Welcome back, friends! We're excited to introduce our newest addition to the Qamber Kids family, illustrator Reem Alomari. For those of you who don’t know, Reem has already been helping Qamber Designs & Media with a variety of projects over the last year. So we’re very excited to bring her creative talents under the Qamber Kids umbrella :) Reem enjoys the animated features of the fictional 2D and 3D characters that she’s grown up watching and is still an avid fan of a great number of successful illustrators and animators. We recently sat down to ask about her adventures through art and life. We hope you love reading about her journey as much as we have!
Qamber Kids: Reem, first, we wanted to welcome you officially to Qamber Kids, and our extended literary family! We appreciate your taking the time to share with us today. To begin, can you tell us about your journey into illustrating, and what led you to pursue your passion? Reem Alomari: First of all, thank you so much for your kind words. I'm so excited to start my journey as an illustrator! For as long as I could remember, I was into art. I was known as the artist in my family. But I realized later on that I never took it as seriously as other artists. For me, art was just an enjoyable thing I did to pass the time. It wasn't a tool for me to express myself or anything. I also realized that art for me had its seasons. Some weeks, I would be really into art and be inspired to work on different projects. Other weeks or months, I wasn't making any type of art. But I'm always, always on Pinterest or Instagram, following other artists and their journeys. I guess you could say I suffer from the occasional "imposter syndrome" when it comes to art, but one thing that's definite in my book is my absolute irrevocable love for art. I love art history and I love the storytelling aspect. I love the creativity, the tools, everything. Since graduating from university I've had different jobs, trying to find myself. Last November, I came to the realization that I wanted to get into animation, and in order to do that, I'd have to start teaching myself from the ground up. So I've devoted myself to take the next year to take as many online courses, reading as many books, and drawing as much as I can, to build my portfolio all so I could start applying for animation jobs. My dream job is to work for Pixar Animation Studios. I could go on and on about my love of Pixar. QK: Those sound like solid, admirable goals! We think Disney summed it up perfectly when he said, "If you can dream it, you can do it." We are happy to be a part of your journey! You are an artist, a blogger, and a passionate supporter of the Bahrain book community. Can you tell us how you began your artistic and literary journey? As you continue to develop your career, what has helped you most? RA: I wasn't a reader as a kid. In fact, the Harry Potter books used to scare me because of how thick in page numbers they were. I only ever remember reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, which my mom got for me and I loved it.
Some years later, as I was browsing in a book store, (now that I think about it, I can't for the life of me guess what I was doing there) I picked up Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I started reading the first page, the second, third, and eventually found myself on the 10th page. I was entranced, and I wanted to buy the book so I could read more. Later, I bought the second and third book, and eventually completed the series. After that, I started looking for more books, but I found that it wasn't easy. I thought I was picky at the time.
During college, my cousin showed me the trailer for Divergent that was coming out, a book-to-movie-adaptation written by Veronica Ross. She urged me to read her book and she got me excited to start looking for the book just so I could read it, and watch the movie. It was then that I found out about the Young Adult genre. Suddenly, finding books was easy and I became a book hoarder! I started my Instagram account after that and did all the things Bookstagrammers did; tags, book photography, giveaways, etc. I also followed a bunch of BookTubers and got introduced to the amazing community that is Bookstagram. It was pure bliss! My interest and skill in writing have definitely helped me land the jobs that I've had so far. My love of the book community has helped me with Qamber Designs and Media since they are a book branding company. In each job that I've had, I would say my Adobe skills have improved. I learned a lot from the people I worked with and I still am learning every day.
QK: So many in this business seem to be born avid readers, that this is your reading journey is fascinating! We're so glad you came to discover books in college, and that this journey lead you to us today :) We've noticed you favor a mix of traditional and digital mediums in your artwork. Can you describe your technique? RA: I always like to start sketching in my sketchbook as I have a lot of those lying around. I start by drawing a rough draft to get an idea. What I like to do with my conceptual designs is to make it as creative as I can. If the idea comes too quickly, or if it was too easy but still looking good and aesthetically pleasing, I'll say no, that was too easy. I'll then work on pushing that boundary and try to come up with an idea that's undeniably more interesting. I love playing with proportions and using natural elements (the same goes with my writing). I love metaphors and artwork that have a story behind them. I used to sell custom artwork drawn on wooden discs. When getting a new commission from a client, I would ask them to tell me why they wanted their concept drawn. I'd ask what about this character (for example) that they liked. Sometimes I had to work harder to extract information because they didn't really know what they wanted. So, I would just ask them to name me their favorite things, and I would combine those together in an interesting composition. I would draw a couple of variations for the client and ask them which ones they like and work my way from there.
When I started using Procreate on my iPad, it gave me the freedom to take risks because I could always erase and start over. I love the capabilities of digital artwork and the results of the people I admire and follow are mind-blowing and so inspirational to me. I think each artwork, traditional, digital, and every shade in between each has its own sweet and sour points. I can't say that I found my style yet because I think I'm still learning about myself as an artist. I'm open to trying out different things! QK: Is there a medium you love but don't get a chance to use often in your work? RA: In University, I took this course called Book Structures, where we learned different book structure techniques and binding, and it was a lot of fun. For the final project, the professor told us that our project can be anything. It didn't have to be an actual physical book, it just had to have a narrative. I decided to come up with a sculpture—something I hadn't done before. I didn't take sculpture or ceramic class at the time, so I requested the help of the sculpture teacher, who I've never met before. She helped me out with the basics and left me to it. I was able to come and work in the ceramic studio at specific times when she didn't have classes.
