What makes society reach its perfect and sublime form? How can we design and establish the paradigm that will transcend this concept from abstraction to tangibility? And the most important. Who are the one that can transfigure and reshape this reality from its plain form to this marvelous and colorful patterns?
I’ve always loved the movie Dead poets society (1989) for the answer to these questions can be clearly acquired specifically from this quote: “medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love: these are what we stay alive for.”
Art, and artists. Those wizards that can shape dull figures and colors into an infinity of vivid creations that bring rejoice to this life, a life we can only seize by tasting and relishing the pure zest of its art.
This world can afford losing scientist, pioneers, and craftsman but never can afford to lose artist. In my country, Tunisia, unfortunately few choose the way of art for it is disregarded and underrated due to many factors. Still, what give us hope is those who kept fighting and struggled to stay put and choose to be the flambeau that will light our world.
I choose to make this interview with one of the prodigy Tunisian artists for many reasons, the most important one is to draw a picture of life seen from the eyes of a young passionate artist and not any artist, a Tunisian one, Salma Attia.
A brief introduction about Salma Attia a.k.a Shiki:
Salma Attia, 24 years old, a young female Tunisian doodler and animator.
The first question that I asked Salma was.
Q1: Why do you do what you do?
“I came to this world with a small gift of drawing, and growing up I’ve always wanted to be a makeup artist unlike most kids who dreamt of becoming doctors and engineers.”
But she sadly explained that she kept her art as a hobby while pursuing her engineering studies saying and yet I didn’t kept her from enjoying her practice until she finally decided to pursue her passion:
“At the time, it seemed like the reasonable thing to do with my good grades. But in truth, I was numbly following the herd, sadly. Yet, my final year as an engineer student, I released my first web comics Yahdoth fi Tounes (happening in Tunisia), and to my surprise, people liked my stupid comics! So I took a deep breath and a huge leap of faith XD and I chose to follow my passion and forge my own path. I do it because I love it, I do it because it makes me feel alive. (Quoting Walter White and all XD ).”
My next question was to know what constitutes the essential core of an artist’s work.
Q2: What is integral to the work of an artist?
“I think the most important thing is being true to one self, and mostly, ORIGINAL! You can have mediocre art skills but that can be fixed with practice. LOTS of practice :’)
The content, however, is directly related to your personality and the experiences you’ve had in life. I can’t make doodles about cats if I’m a dog person or never had a cat for example! An artist’s content reflects his/her life, and not a single life is exactly similar to another, that’s what I meant by originality.”
Shiki insisted on the fact that to succeed in perfecting your own style and getting a satisfactory results is to make art for the sake of what you believe in and not for materialistic causes:
“By being true to one self, I meant: Do not make art for the sake of fame. Don’t handle a topic because it’s trendy or to create a buzz (God I hate that word!) when your beliefs are against it! I know that sometimes it gets tempting to write an article or make a comic about hot news, but if it feels wrong, if you don’t believe in your own words, don’t do it. Don’t lose yourself and your integrity for a day, a week, a month of fame. Stay true to yourself.”
After discussing the crux of a true artist’s orientations and the fact of seeking art for the sake of art. I asked Shiki what influence an artist can make in society and what is the best experience she had.
Q3: What role does that artist have in society?
“I’ll tell you a short story to answer this question, and trust me, it has a point: I’ve always hated public transportations in Tunis City. Whenever I took a bus or rode a metro, my face turns instantly grumpy, and trusts me; I’m a cheerful person XD
When I lived in Ariana for a while, I had to ride the metro 2, and there was this old man who sold some goodies
(chewing gum, tissue paper etc.). That man had a special gift, the moment he sets his foot in the metro and starts talking to passengers, all the angry faces disappear and everyone is suddenly smiling!
He makes people happy just by passing them by! And I believe that’s exactly what Art does :3
It makes us smile, it makes us hopeful, and it numbs away the grumpiness of life, for a while at least…”
Q5: What is the best experience you had as an artist?
“It was the first message I’ve ever got on my page Yahdoth fi Tounes. A girl sent me a sweet cheering message admiring my stupid comics, and then she asked:
“Is this by any chance Salma Attia? (As weird as my question may sound, drop the yes or no u_u)”.
