The Fusion of Business and Art: The Journey of a Young Self-taught Artist

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Rahma Zuhair exhibited some of her work at Comic-con International 2024.

by Dina Helmy

Authentic, expressive and bold are styles that would describe Rahma Zuhair’s aesthetic. Her distinctive choice of necklaces serves as a noticeable aspect of her style. Those are usually long and unique. Sometimes, it is a dragon head, while at other times it is a pocket watch necklace.

Her dedication and passion for art resonate through the paint stains on her clothes, reflecting her work. These stains give a sense of belonging and connection to her art. She usually wears striped clothes, expressing her love for combining different colors.

“If I [were] living on my own, just know I’d dress only in primarily yellow colors.” 

Zuhair, 20, studies information systems and business analytics at the American University of Sharjah and is the President of the Startup SBA organization. She also presented at Comic-con International 2024.

Zuhair was primarily a digital artist for five years before transitioning to more traditional forms of art. 

“As an artist, I feel like digital art is not very out there. I feel like it’s a lot more behind the scenes because at the end of the day, it’s not you who’s going on stage and it’s not you who’s presenting it.”

She decided to present at Comic-con International this year to see if people would respond to her art through a different medium. It was her first time selling her art.

“The first hour happens and nobody comes and I’m just sitting there like, oh God […] I was just like, I have made a huge mistake,” said Zuhair about her experience at Comic-con. 

“And then the second hour happens and […] the first person who comes and buys apparently told me she’s been following my art for a year or so. And she came all the way to buy my Percy Jackson stickers.”

Zuhair reflected on this by explaining how she usually doubts herself and that this journey is helping boost her self-confidence by giving her more opportunities to believe in herself.

The young artist described the challenges of the change in mindset that follows integrating business into art. Now, the art that she is creating to sell is very different from what she used to do for herself.

“It becomes narrower and narrower what exactly you’re enjoying. When it’s just for yourself, you’re just making whatever you want […] but then as you go on, it becomes for other people.” 

When Zuhair shifted her focus to selling her art, she found it challenging to completely enjoy what she was doing and felt like there was less freedom for her to express herself. Zuhair said that her art content became no longer about what gets more likes, but about what sells more.

“It’s very hard to keep your love for what you’re doing when that kind of happens.”

On her Instagram page, she wrote that she is focused on creating art rather than content because the moment she stopped expressing herself through her art, it was not a good experience.

“Definitely make art and not content. And if people like your art, great, because content you’re making for other people, but the art you’re making for yourself.”

Zuhair started her art journey when she was 14. She is a self-taught artist who began by sketching whenever she was feeling stressed or was overthinking. She used to play around with a pencil and this gradually turned into drawings. Through the process, her art skills improved and she started exploring them further.

The young artist seems to enjoy figuring out things on her own and learning how to do them from scratch, even if this process becomes challenging. When she started her art journey, she would explore the software she used without watching any tutorials beforehand. 

However, she said it would not have hurt to sit through one tutorial to make things smoother for someone who is just starting. When she decided to make her artwork more tangible, she also wanted to learn how to make stickers and print on wood, ceramics and acrylics manually without asking someone to do that for her. 

“I was forced to learn all of it on my own,” said Zuhair.

Recently, Zuhair has been given the opportunity to paint on 10 walls of AUS’s student center. Zuhair said it is important for her because it makes her feel like she is leaving a legacy behind. 

In the future, she plans to continue pursuing her passion for art. 

“I’m looking into World Art Dubai. They’ve invited me to do a few live drawings there. […] Another thing I’m looking into is teaching. There’s this company that’s starting workshops for kids and for digital art, murals, pottery and ceramics […], so I’m registering as an instructor.”

Zuhair’s journey has been full of ups and downs. Making her artwork more tangible forced her to step outside of her comfort zone, which helped her identify her goals and seize opportunities.

“This whole ‘it doesn’t hurt to try’ mentality really helps.”