Iraq born and Los Angeles based, artist Daby Faidhi has been using art as a form of self expression ever since she was a young child. Faidhi’s work has been nominated and won many international awards. Her first feature film, The Breadwinner, was nominated for Best Production Design at the Annie Awards in 2018. Faidhi’s work has been used for character designs, prop designs, background paintings, and even children’s books. We got the chance to catch up with Faidhi and learn a bit more about how she got started and her art style.
TH: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.
DF: I was born and raised in Baghdad and since the moment I can remember, drawing has always been the best companion in my life. I grew up in a family who appreciated art and talent. My father was a very well-known architect back in Iraq and my uncle is a very well-established artist in France. I’ve always looked up to them. My mother helped a lot nurturing this talent by creating the right environment and letting me do anything to express my thoughts and drawings. I always felt I am an odd person and can't accept the common lifestyle of people around me. So I tried to always take the opposite direction and chose to do things differently. So, drawing and painting well was something not everybody can do, which makes me feel I have something unique and helps me to understand my personality. Art was my salvation throughout the bad circumstances we went through during The Gulf War in Iraq in 1991. During my childhood when I was telling my friends about my dream to be an artist, it sounded a bit challenging back then. Long story short, it took me ages to discover that being an artist and finding my path in the animation world is the best environment to be in and I reached it by chance. It chose me before I did!
TH: Did you always know you were going to be an artist?
DF: Yes, I always wanted to be an artist. Since I was a child I would imagine myself traveling around the world discovering new cultures and making paintings inspired by my own observations of the things, places, and people around me.
TH: How has your style of work shifted over the years?
DF: Discovering a style is the toughest mission I still go through, especially if someone like me always likes to try new techniques, and be inspired by many beautiful art work of other artists. It started as classic and realistic, then it shifted into collage and expressionism, then became more liberated by using free lines, sharper angles, distorted forms, and perspectives. Mistakes and accidents during the process of drawing especially when experimenting with different materials is the best way to establish a style. Also each time taking on a different project for each client has different style or demands and for me that is challenging. I think my style is a parallel reflection of my life journey…it keeps changing and adapting to the new environment everywhere I go.
TH: Are you trying to convey any message with your pieces?
DF: In some artworks with specific subjects I’d like to convey a certain message, whether it is to remember an event or a place I’ve been to or to capture a certain feeling of a special moment with a time or lighting during the day or night. The subject has to move me in a way so I can spend many hours working on it. But most of the messages are based on a personal interaction or connection between me and the place/moment/time.
TH: What tools do you use to create your work?
DF: For my personal projects I use mixed media which includes: paper cut outs, acrylic, ink, and materials collected from the specific place I want to draw (pieces of plants, leaves, rocks, etc.). I also use model making clay to create depth and 3D in my illustrations.
TH: What is your creative process like?
DF: My daily creative process starts with everything that I need for the day: coffee, snacks, and choosing my music depending on the mood I am in while working. I start working from 11am and go until 7 pm. I have my lunch at my desk with a little break in between. I also have to do a lot of research before starting the design process. I can’t work if I didn't shake my visual memory and get some inspirations. I like to design traditionally by using pencil and paper for easier brainstorms, but for longer processes I work digitally using Photoshop and Cintiq.
TH: What’s something you wish to continue with your art?
DF: I never want to lose my Middle Eastern fusions in my style of drawing.
TH: Where can people buy your work?
DF: People can find prints for some of my art through my website.
TH: Do you have any career goals for the next five years?
DF: I am working on creating paintings inspired by the architecture of the houses in Los Angeles and hopefully will curate my artwork somewhere in LA. I am currently working at Warner Bros. Animation, so I will carry on doing what I am doing, but I am also aiming to work on illustrating old folk stories from my culture. Those oral stories that have only been told by grandmothers and never been documented. I don’t know which path this could be taken to, whether to be a books or series of short animation in the future. We’ll see!