I was surprised, so I went through her profile only to find out she was an old classmate from 7 years ago! We’ve only been classmates for one year and then she had to move out to a different high school and we lost contact ever since. And 7 years later, she saw some random comics on Facebook and she knew they were mine because she saw my Art style in them!!
That was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced as an artist! To know that my art has always had my own mark and that it’d still be recognizable even after 7 years! I mean, some artists spend years trying to find their own art style, and some unfortunately fall into the pit of copying another art style…I feel lucky to have found my own!”
And to know better about an artist and what inspires him/her the most, is to know what are him/her favorite artist and antistatic work. And so I asked Salma.
Q6: Who is your favorite artist and what art work impresses you the most?
“I don’t have ONE favorite artist so I’ll name my favorite ones:
Sarah Andersen of course <3 , the Oatmeal, Domics, Mr Syrus, Jacquelin Deleon, Jazza (I’m sure I forgot some, please excuse my amnesic memory :s )
The dreamy art style featured in the video game “Child of Light” has always fascinated me. Jaquelin Deleon’s artworks captivate that dreamy, floating vibe. Her work is amazing to say the least and her art is so magnetic <3 “
Q7: What/Who inspired you to be an artist?
“Sarah Andersen was my inspiration to make my comics public (along with my friends pushing me to do so for months! XD )
But I think what inspired me to make comics in the first place (and that was at a very young age) was a French magazine my mom used to buy me as a kid Winnie l’ourson, and then another magazine that influenced me so much Witch mag!
I got my inspiration to make caricatures from the comical drawings they broadcasted on Roland Garros tennis tournaments back when I was young!
As for animations, my first inspiration to animate was a Youtuber by the name of ShadowLeggy, who made
super funny Resident Evil animations. I wanted to animate ever since I watched her videos, started to learn a little with the help of my best friend Hmez, but then I put it on standby until I discovered Domics and decided: ”IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME!”.”
Next I wanted to know what our lovable Shiki, as an artist, like and dislike about being an artist in the art world and what is her dream project.
Q8: What is the most likable/dislikable things about being an artist and in the art world?
“Most likable things about being an Artist:
1) You making something you’re passionate about!
2) Creating something from nothing (I get that feeling mostly with animations, each time I finish a small part of a long video, I spend the night watching it over and over again, feeling proud like a mom raising her child until he’s fully grown XD )
3) And that’s truly the most amazing thing about being an artist: the impact you have on people’s lives :’)
I always get “YOU MADE MY DAY” or “YOUR COMICS MAKE US HAPPY” comments/messages. And THAT makes me feel so grateful and overwhelmed. It makes me feel that my art matters. To know that my stupid comics are bringing joy to people and even helping them through rough times, like the long comic I made when I came back from a dark place “A stoopid tale of dreams and madness”, I got loads of comments telling me how that comic helped out, a lot, cause many related to what I’ve been going through and it gave them strength and hope, and that was, I think, the happiest feeling I ever had. :’)
Most dislikable things about being an Artist:
1) Not having an income :’> it’s not easy to make money from your Art, especially in Tunisia, sadly…
2) Not spending enough time with friends and family since I’m always locked in my room working on an animation or some comics.
3) Back Pain, Neck pain and eye pain xD I’m sorry but it’s true! After finishing an animation I take 2 days to completely rest my back because the pain gets intolerable!“
Q9: What is your dream project and what you aim for in the future?
“Releasing my own comic book (I actually have the idea in mind and stored in a safe place xD ) and making my animations on a more regular basis. I’m really ashamed of how irregular my uploads are :s”
Finally, and in two question I wanted to know the major troubles that the Tunisian artist face in their country. and I asked Salma if she could give some advices to the young artists so it may help them in their future projects.
Q10: What are the troubles that makes being an artist hard in Tunisia?
“Well, I think the main problem is peoples view on art here in Tunisia. Most people here don’t see art for its real worth, sadly. All around the world, I see Patreons supporting their favorite artists and successful donation and “Go fund me” campaigns thrown every day, but when a fellow talented great artist threw a crowdfunding campaign in Tunisia, the results were depressing… We lack support. Most people here still lack the mentality to put 5 dinars aside to support a content creator rather than spending them on luxuries…
There are other problems like ridiculously low YouTube revenues and the PayPal problem (which is HOPEFULLY going to get fixed soon, hopefully…). I still believe there’s hope though. Change doesn’t occur overnight, and it doesn’t happen unless you make it happen. So we need to stop whining and step our games up! YOSH!”
