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Another Artist with a Capital A

Over the past few decades I have hosted artists from around the world, from Norway to Australia and the US to Bangladesh. Something that I have been surprised to learn over the years is how alike they are. That surprised me. In the beginning I assumed that, coming from such disperse places, they would all be radically different. But no, they’re all artists. It makes me wonder if you brought together 100 traffic cops or bank directors or kindergarten teachers from all over, would the groups be more or less homogeneous, like my artists?

My most recent one, Sula al Naqeeb, is from Kuwait. Is she like a traffic cop or a bank director? No, funnily enough, she is an artist through and through. Though, I suspect she could do anything she turned her hand to. She fits nicely in an artist’s shoes, but I doubt she’s a typical Kuwaiti. When she speaks she sounds as if she was raised in mid-Atlantic, between Britain and the US. That´s because she was born in London and studied there and in the US. The combination of the three national traditions has given her a unique world view, which she plays like a violin.

Sula had an art project rambling round her head for a long time, and she had taken a first step, a collection of watercolors. I suggested that she bring them with her and we might start from there. She arrived and I took her straight to the studio to show her some prints done using different techniques. I asked her, “Do you think you might be able to combine any of these techniques with your watercolors and come up with something creative?”

“I think it would be exciting to try,” said Sula. So she spent the next seven days, trying just that. What she achieved thus far is a lot of thoughtful preliminary work and a pretty thorough dominion of the necessary techniques, especially for just a week’s work. Sula fell hard for chine collé, even insisting that I teach her how to prepare the papers. (See results in the photos.) I have seldom had an artist in my studio who grasped printmaking concepts so fast, nor worked so hard as Sula. She’s already planning her return. “I’ll do a lot of preparation before I come back next time,” she says. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t return home from her next visit with an art exhibit under her arm.

The Preliminary Work

Towards the end of our time together, Sula said that she had done other printmaking courses, but all of them left her dissatisfied because they centered exclusively on technical questions, never touching the subject of the artists’ creativity or their overall projects. She said, “It was so refreshing working with you, Maureen, discussing how my work with you might fit into my creative project, before I ever picked up a pencil or a brush. See you soon.”

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