Black Girls Who Paint - Abi Salami

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Name: Abi Salami

Location: Dallas, Texas

Bio: Abi Salami was born in Lagos, Nigeria and lived in many places through her childhood and adulthood. Her love for art started at an early age and continue to grow as she moved to the United States in the mid-nineties, relocating a fews years later to Toronto, Canada, and finally settling back in Dallas, TX. Abi's school notebooks were always covered in elaborate doodles and she always add her own creative flare to each assignment and project. While attending the University of Texas at Austin, she majored in Accounting to fulfill her parents wishes despite wanting to pursue Psychology. She remained creative, never stopped drawing, and took art classes as electives to suffice. And in 2009, when Abi began battling with severe depression and was suggested by her therapist to create, art literally saved her. However, her depression ultimately caused her to stop creating post-college and accounting career. She returned to Dallas where she could reflect and rely on the support of her family. 

Luckily, Abi's art journey reignited in September 2017 when she read, "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" by Joseph Murphy. This book changed both her life and perspective. From then on, Abi decided to follow her daydreams and pursue a career in art. Since then, she has painted religiously, booked several art shows, and been featured in several newspapers and online publications. Her work varies from portraits to abstract art and is not only influenced by her Nigerian heritage, but also by the works of great Surrealism artists such as Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Frida Kahlo. Abi's art journey has been just that, a journey, one in which she welcomes the endless possibilities in store. Her ultimate goal is to help others fall in love with art in the same way she has loved art all her life.

Website: www.abisalami.com

Social Media: @artistabi

Describe your experience as a current as an artist. 

I am currently a full-time artist. I have been painting and involved in art for years, but over the last six months  I started to actively pursue art as a career. I’ve always loved to create and working in finance for a decade sometimes felt like hell. However, last year, my company was sold and my position was effected by the reorganization and subsequently eliminated. I started to paint regularly and post on Instagram and soon people were reaching out to me to ask if I would participate in their art shows. As I dove further into the art world, I realized that I could make a living out of it if I was smart and entrepreneurial. Although,  initially I was wasn't happy at the time with my parents for making me major in accounting, I am now extremely grateful. My business background has been instrumental in helping me establish my art business.

What was your occupation/education prior to becoming an artist? 

I was working for a Dallas based lodging company as the Director of Investor Relations until the end I was laid off. I worked for the company for seven years in several capacities before being promoted to director. When my company got sold and I was told I was going to be laid off, I was distraught. I had no idea what I would do next. After reading the book, “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy, I asked the universe and my subconscious to figure out what would be my next career move. The very next day, I woke up and finished a painting that I had stopped working on months ago. Within no time, I was painting daily. I felt empowered and excited about life again! I knew I was on the right path and took the great leap of faith. I also have amazing friends and family who are very supportive of my dreams. Without them, I am not sure I would have been able to make just a bold decision on my own.

What has been your biggest challenge in pursuing art and how did you overcome it? 

My greatest challenge has been dealing with self doubt. For years, I have held myself back because of self doubt. I didn’t think I was a good enough artist, I didn’t think I could make a living as an artist and I didn’t think my parents would accept me if I decided to make a career change. However, I resolved to be more confident this year. My mantra for 2018 is “confident strokes”. I want to paint with confident strokes, I want to make business decisions with confident stroke, and I want to execute my entrepreneurial plans with confident strokes. I overcome my self doubt by reciting affirmations to myself. I'm only making room for positivity and it seems to be working so far!

Describe your biggest milestone or project/series achieved since pursuing your art. 

My greatest milestone so far was being a featured artist in the Dallas RAW Art Show. It was challenging and I was also responsible for setting up my booth so it looked appealing to the art lovers attending the event. I created 18 new paintings just for the show so that my booth would be cohesive and aesthetically pleasing. The event was a great success and I learned a lot about what it takes to be an artist and to put on a show. I have since been able to use all the information I learned from the RAW art show in other shows that I have done since then. It was a worthwhile experience and I would highly recommend other aspiring artists to participate in such shows!

How does your personal style and identity translate into your artwork?

My art is very much a reflection of me. It is unapologetically pro-female and pro-black, yet it is whimsical with a touch of surrealism. I like to use lots of bright colors because bright colors make me happy. I try to paint things and images that uplift me and my hope is that it also uplifts those who see my art. Many of my pieces are a celebration of black femininity and my hope is that my viewers feel like my art symbolizes and celebrates who they are!

How do you maintain your mental health and inspiration? 

I maintain my mental health by making sure I am eating right, getting adequate exercise and making time to relax. For creative blocks, I simply pull out my sketchbook and start doodling. I try to draw without thinking so I can keep my mind free and loose. I do this until I stumble across something that inspires me to get back to pushing and playing with paint.

What is your favorite art technique and why? How did you begin using it and why do you continue? 

My current favorite art technique is creating portraits using tinfoil on canvas. I have used tinfoil for a couple mixed media abstract pieces in the past, but earlier this  year I decided to try making portraits with tinfoil. They came out great! I did large portraits of Lauryn Hill, Mohammed Ali, Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. I also created mini portraits of Tupac, Biggie, Marilyn Monroe and Jay-Z! They were very well received so I will definitely be creating more portraits in the future!

What is some advice or tips you would give to a fellow BGWP interested in furthering their art goals and/or business?

First, I would say, get rid of self doubt. Negative thoughts will never get you anyway good, so it is imperative that you start reciting positive affirmations to yourself until you believe it with all your heart! Your dreams are real and they are relevant! Second, create art that is true to you. Don't try to do what you think will sell or is popular! Trust me I tried it and I hated it because it didn't seem genuinely me. Create your kind of art and those who can relate to you will find you and follow you. Third, have a strong social media presence. Post high quality photos of your work online. But don't only show finished projects, show your process, shoot a IG story of your going to the art supply store, share your mistakes. People like art, but they want to love the artist! Help them fall in love with you by showing your personality! Finally, make sure you have a strong support system. Surround yourself with not only supportive friends and family, but also other artists who encourage and uplift each other. I'm always DMing artists I admire to get any insight from them that they are willing to share with me. You'd be surprised how friendly and welcoming people in the art community are. Don't be shy, the worst thing that can happen is that they don't respond!

What is next for you? 

My next goal is to figure out how to create steady and recurring income from my art. I'm doing well selling originals and prints, but I know there's definitely room for improvement! I also want to start teaching painting classes so that's definitely in the works. I also would like to start art outreach classes for the youth in south Dallas. My therapist told me that I might benefit from sharing my talent and that's definitely something I'm looking into doing in the near future!

What does being a "black girl who paints" means to you?

Being a black girl who paints means representation. If you search “painting of a girl” on Google right now you will immediately notice that lack of representation of women of color. That's why pages like BGWP are so important. They provide an important narrative that is currently being overlooked. Black art really does matter and I commend BGWP for providing a platform for girls who look like me to share their gifts!