Q11: What is the best advice you can give to young artist?
“I have 2 advices and I think they’re both crucial to any young artist:
Always be true to yourself. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Don’t make art to get famous or for the sake of creating a BUZZ . Do it because you believe in the message you’re delivering. It’s best to build a small house, brick by brick, with solid foundations that would last ages than to raise a castle overnight, but a one that would crumble down at the easiest breeze. The brightest flame burns quickest, and that’s exactly what BUZZ is. Keep your flame ablaze, even if your fire isn’t big enough at the beginning. With enough fuel and work, it will be the biggest fire the north has ever seen (yeah, I’m quoting Mance Rayder now XD)
My second advice is: Don’t under estimate your art. Don’t make artworks for free unless you want to, seriously! Any young talented artist will get approached by someone who asks them to make an artwork for free, or in exchange, they’ll give them a shout out. When you go to a grocery store to buy some bread, you don’t tell the seller “Give me a baguette for free, I’ll tell people on the streets that I bought it from your shop.” You pay the man. Simple. Your art isn’t less worthy than a baguette! You spend time and energy on making it, so unless you really want to do it for free (as a gift to a friend for example); it is your right to ask for payment. Don’t feel ashamed.”
And to end this interview in a more funny and interesting way, I asked Shiki a few non-professional question about favorite movies, music, TV shows so her friends, colleagues, and the people who love her and love her work as do I will have the opportunity to know more about Shiki our sweet queen of doodles.
Q1: Favorite Tunisian and non-Tunisian Youtubers?
“Favorite Tunisian youtubers:
Mr Syrus, Ouich, Arianka, Khormouloujia (his channel isn’t up yet but I saw some preview and his work is awesome!) , The Gate, Rod, Saif IFOTC, Anarchnowa…
Favorite non Tunisian youtubers:
Because Geek, SmokeScreen, Liza Koshy, Natoo, Philip Defranco, Boogie 2988, Domics, Alan Becker, JREKML, Anna Akanna, Jenna Marbles, VSauce, Grade A Under A…”
Q2: Favorite music type/band/artist?
“I listen to different types of music, from metal to Kpop! I don’t see why I would tie myself up to one genre to be honest when there’s a wonderful variety of everything!
My favourite artists/bands are: Lamb of God, Bigbang, Die Antwoord, Watksey, G-Dragon, CL, Kalafina, Yoko Kanno, Winner, AKMU, Marcel Khalifa …”
Q3: Favorite movies/series/anime?
“Favourite Movies: (this is the short list XD)
Kill Bill, OldBoy, Pulp Fiction, Prisoners, A bittersweet life, and the shawshank redemption, the half-life of Timofey Berezin, Little miss sunshine, the squid and the whale, the green mile…
Favorite Series: Lost, The walking dead, Bron, Game of thrones, Westworld, Skins (UK and the 4 first seasons ONLY), Heroes (the old one), Stranger things, it’s okay that’s love, reply 1997…”
Q4: Favorite place to live in?
Q5: Favorite Time to live in?
“I think I’d stick with this time XD But if I got to choose, I’d really want to be around when Nirvana was still there and experience their music not as a bittersweet everlasting memory :’) So the 80’s it is! XD”
Q6: Best dreams/Worst nightmares?
“Best dreams: living on a small house by the sea, leaving a good mark as an Artist in this world.
Worst nightmares: Being tortured by a psychopath, a sudden death of a loved one, falling into decay (I know it’s inevitable! But I truly fear being forgotten after I’m gone… I think that’s why I tend to write “shiki was here” pretty much everywhere XD I want to be remembered, for a while at least :’> )”
Salma is one of many amazing and charming Tunisian artists that succeeded to bring glimpse of happiness with their art and enchanted our hearts with their pure love to art and beauty in this world. I truly encourage every young spirit who wants to stretch out and unfold from its cocoon to bring to this world of concretion his dreams and vision and contribute to society instead of demanding.
Shiki is truly a prodigy and a modern hero with her art as her superpowers and with dullness and conformism as her nemesis. Let’s together support our heroes and let’s carry on together the duty of making our society and our country glorious and prosperous.
Check Shiki’s marvelous artworks and info: