I’ve been dying to share this project with you all for soooo long! Noor first contacted me back in October. It was surreal to get a message from her asking if I’d be interested in creating the cover art for her podcast, Arab-American Psycho. I first met Noor back in February of 2018 at the Oxford Studio show during NYFW. Actually, we didn’t properly meet, I just walked up to her and asked if I could take her photo! I was in awe by her style and I couldn’t resist! That was my first introduction to Noor and I’ve been following her ever since!
So as usual, I’m going to share with you the creative process of this piece. I wish I could say that every step of this process was amazing and that it flowed easily. But I’ma be real with you. It wasn’t. I was three months pregnant when I got the commission and this second pregnancy wasn’t as kind to me as my first. Friends, pregnancy brain is real! I had to completely start this illustration over four times! I’m so embarrassed to admit that because I hate for anyone to think I’m less than professional! (But I’m doing this in hopes that other creatives, especially creatives who are parents, will feel less discouraged in their creative journey.)
For those who have been pregnant, you know what it’s like for your brain to feel like mush and you can’t think straight. I was struggling to see the proportions correctly and I was making some really stupid decisions like outlining my figure in Pyne’s Gray when I knew very well to outline the figure in the color of the subject’s skin tone. I was spending days on days trying to fix these mistakes, discouraged when I would realize that my only option was to start all over, yet again. And again.
It wasn’t until my third failed attempt that I knew I had to step back and do something different. I wasn’t normal Victoria. I was pregnant, nauseated, and exhausted, both mentally and physically, Victoria. I’m not poking fun. I’m not trying to blame my problems on pregnancy in the way one would jokingly (and, I might add, in poor taste) blame a woman’s foul mood on her menstruation. I’m simply reflecting on an experience and difficulty that I know a lot of women have experienced. The reality is that I was/am a different person and I needed to approach things in a different way. That included how I created. So I busted out my notes from my university days and started from the basics, something I thought I had outgrown and no longer needed. I was measuring with a ruler and making marks to note where every single detail should be (here’s where her right elbow is in relation to the right corner of her lip, and that corner of her lip to the bottom of her right ear, etc.). It was a much slower process than I was accustomed to, but it’s what I needed to do!
I had also struggled with colors in previous paintings, mixing dull muddy colors. So I looked up my old notes on color theory and as I painted I said this mantra, “You know your colors! Keep them vibrant!” and then I would say aloud the formula of the color I was trying to create and then I celebrated when I got it right! This may seem so elementary, but pregnancy brain made my mind so cluttered and I couldn’t think or see straight. It was as if the information for creating a particular pink (a pink I mix all the time) was buried under all the pregnancy information (it’s time to build baby’s heart chambers and move those nostrils in the right place) and I had to say out loud what I knew about painting to dig it back up. After the crash course on figure drawing and color theory, everything was finally coming together!
That being said, I still had some bumps in the road. After digitally editing the portrait and putting together the title, my client tells me that I made the opening of her shirt too low. It was not extreme, but I was still mortified! Noor is known for her modest fashion and is a big name in the hijabi community. The last thing I want is to misrepresent my client and her values! Luckily Noor is so cool and understanding that she didn’t take any offense to it. As a fashion illustrator, you’re trained to exaggerate the figure and details of the garments you’re drawing and I was just on autopilot when making those exaggerations, without even thinking of what these slight alterations could imply. Fortunately, I was able to alter the opening of the blouse without having to start over for a fifth time!
This project taught me that you never outgrow the fundamentals, the need to do thorough research, or to have open communication with your client. Thank you Noor for this wonderful creative opportunity! Now give Noor’s podcast a follow. Noor is funny and honest and if you love learning about beauty, skin care routines, and being fake healthy give her a listen! Her trailer episode is now available in iTunes with her first full episode being released this Sunday!