BY MANJULA RAMAKRISNHNAN
Sumayyah Al Suwaidi is a digital artist whose passion for her art form propels her to manipulate, seemingly normal and ordinary photographs into masterpieces of emotions and sensuality. This is also what prompts Sumayyah to make the skies burst into a splurge of colours, stretch the oceans into expansive blue ribbons, elevate human forms to touch the clouds and in the process bring out the beauty hidden in those original photographs, giving it new life and vitality.
When she was just 18 years old, Sumayyah chose graphic design as her major in college, for she had by then decided to dedicate all her college years to her passion. Before she graduated from the Higher Colleges of Technology armed with a Higher Diploma in Applied Media Studies -- Graphic Design, she was already busy with her assignments, creating websites, posters, banners, signboards, invitation cards, corporate identities, logos and multimedia CDs.
Soon she found herself drawn inexorably to digital art, especially photo-manipulation and thus came about the digital painting as the next step forward in her creativity. Sumayyah uses a variety of contemporary software such as Adobe, Photoshop, Illustrator, Streamline and Painter to give the required vive to her creations.
With her passion for digital art growing, with her name gaining more prominence in the art circle, she soon participated in various exhibitions, showcasing her art. Thus came about the exhibition to raise funds for children with special needs in 2003, another in 2004 in Abu Dhabi, in collaboration with Lebanese and Emirati artists. Year 2005 saw her exhibiting in the BurJuman Art and Fashion festival; 2006 was again an art auction for charity and another in the same year for The Third National Exhibition for Contemporary Art. This year her work was displayed in the National Day Art Exhibition, the Cultural Foundation and was dedicated to the late president Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. More recently in 2007, another exhibition was held at Qanat Al Qasba in Sharjah and was titled Emarati Dimensions.
Speaking to Panorama, from the sidelines of her exhibition Beyond the Horizons, Sumayyah spoke about what fuels her creativity.
Panorama: What is digital art?
Sumayyah: Digital art is an art form that is done digitally, which means through computers. In order to get the best results out of digital art, it is essential is to have an excellent quality computer and screen, to ensure that the computer can handle the large paintings, unmindful of its huge size. In addition, the colours on the screen have to be well calibrated such that you wouldn't be shocked when the painting is finally printed.
After considerable experimentation, in order to get the desired effect, I use software such as, Adobe Photoshop and Painter and I have my tablet and pen for air brushing my female models and for the small albeit vital details that contribute towards giving the painting an extraordinary finishing touch.
Panorama: In digital art, what should the term 'photo manipulation' mean?
Sumayyah: Photo manipulation means taking a photograph using a digital camera, or scanning an existing picture and then manipulating it using software such as Adobe Photoshop. Then by altering and playing around with the colours, contours and defining lines, the entire photograph undergoes a complete transformation. All my digital art work are photo manipulations, and I work on images of models, change facial features, her attire, her accessories; I then proceed to build an atmosphere around her, maybe a touch of moist, lush grass under her feet or an aging, musty castle behind her, gray clouds peeping from behind a beautiful moon...all these add to the overall romanticism of the digitally manipulated photographs.
Panorama: How do you decide a certain image is worthy of conversion into digital art?
Sumayyah: If a picture grabs my attention, if I see some unique quality in it that is worthy of photo manipulation or if a picture fans my creativity, giving me ideas, provoking my imagination, then I decide it is worthy of further work.
Panorama: How does digital art satisfy the highly creative artist in you?
Sumayyah: Digital art provides me with unlimited options of colours and brushes. It gives me the opportunity to create whatever exists in my imagination -- from little fairies to castles in the middle of the ocean! Working with this art form takes me to a tranquil level of total peace, inner restfulness and thus elevates my soul to something superior.
Besides, in the lighter vein, it also breaks the myth that artists and painters get messy with colours not just on their easel, but also all over themselves, for with digital art, I can work for hours without getting myself dirty.
Panorama: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Streamline and Painter these are the software tools you work with. What advantages does one have over the other and what gives you the best creative results?
Sumayyah: Adobe Photoshop and Painter are pixel based so they help me manipulate pictures but Illustrator and Streamline are vector-based and they help me with the elements I use in my paintings such as grass, flowers and model's hair. But thinking this further, they all give me the best results because I combine them all together in my paintings but of course the untrained eye cannot see that!
Panorama: Is an artist driven by moods and are you guided by yours?
Sumayyah: Yes, to a greater extent I am driven by my moods, but then in my case, my moods -- both good and bad result in paintings! If I am happy there will be a painting, if I am sad there ensues a painting, if I am bored there gets created yet another painting! But for all kinds of moods, working late in the night is a good answer, for that is the time when the world is all yours.
Panorama: What is central in your recent exhibition, Beyond the Horizon?
Sumayyah: Beyond the Horizon depicts my growth as an artist; I have matured in my work and the collection is a mixture of emotions, feelings and all that is sublime in me as a creator.
Panorama: What is unique about the exhibits in this exhibition?
Sumayyah: Here, I have on display 41 paintings, each depicting different subjects, but most of them have a common thread in the form of female models. This stems out of the fact that I am proud to be a woman and hold my head high about my Emirati traditions and family boundaries that without curbing me has given me the liberty to spread my wings and grow.
Panorama: As a young national woman, what do you actually see Beyond the Horizon in your real life -- outside your creativity?
Sumayyah: I see that Emirati women nowadays are capable of doing what men do; they have the opportunity to prove themselves; they have the wherewithal to pursue their dreams; they have the innate talent to go beyond the horizon and pleasantly surprise people with their talents and ambitions.
Source: Gulf Today