I remember feeling like a kid. I loved getting my hands dirty as it was so much fun. My idea, in a nutshell, was to create the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for "Job." I used plaster and created a mold of my hands to create the sign. I then wrote on one hand in Arabic and listed all the different types of jobs a deaf person can have. On the other hand, I did the same but wrote them in English. The reason I did that was to illustrate that just because you are deaf, doesn't mean you can't have certain jobs like normal hearing people. It wouldn't be as easy, yes. Sometimes you need to have an interpreter, or you need to be facing the person you are talking to in order to read his/her lips, but it's still possible. So I wanted that stigma to be something that we really took the time to think about and try to show empathy towards. I was very proud of the outcome at the end. So that's something that I would love to get back into, for sure!
QK: We love your concept and that you seem to always push your creative boundaries. That is how we truly grow. :) How long does it take you to complete a project, typically and how do you decide when it is done? RA: It depends, but it never takes more than a week. When the client is happy, then it's done. If I'm working on a personal project, then when I'm satisfied enough.
QK: You are the author of “Between the Stars: a collection of thoughts, fictional anecdotes, and blackout poetry.” What was your inspiration behind your work, and do you have plans for more in the future?
RA: The idea for Between The Stars happened when I was at a Starbucks with my best friend. At the time, she was suffering from severe depression and anxiety. She was reading my poetry from my note's app on my phone, and it occurred to me that she was taking more time than it should to respond, which made me a little anxious.
"So?" I pushed. "Thoughts?"
Her answer was that she didn't know what she's been feeling lately. She couldn't put to words what kind of thoughts were taking up space in her mind, that is until somehow, someway my words gave her the missing perspective she was searching for. She immediately begged me to publish my poetry.
I was afraid of publishing because I didn't think I had a theme when it came to my words. To me, they were a random collection of fictional scenes, thoughts, and black-out poetry. "So? Maybe your theme could be that you don't have one," she said. And then something clicked. I remember thinking, what if I did publish a book? What if somehow my words were able to resonate with someone else out there? Even if it was just one more person. Excitement started to bubble inside me as I was suddenly hit with a tsunami of ideas and thoughts about what the book cover would like, the format of the book, will it have artworks? I was anxious to get back home to get started on the project lol. I immediately perused through my poems and got rid of the really dark ones. I kept the ones I thought were good enough and wrote some more until eventually, I published over 50 poems in BTS. I made BTS an interactive book for readers to pour down their unfiltered feelings in the forms of creative writing, illustrations, drawings, and more. Each physical copy would literally be unique, individualized, and customized copies done by the reader and for the reader.
Plans for the future: I am planning on getting out a second version of BTS, this time making it available as an ebook. Besides that, I'm currently working on a novel (I'm always working on story ideas, it's just a matter of them working out or not.) and I can't wait to see what's going to come out of it!
QK: You have established a name and platform for yourself on Instagram. Do you have any advice for new creatives looking to begin their own platform through social media? RA: Being consistent with your content really helps. and engaging with your followers, too.
QK: Your painted bookmark designs truly stand out as gorgeous and unique works of art. How did you come up with the idea, and have you considered doing book/series themed bookmarks as well? RA: Aw, thank you, lovely! The floral bookmarks started when I saw a pretty flower illustration on Pinterest. I'm always on Pinterest, and I have boards for everything. I used that first illustration as a reference and kind of made it my own. At the time I wasn't planning on making a series of floral designs. After discovering that I loved that style of flower, I started experimenting with different flowers.
I do have a couple of fanart bookmarks that stem from books I've read or someone else has read! I look forward to creating some digital artworks that I can upload to my Instagram and share with the world. Thanks for the idea!
QK: Are there any professional goals that you have not yet reached? What do you see for your future? RA: I'd love to become a professional illustrator on Instagram, build a large following and take in commissioned works. A big part of why I want to do that, (besides developing my artistic skills and creating exciting projects that have been on my mind for a while) is to work at Pixar Animation Studios. I was lucky enough to talk to a lot of Pixar artists on Instagram and they all gave me great advice which included making a name for myself on Instagram since that's essentially going to be my artist portfolio. I don't know where I'm going to be a few years from now, nothing is truly set in stone you know? And a lot can happen. I do know that I want to be a published author and hopefully work for Pixar. Maybe my dreams will morph into something better, who knows! I'm open to anything.
QK: Do you have any advice or insight for illustrators and authors who are trying to break in?
RA: For illustrators, I say to follow a lot of your favorites online and try to copy their work. just don't upload them online or keep them in your portfolio. They're solely for your practicing purposes. I used to be in a sketch group where we'd meet once a week in a cafe and just draw and hang out. Sometimes we'd have themes for the night. I loved being a part of that group, learning from different artists, and honing my artistic skill. For writing, I say, read a lot. I noticed that when I got into reading in college, my writing just naturally became better. I'm also in a writers group, we're called "The Inquisitors," lol. They mean so much to me, I mentioned them in my acknowledgment page in Between The Stars <3 They taught me so much about writing and self-publishing, and they are such a great support system. So, as with anything, I think having a support system of like-minded creatives would really help you.
QK: Reem, thanks so much for sharing the story behind your creative journey with us! RA: Thank YOU for having me :)