It is difficult to imagine what our life would be like if we did not know an inkling of art? It would certainly be dull and dreary, colorless and formless, drab and meaningless. It is the lines and curves that give nature its true form. Natural orbs trace geometrical trajectories as they move along in atomic and subatomic, orbital and galactic paths. Crystals grow inside solutions like arithmetic flowers. They increase and expand, adding angles and planes in an awed and perfect obedience to an absolute geometry that even rocks and gems understood—the law of nature.
Yes, it is the law of nature, the rules of geometry and the principles of chromatography that infused a unique blend of art in the mind of Saeed Sarwar Siddiqui, an artist born and raised in the temperate South Asian subcontinent, rose to the peak of his career in the sizzling Middle East, only to settle in cold outback of Canada. In an interview to IRIS ART MAGAZINE, he claimed that his life has been an example of Vincent Van Gogh’s saying:
“I see more and more that my work goes infinitely better when I am properly fed, and the paints are there, and the studio and all that. But have I set my heart on my work being a success? A thousand times no. I wish I could manage to make you really understand that when you give money to artists, you are yourself doing an artist’s work, and that I only want my pictures to be of such a quality that you will not be too dissatisfied with your work.”
Having finally achieved what he had strived for all his life, Siddiqui now focuses on giving back to nature what he had obtained from it. He lives in a world of lines and curves, forms and shapes, colors and pigments—creatively shaping and rearranging them. He has dedicated his life and effort to producing marvelous art works in multiple forms for the benefit of the poor children all over the world.
Innovating New Styles
When you look at the various art forms drawn and painted by Siddiqui, you find a new genre of art with a change in form and styles, shapes and colors. With his excellent Abstract Ornamental Imaginative composition art work and as an outstanding fine artist, Siddiqui has been thinking of new concepts of human relation of love and life, abstract paintings, calligraphic art works, realistic sketching, landscaping, pen work and glass and ceramic paintings that would appeal to your aesthetics. Now almost 70, he has more than 50 years of professional experience in fine art and graphic designing.
Realistic and Abstract Pen-work
His favorite instrument to draw realistic and abstract pen-work pictures is the famed Rotring Rapidograph 0.1. Siddiqui’s ‘Native Girl’shows a young Native Canadian warrior girl in the fullest detail of her ethnic war dress. We see her brood besides a gnarled old tree with a couple of tipis in the background under a dark and ominous cloudy sky. His ‘Arab Musician’, ‘Ancient Bazaar’, ‘Tiger’ ‘Charlie’ and ‘Horse Carriage’ are all worth watching closely as you see each fine black line meticulously adding to the overall exquisiteness of each marvelous image. Excellence in pen-work also becomes evident in his fascinating ornamental pictures of the ‘Flying Bird’, and ‘Flowerpot’ and other abstract images.
Siddiqui has been painting in oil, water and poster for more than half a century, later adding acrylic to his art mediums. He has mastered all the techniques and invented some of his own to create amazing art work. With an eye for the detail and an exceptional color sense, he commands a remarkable manual control. He has done countless paintings over all these years, from brushwork to airbrush during his career in advertising to calligraphic and ceramic art in later years. With a penchant for using new mediums and with a resolve to command new art techniques, he is always eager to experiment. Glass and ceramic painting and digital work are also his domains to create art.
Digital and Innovative Art
Since he was a young artist, he has been learning and trying new art techniques. At a time when the Agfa Repromaster camera was extensively used in advertising and printing industry, he experimented with new techniques and evolved innovative procedures to create art that no one had ever heard of before. His love for innovation is evident in his non-commercial art too.
An Artistic Soul
The seed of art was sown in his human soul and germinated since before the time he could recall. He begins his story from the year 1956.
“The well maintained lawn of the British Council Library had an eye-catching gathering of about 50 children of 10-12 years of age. I stood by the gate and peeked inside. The kids were all neatly dressed. They were all from good schools. They were working on paper fixed on drawing board. It was all so fascinating, but I could not linger on for long. A sentry shooed me way. I had to leave. But I had liked so much what I saw that I kept going there every day and look at the interesting scene with much interest.
“I was just an inquisitive 12 years old looking curiously at the kids sketching on papers fixed on drawing boards. I stood there and envied them. They were, obviously, from well-to-do families. I wished that I could be one of those kids.
“It was perhaps on the third day that an art instructor noticed me and asked the sentry to let me come in. He asked me why I came there. After a few queries, he handed me a drawing board and pencil, and allowed me to join the group. The children were drawing a marble pillar carved in the Greek style. I, too, drew the figure on paper and colored it.
“At the end of the session, the bell rang. We stopped working. All the drawings were collected and assessed. The art teachers asked each one of us for our own views, and then told us how each of us had done. When my turn came, they appreciated my work and encouraged me to keep on practicing. They had made some corrections to my work and wrote their remarks in English which I could not understand since I did not understand the language. They gave me a box of color pencils and two drawing books–one was to fill in colors while the other book had blank pages to make drawings. Leaving the place that day, I thought it was the biggest achievement in my life. I was extremely happy that day.
“I was so excited that I had a sleepless night. I was looking forward to the next day already. I did not even know whether the class will take place the other day or not. When I went there, the session was going on, and they let me in again.
“I was given a pencil and a board with stand. We were asked to draw a vase with flowers. I began to draw and soon completed the drawing. It was a black and white one, I still remember. Again, the instructor looked at my work and wrote his remarks. I was served a cold beverage but got no gifts that day.
“The second drawing that I made there was that of a live model. It was a little British girl who was wearing a frock and a hat. There was a blue umbrella at her back. She was holding a book. We had an hour to complete the drawing but we were asked to submit the drawing later on. The drawing was to be colored with pencils. The children were from different backgrounds. Some of them were from the British School and others from the high-class Mama Parsi School. All of them were in spotless, well-pressed clothes. I, too, had clean clothes but not as decent as other kids. I never saw those children again.
Rebellious and Mischievous
“It was the third and the last day when I found out that a competition would be organized but I did not know when. I had an inferiority complex as I was the poorest child and an orphan. My mother would sew clothes to earn a few bucks for sustenance. I lived quite far and had to travel far even to go to school. Under such hardships, I could not continue with my dream of pursuing art or even making it my career, but the thirst to learn it did not die down. I was compelled to take decisions which were more important than learning art. Time flew by. I was known as a rebellious and naughty boy in the family. I recall that we were invited at a party in a rich seaside neighborhood. In mischief, I made brought with me three fake currency notes that I had made and left them on a chair. I had made the drawing exactly like a one-rupee note on the one side and the other side was blank. An uncle was the first one to notice it. He got hold of me and asked me to visit him later. At his place, I was surprised to see the paintings that he had made. He told me never to make a currency notes as it was a crime. To encourage me, he gave me a pen with a sharp edge and a bottle of ink to make drawings,” he said.
Exploring New Horizons
Siddiqui faced many hardships during the course of his budding career in art but he remained steadfast. But nothing turned him away from moving in the right direction. He remained single-mindedly focused on his ambition—achieving perfection in art and discovering new ways and techniques. His focus on earning his daily bread somewhat detracted him from attaining any big marks in fine art during the early phase in his career but he still found time to work in this direction. Working at an advertising agency, for instance, he would fish out unfinished and half done art works from the trash can, take them home and ponder over them and practice copying them. The art director at the advertising agency caught him doing this and allowed him to come to his place after office hours and to help with his own work. He mastered every advanced technique in art and headed art departments of every advertising agency he worked for.
His work stood out amongst the others as his minute finishes and perfect drawings were noticed by the masters in the field, and difficult art assignments such as portraits of the heroes of independence landed in his lap. His artworks received one award after another for excellence. He got one good opportunity after another and soon got a high paying job in the Middle East. First in UAE with Manhattan-Gulf where he handled multinational clients for the first time; and then, after a few years’ stint with Pakistan’s largest advertising agency Orient McCann Ericson, he was invited by Makkah Advertising (now a publishing concern: Makkah Communications) as its creative director where he continues to work even after 24 years.
Saeed Sarwar Siddiqui is now working in Canada and Saudi Arabia. Despite achieving perfection, he still considers himself a learner, and says,
“Basically, I am a fine artist. I started with drawing faces, and made portraits with pencil and charcoal. I didn’t focus on one thing but expressed versatility. I made human portraits, landscapes and live sketches. I had devoted most of my life to commercial art. I did not have time to do more work in fine art since I was extensively involved in commercial art. I had to make commercial art my soul source of income. But versatility was the key to my success.”
“I made sculptures, glass paintings, ceramic style paintings, abstract paintings and water paintings too. I have a style of my own, and I want to keep my art alive when I am no more here. I am interested in Quranic calligraphy and have started making some paintings based on this specific genre, but I want to do landscapes too.”
“A few years ago, I quit advertising and returned back to fine art, which is my first love. I expressed my love for fine art in June last year (2014) when I held an exhibition in Dhahran Art Group, Armco, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. It was not to make money but to showcase my work. The art community appreciated my work. My pen work is appreciated everywhere immensely. I have done much pen work but it takes a lot of time and effort.”
“I want to work in Canada in collaboration with prestigious art galleries here. I and my children have decided to make Canada our home and I want to make us proud with art and philanthropist work. So any cooperation from the local art galleries is more than welcome.”
His artistic calligraphic works have won the hearts of art lovers all over Middle East as well as in other parts of the world. He has been experimenting with Arabic calligraphy for decades and has evolved a new style of his own that is quite different from the traditional one. Apart from making colorful designs and shapes in calligraphy, he has painted so many samples of Quranic calligraphies, and presented them to large audiences in Islamic countries.
In conclusion Siddiqui told me about his future plans: “I have to participate in calligraphic exhibitions across the world. I am preparing for my exhibition in Saudia Arabia. I wish to donate 50-60 per cent of my earnings to welfare organizations for the needy people. I want to participate in Arab League Conference in Canada and elsewhere in the world where I can have a stall t show, discuss and sell my work.”— Khalid Rahman, Art Writer & Editor, IRIS ART MAG (2350 words)
Siddiqui focuses on giving back to nature what he had obtained from it. He lives in a world of lines and curves, forms and shapes, colors and pigments—creatively shaping and rearranging them. He has dedicated his life and effort to producing marvelous art works in multiple forms for the benefit of the poor children all over the world.