In the Studio: Laleh Kamalian

This month dot-art speaks to artist Laleh Kamalian.

Laleh Kamalian’s path to becoming an artist was not an easy one, after years of working as a research scientist she was looking for something more fulfilling.
At the age of 48, Laleh attended a beginner’s art class,she quickly realised she had a talent for drawing and more importantly had found something enjoyable.

In 2016 Laleh had a hospital stay where she was bed bound for 3 months, passing the time by drawing portraits of nurses and staff.Since then she has worked hard training as an artist, exploring the world of art through a variety of mediums and methods.

How would you describe your style?

I am a realism artist.

For me people and nature are lovely subjects. So, in my drawings I like to capture the essence of everything in the way they appear naturally. For example, in a portrait my ambition is to get the character of the person, and emotions hidden in the lines of the face, exactly as they appear. However, I use my imagination to create the scenes of my drawings. I enjoy adding a special theme or background to my work.

Which medium do you work with and how would you describe your work? 

I use colour pencil and pastel. Colour pencil offer precision and control, which is very important when you are creating realistic artwork.

With pastels what I enjoy the most is the bendability of the medium, which makes the colour transitions smoother than pencil. However, even with pastels I tend to use pastel pencils for the details of the main subject to get the accuracy I need for my style. But the most beautiful hazy backgrounds can be achieved with other types of pastel such as PanPastel.

Can you talk us through your process? 

My drawings usually start in my head, sometimes months before I put my pencil on the paper.

It usually starts with a natural scene, a photograph I see or take, a person I meet, etc. I start putting items together, creating a background or a special lighting environment around the main object in my imagination. Then I take or find the relevant pictures and combine them together, and create the atmosphere I want in photoshop.

Sometimes it takes days to create something I am happy with. But I want to know exactly what I am going to draw before I start. The photoshop productions don’t have to be perfect, but enough for me to know where everything is, so that I could create a line drawing from it.

When I am happy with the line drawing, it will be transferred onto the paper or the board I am using for the final drawing. Then I start colouring, layer on layer, bit by bit, point by point. I know when it is finished when it looks like the real thing. So far my drawings have not taken less than 20 hours or more than 100, but I feel the more I learn, they take longer! Colour pencil is a slow media, but I really don’t care or think about the time when I am creating.

When did you begin your career in art? 

I started picking up a pencil for the first time in 2014, and soon realised how much I enjoyed doing it. I gradually reduced my hours in my full time job as a scientist during the next six years, until I gave it up altogether and became a full time artist in the summer 2020 at the age of 53.

What surprises me is that I hardly remember the time I was not an artist, although it has so far been most of my life!

Who or what inspires your art? 

I love people. I think what makes the world worth living is people.
That is why my passion is drawing human portraits. Individuals, their emotions and characters inspire me. Even when I choose an animal as a subject, it has to show some special character. My other passion is vibrant colours of the world. That is why I love drawing green scenes, flowers and nature, although these never come close to drawing human portraits for me.

Why is art and creativity so important to you?

Art has given me the freedom, confidence as well as peace and tranquility I had never experienced with my other careers.

Nothing like art is a never-ending journey of learning, experimenting and variety. Every new piece is a new experiment, new excitement, anticipation and thrill, a story full of unexpected events. Besides, every new work is a part of the my soul shared with the world. Nothing can ever replace it for me.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a portrait series, in which I am using extreme light and shadow to reflect the dept of the emotion and character of the depicted. I haven’t decided upon the title of the series yet, but it will probably be something in line with the theme.

What does it mean to be an artist in the Liverpool City Region?

As an immigrant, Liverpool was where I started my life in the UK. It embraced me and my family, and became my home. I love the culture and love working here as an artist.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

You are good enough! You don’t have to be like the others. Just carry on as you are!

Discover more of  Laleh Kamalian’s work on our online shop!