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
Though I think over the years I'm getting the hang of releasing my need to control the outcome of my work, that I don't have to plan everything and when things come together organically, it brings more meaning to me.
What are your tried and tested programmes/softwares that have never failed you in your works? Are there any other platforms you would like to recommend to other creatives?
I use Photoshop, Illustrator and After effects for most of my work! They're really easy to use and there are a plethora of tutorials online. Though I've found cheaper/free options for those who are interested in starting out! Like Vectornator and Clip Studio Paint!
Who is someone you would love to collaborate with and why?
Your artworks range from abstract whimsical pieces to structured shapes and objects. Can you share your top 3 tips to other aspiring graphic designers and illustrators out there on how they can improve their versatility as well?
Try not to think about the end product when you're just about to start, it will limit you!
Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and experiment! Even if the end product doesn't quite work out, you've learnt something valuable.
Take your time with it. As an artist, when you come up with an idea you might want to execute it in the way you're used to executing it, be it photography, illustrations, etc. Give yourself time to think of the best way your message should be packaged in once you have the idea.
Please share with us who/what you are constantly inspired by!
Visually, I am inspired by my favourite comic artists such as Moebius, Joost Swarte, Hergè. When it comes to music, I enjoy listening to David Bazan and Rilo Kiley's music, the stories that they tell in their music give me a lot to think about, and I love it!
Lastly, please shoutout 3 of your favourite local creative crushes and their IG handle!