We had the good fortune of connecting with Ismat Shahid and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ismat, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
I am a mother of two children . My son is a college sophomore and my daughter is in second grade. The most important thing that I have been able to do for them , in my view , is to instill kindness and empathy in their spirit. As I see both of them function in the world , going around with their lives , helping other people without a second thought, I feel a sense of satisfaction and immense joy. Just like when I saw my daughter shielding a classmate under her tiny umbrella on a rainy day or leaving a group of friends to join another who was sitting alone at a table at her birthday party.

The second thing that I think my being an artist has helped them with is to embrace their creative side wholeheartedly. I always have a large mat on the floor or the dining table where my children are free to explore any art form they like. Whenever I am done with a painting session I leave my palette of paint for my daughter to enjoy. Its fun to see her take out only the three primaries just like me and mix up her own shades.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started painting 20 years ago when watching the KPBS program following artist Bob Ross sparked a deep desire in me to give painting a try. I bought his oil painting set and borrowed a few books from the library and started teaching myself to paint. I indulged in oil painting for about two years, not as a regular practice but rather sporadically. I loved painting landscapes and it made me feel that this is what I was meant to do and some kind of latent urge to create paintings became a prominent thing in my life.

My focus shifted completely to being a full time mother to my son when he was born in 2002. I was working part time in Finance and spending time with my son, going on the slides and swings with him, taking him to places, just hanging out with him, gave me the utmost joy.

As he was finishing elementary school and was on that fragile cusp of independence , middle school being on the horizon, I had just about given up on being able to have a second child. I took up painting again in 2012. I could tell I was very raw, back to square one as far as my skills were concerned. I dove deep into painting , refining my skills while enjoying it immensely.

Within a year I had made considerable progress and I won first prize for my oil painting of frothy waters at Pebble Beach at an exhibition hosted by Poway Women’s Club.
Fast forward to 2013, my beautiful daughter was born. My focus again shifted to bringing her up.

When the pandemic hit , it slowed things down and I felt at an unexpected peace . My whole family was around me and life offered me another opportunity to get back to my love for arts. Since everything was shifting to virtual I was able to take some classes from a few artists who are masters at their skills. My perspective changed and I realized that there is no harm in trying to turn my love for art to something more concrete and professional.

Nowadays, I paint as much as I can , which fortunately is quite a lot , since kids have gone back to school in person. So, professionally I would say I am just beginning my career at the moment and upwards is the only way to go. I have also co owned a publishing company and published two Arabic books. I have had the honor to illustrate a wonderful book on Urdu Language written by Dr. Saima Aman which is being sold worldwide.

I am not sure if it sets me apart from others , but I am proud of the fact that I am starting my career at probably a rather unlikely age . I am turning 50 next year and couldn’t be more excited about what life has to offer from here on.

Just like most people the usual challenges of motherhood , life in general do put hurdles in our journeys but it is important to keep on keeping on. If I only get two hours in a day to paint, I try to maximize that time and be as productive as possible.

Another challenge that I as a creative have been constantly trying to overcome is balancing the creative and business side of things. I’d rather just create for the whole time I get to myself but I am aware that in order for my fledgling career to go anywhere it is important to nurture the business side of things also. It is tough to gain visibility these days but I keep trying to improve my social media strategies. Sometimes I see results , at other times I don’t but giving up right now is not an option for me.

I have started focusing my efforts towards gaining visibility locally and that has started to give some results. I have recently joined a new startup shopping app called Shopmyporch which supports makers locally and that has been really good for me. My goal next year is to try to participate in local art festivals and markets to gain more visibility.

Last month I painted a few commissions which restored my belief in my decision to give up my career in Finance to follow my passion and dream of becoming a full time working artist. People have asked me to make paintings for them of moments and places which carry deep meaning in their hearts. I enjoy painting these and in the process , I feel I have gained something new every time. And that in a nutshell is what art is about. It heals as a product and a process.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh, that is going to be a very long list!

I have been calling San Diego home for the past 23 years and absolutely love this city.

I would set one whole day to explore LaJolla area. In addition to the usual tourist hot spots, like La Jolla Cove, Mt. Soledad, Birch Aquarium, I really like to drive around the bird rock region.

I also love looking at the architecture around Prospect Place.

Next up would be DelMar, Torrey Pines, Swami’s and few other beaches. I also love the Moonlight Beach in Oceanside.

Downtown San Diego, Seaport Village, Balboa Park and the Coronado Island are must sees. Of course the ferry ride would be imperative.

If we can squeeze it in a trip to Julian, Lake Cuyamaca and Palomar Mountain , that would be nice too!

Can’t miss Old Town of course!

If they are into art like me we can visit the art museums at Balboa Park.

I am really looking forward to Beyond Van Gogh exhibition coming up in January at Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
While growing up in India I always had interest in art but never took it seriously enough to pursue it academically beyond what was required in school. So, I have never been to a formal art school. I went to a Business School instead and have a degree in Finance.

I came to US from India in 1999 after getting married. One fine afternoon while browsing channels on TV, I came across a show called “Joy of Painting”. I was mesmerized, just like countless other people I am sure, watching Bob Ross bring to life his paintings in 30 minutes. It was magical to say the least. Soon after, I ordered his oil painting set, started recording his videos on my VCR and just started painting while watching his videos.

So , the biggest shout out for jumpstarting my art practice should go to Bob Ross who instilled in me a deep love for painting. I have been teaching myself painting in different media since then though videos and books

I would like to especially mention artist mentor Jed Dorsey whom I learned the foundations of acrylic painting through his Acrylic University.

I would also like to mention my husband for his constant love and support , my two beautiful children and my dear friend Saima Nasim for her constant encouragement.

Website: www.ismatshahidart.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ismat__shahid/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtbyIsmat

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