Artist Rashad A. Muhammad, winner of The Art League’s Best-in-Show award for the March 2021 Line by Line exhibit, shares his thoughts on the creative process. Artists in the exhibit were asked to submit work based on or responding to poetry.
Finding Inspiration in Poetry
“I came across a poem by Helen J. Radford, In Simpatico, while looking online for love poems about partners that complete each other. The first stanza resonated the most with me:
We fit now; we complete one another.
Our lives have melted into one
and we dissolve into the unity
which consolidates our synthesis.
It perfectly captured the essence of my piece, Symbiosis — individuals coming together, learning each other’s ins and outs over time to become a powerful force together. While we maintain our individuality, we also know we’re greater together because we fill in each other’s weaknesses.”
Winner of The Art League Best-in-show Award
Cultivating a Creative Atmosphere
“I took over a room in my home as my studio, but it’s about time to get a larger space with more storage — the more floor space the better! The end goal is to have a standalone studio in my backyard with large windows because natural light is simply amazing!
Music is my go-to while creating! When thinking of new ideas or planning out a layout, I love more uptempo music like Afrobeats, Deep House, and remixes of all kinds. They get my blood pumping and ideas flowing — they also make the best music for dance breaks! After I nail the composition and move on to adhering each piece I listen to a wide array of genres as long as the songs are downtempo to help me focus.”
“My core motivation to create is to leave my mark in the world, but we can chalk that up to being human, so beyond that, creating is a form of self-care to escape and uplift myself. There are always so many things in life happening fast, but creating gives me a chance to stop, process, and reflect. It’s like releasing negativity and feeding my soul with light.
Sharing my creations with the world has helped me find a purpose in creating art. Early in my art career, I felt internal strife because I wasn’t creating art that reflected social issues of the time. Once I stopped comparing my art, I learned to recognize and accept that that may not be my purpose for creating. Over time I discovered my purpose for creating is to share my zest for life and provide a sense of wonder. It’s like providing light in a world filled with darkness. I always want the viewer to come away with a sense of fascination from my dynamic use of diverse material and compositions — questioning, how did he create/think of that?”
Giving Materials New Life Through Collage
“My absolute favorite thing about collaging is turning disparate materials into something unique and unexpected — it’s exciting to show people how my brain works. People’s shock and amusement are priceless! One of the best parts of creating is seeing how people react.
These recent collage pieces started as me exploring a new way to create. I noticed items around the house that usually get thrown out like magazines, greeting cards, and bags, so I wanted to find a way to upcycle them in my work. The focus of this beginning stage of my collage work has been fleshing out my style and process. In the next stage, I’ll concentrate on working larger and using more upcycled material to bring conservation more into my practice.
Beyond the material I collect around the house, I mostly gather materials from various craft stores. My favorite material so far has been faux flowers because they offer an ample mix of colors, textures, and shapes.”
Graphic Design Influences
“Color and composition are the most significant elements in my work, but color comes first, without a doubt! Having studied color theory for graphic design, I understand how color evokes visceral reactions. I noticed I gravitate more to rich hues of blue, red, and purples because they evoke regality and power. Composition is significant as well because I never want to overcomplicate a piece. Color and composition play vital roles in creating a vivid visual impact that balances simplicity and intricacy.”
An Opportunity for Growth During a Pandemic
“My collage work started thanks to COVID. My previous style of artwork leaned into painting and gilding portraits. I was getting bored and uninspired by painting and always wanted to try collaging again. I only dabbled with it in college for graphic design assignments, but I’ve always loved doing it. So COVID gave me a chance to step back from my usual painting and rack my brain on ideas of how to create the collages I envisioned. The first few collages I created combined prints of previous paintings, Ankara fabric I purchased while in Africa at the beginning of 2020, and other materials I found around the house including bags, greeting cards, and twigs used for interior decorating. It took me a few tries to learn the proper adhesives and application processes that worked, but luckily I’m a quick learner and don’t give up easily. COVID helped show me patience with myself and my art.”
Artist Rashad A. Muhammad