Local Painter Spreads Some Colour
Story by Michael Seguin
For many of us, our canvases are slashed with dark shadows. However, one young Windsorite has found a way to spread some colour.
“I grew up in a very impoverished area,” 28-year-old Ahmad Othman explains. “We never really had much. There wasn’t much for us to do besides sports and drawing. So, I started drawing. I would draw cartoons. I would attempt to recreate famous paintings that I liked.”
However, as life became more complicated, Ahmad put his artistic pursuits aside.
“Mother passed away when I was two,” Ahmad admits. “Father left when I was 12. So, it was just me, my older brothers and my older sisters. In my teen years I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ve been through abuse and poverty.”
Despite his difficulties, Ahmad was able to find solace working as a Peer Support Leader at Ten Friends Diner on Wyandotte Street.
But, when COVID-19 sent everyone scrambling back to their homes, Ahmad found himself out of sorts. In order to combat his anxiety, he decided to resume his artistic pursuits. However, this time, he decided to go beyond the sketchbook.
“I had a lot of anxiety,” Ahmad states. “I was very nervous. So, I decided to take up painting. I only had a background in drawing. I had so much to learn.”
For Ahmad, taking up painting was an intensely rewarding, liberating experience.
“It’s been great,” Ahmad explains. “It’s helped me mentally, physically, spiritually—in every aspect. I’ve totally been revived through my art career.”
Ahmad has been painting nonstop for the last five months. Since then, his technique has improved in leaps and bounds.
“I know so much more than I did four months ago,” Ahmad states. “I tried selling my first couple paintings, but no one bought them. I guess I wasn’t very good! It was hard at first, because I felt limited. I didn’t have much knowledge on the subject. But, thanks to COVID-19 and my work closing down, I’ve had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in my craft.”
Over the last four months, Ahmad has experimented with a variety of different styles. However, his personal favourite is currently abstract expressionism.
“Abstract expressionism is perfect for helping me communicate how I feel,” Ahmad explains. “With that genre, that style, I get to express emotion on the canvas through different colours and strokes of the brush. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything perfect. It’s just how you feel. And then people view the canvas, and hopefully they can experience those feelings, too.”
While Ahmad has produced a wide variety of works in the last few months, his personal favourite remains a variation on a classic painting.
“There’s this piece by Picasso called Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée, or Woman in beret and checkered dress,” Ahmad states. “When I was drawing as a child, I would try and recreate classic paintings myself. So, I did the same thing on the canvas. I made my own version of it. Thus far, it’s my proudest accomplishment.”
Ahmad is constantly improving, honing and refining his talents. In only four short months, his skill with a paintbrush has improved dramatically.
And thanks to social media, Windsor has been able to experience Ahmad’s development every step of the way.
“I’ve been sharing all my paintings on social media since the beginning,” Ahmad explains. “I’m very motivated to wake up in the morning and share my art with Windsor and the world. The feedback I get helps me so much.”
Within a few weeks of sharing his work online, Ahmad sold his first few paintings.
“Just knowing that my art is out there hanging on someone’s wall has given me a whole new reason to fall in love with the process,” Ahmad states. “I love the feedback. I love the support.”
And while Ahmad appreciates all the feedback he’s received, he particularly appreciates those few people who have been with him since the beginning.
“A lot of the comments I get are generally the same,” Ahmad states. “‘The art is beautiful.’ ‘That’s stunning.’ ‘Wow!’ ‘Amazing!’ People have even called me on the phone and asked me how I do different things. And while I appreciate that, the comments that mean the most to me come from those who were there for me when I first started posting. Initially, I was still learning and my stuff wasn’t that good. But those people who supported me from the beginning, their comments mean the world to me. I have a lot of love and appreciation for them.”
Ahmad is planning on taking his paintings out into the community once it is safe to do so.
“This is all so new to me,” Ahmad admits. “But, I’ve been trying to connect with people on social media in the Windsor art community. I’ve spoken with someone at the Walkerville Art Gallery. I’ve been saving some key pieces and working on some new material for future showings and events. Hopefully after COVID is settled, I can start sharing my work with my community.”
And while Ahmad enjoys every aspect of his craft, when asked what his favourite part of the process is, he returns to the sense of pure serenity that painting affords him.
“When I paint, everything disappears,” Ahmad explains. “Anxiety is not there. Depression is not there. The past is not there. Everything falls away. I feel at peace. I’ve learned to cherish that feeling, because it’s kind of new to me. Painting has given me that. I love what I do. The love has grown, and it keeps growing.”
And regardless of the size and shape of their canvas, Ahmad encourages everyone to get out there and splash some colour.
“There’s a lot of negativity in the world right now,” Ahmad states. “Mental illness doesn’t get the attention it deserves. But, I suppose my message is that there’s always something out there that can make it better. Even on the days when you feel nothing will get better. Art is my thing. That’s what helps me. Just get out there and find what makes you feel better.”