Since the original posting of this interview in December 2016, Hana Shafi has continued to create incredible art & make deep impacts through her art. We are excited to support her as she prepares to launch her first book in September 2018. Preorder your copy and be the first to receive this incredible book.
Hana Shafi aka Frizz Kid is a brown girl illustrator and writer. Weird and frizzy. Maker of lovely odd things. She spends her time doodling, ranting online, and re-watching Lord of The Rings.
Tara Miller: What kind of artist are you? How would you describe your art to someone who is new to your work?
Hana Shafi: This is a difficult one for me to answer, to be honest. I think I’d say I’m an illustrator, predominantly doing pen and digital illustrations. For someone new to my work, I’d explain the simple, calming style of my affirmations series, and I’d describe my pen work as hyper-detailed, intense, disproportionate, surreal, and just totally strange hahaha.
TM: Many of us were introduced to your work through the Positive Affirmations project. I see the affirmations works (posted every Friday and Monday) and sometimes breathe a sigh of relief seeing a combination of words and images reflect so clearly how I’m feeling without even knowing I felt that way. How did you come up with this idea?
HS: Initially, I had created a few digital illustrations inspired by the We Believe Survivors hashtag that was trending on Twitter after the Ghomeshi trial (this was a high profile rape trial in Canada, for those who are not familiar). Seeing the response to those pieces, I realized that you can make art that really has a healing effect on people. After that, I really just dove into art that explored wellness, healing from trauma, being vulnerable. And it just felt natural to keep going.
TM: What has the response been from your fans, followers, and community?
HS: The response has been incredible. People have shared very personal parts of their lives with me, because of my art. They’ve told me about their personal struggles and how my art has helped give them motivation, comfort, or even just made them feel less alone in what they’re going through. It’s so uplifting and touching to see that and it means the world to me that people are communicating with my art in such a vulnerable, honest way.
TM: Where do the quotes for these pieces come from?
HS: They’re usually inspired by popular concepts and ideas that are floating all around the internet in wellness communities and groups. Some of the phrases are things that are commonly said by counsellors and therapists, for example “healing is not linear.” Some of them are just very general statements that I think of, like “I respect your anger, I respect your sadness.” You have different variations of these ideas everywhere really.
TM: On a journal post on your Red Bubble website you write, “No matter how much my style changes and evolves, no matter how many different mediums I delve into, I still love that bizarre disproportionate style that I started off with” . What does this style mean to you and what does it do for your work?
HS: That weird style that I started off with is everything to me, and I still draw in that style. My positive affirmation works are very different from how I usually draw. It was actually quite a challenge to me to make that kind of artwork, because it is so different from my usual style. I still continue to make works in my bizarre, hyper-detailed style, because it’s an intrinsic part of me. It started my artistic journey and it has evolved alongside me.
TM: Yes! I love the doodles you post and the Anti-Affirmations project you started recently. Can you talk about why this project is important to you?
HS: I think the anti-affirmations project was just so necessary, because sometimes we simply don’t have the energy to be hopeful or positive. Surprisingly enough, I’m a fairly cynical person. I needed an outlet for those emotions. I’ve been slacking a bit on the anti-affirmations, to be quite honest. I need to get back into it.
TM: How can dark humor and positive affirmations coexist and simultaneously contribute to healing from trauma?
HS: We need a mix of both in my opinion. For me, personally, I need to be able to laugh at my pain and my struggle sometimes in order to heal. I need that just as much as I need the gentle, positive reminders. I need the space to be hard and bitter, just as much as I need the space and time to feel soft and fluid.
TM: What artists have you admired for a long time? What kind of art is feeding you lately?
HS: I’ve always loved Frida Kahlo, for many reasons, including her politics, but also because I love how she centered herself so much in her work. That’s so taboo for women to do I feel, to centre ourselves. It’s seen as vanity. I portray myself a lot in my own work, and Frida Kahlo’s work is a big inspiration for that. In terms of other classical painters, I deeply love Gustave Courbet and Caravaggio’s work. Both very different painters, but both extremely important to me.
Right now, I’ve been really in love with Repeal Hyde Art Project; they create incredibly healing and impactful artwork. I also really love Ayqa Khan and the way she makes art celebrating hairy brown girls. That’s very relevant to me. I love Hatecopy’s pop art pieces, as well as Nimisha Bhanot’s oil paintings. All phenomenal artists.
TM: All wonderful, inspiring women of color. What are your experiences with feminism? Do you identify as a feminist? What does being a feminist mean for you?
HS: I absolutely do identify as a feminist, and I try my best to make sure that my feminism is intersectional. Applying intersectional values to my feminism is a lifelong process. I’m always trying to learn new things, and to unlearn harmful things that I’ve internalized through my life. Being a feminist to me is being someone who is unapologetic in their fight for liberation, and who is fiercely themselves in a world where we, as women, and especially women of colour like myself, are constantly told to live up to unrealistic standards.
TM: I loved that one of your Facebook statuses to your fans and community last month communicated that you were unable to publish an affirmation because you weren’t feeling well and needed to practice self care. Can you talk about the importance of self care? What are specific self care practices that work for you? What are challenges you face around practicing self care?
HS: Self-care is so important. I can’t always be on. I need time to unplug, to stop, and even just to create something that doesn’t have an end goal. It’s hard to always know that I have to create something for a commission, or deliver on an art piece that I said I would have finished and ready for Friday to put on Instagram. I need the time to do nothing, to create with no expectation that it has to be good, to take care of myself on the days where I’m struggling with my mental health.
TM: You are a writer as well as an artist. When did you start writing? How do your visual art and poetry interact?
HS: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I was writing poetry way back in middle school, and I used to do poetry slams in high school and used to write for the school newspaper. Then I went to school for journalism, and am still a freelance journalist. So writing has always been a part of my life and always will be. I think my visual art and my poetry have a very intimate relationship, and am currently trying to tie the two together in a project I’m working on. At times, I’ll be drawn exclusively to writing and other times just to visual arts. It comes in different bouts.
TM: In what ways is writing better at saying what you want it to? What about visual art?
HS: For me, writing is better when I’m trying to communicate a full narrative. If I’m exploring a particular period in my life, something that’s happened, or a series of events that I’m trying together, than writing is the best format for me. For visual arts, I’m exploring a feeling, or a particular moment. I need both mediums to communicate and could never just choose one.
TM: What current or upcoming projects are you excited about?
HS: I’m currently doing some zine making workshops at Ryerson University with Consent Comes First, and it’s also going to be part of the Sexual Assault Roadshow pop up gallery. The artwork really explores healing and resistance from sexual violence, and I’m doing workshops with people to make affirmation art for a zine. It’s been an awesome experience so far and I’m really enjoying it.
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