Be there or be square

August 14 - 20 , 2019
Gulf Weekly Be there or be square

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Artist Fatima Al Hashimi has turned her cartoon character doodling dreams into a reality as she sketches and paints her loved ones and some of the kingdom’s popular personalities in square-form to make up a fully-fledged colourful community.

The talented marketing product specialist started Square People five years ago after she designed a birthday card for her retired mum Elham Haji, who worked in hotel management for 15 years. It featured herself and her siblings as animated individuals with square-shaped heads and button-like eyes. According to Fatima, the faces were the same but the hair, clothes and overall style reflected each one their personalities.

 “My mum loved her card and it received so many compliments from her friends and from family members too,” said the 28-year-old living in Riffa. “After that, I found myself drawing square faces whenever I had a piece of paper or anything to draw on within arm’s reach. I even drew them on napkins at cafes and restaurants and that’s when the idea of Square People formed in my head.”

She started off using recycled items such as cardboard boxes and menus as props to dress her square people, which were mostly girls to begin with. Other mediums she put to good use to develop her characters included ball pens, tissue paper, paper clips, items from her grandmother’s sewing kit, nut shells, flower petals, dried flowers, old pouches and anything around her home which was going to be tossed out.

“I used flowers, leaves, fruits, nuts and candy wrappers to dress up my girl characters or as pretty touches here and there,” she added. “Then I found myself making my family and friends cards by drawing square versions of them for various occasions’ including birthdays, weddings, baby showers or even if they got promoted. Then I started drawing them for no reason at all and it felt like this is what I was meant to do. I was meant to create a square people community.

“When I started drawing square versions of my friends and family members, I began to think how we all belonged to the same community so it’s only normal to have a square community where they all fall under the hashtag #square_people on Twitter and on Instagram @squarepeople.”

For the past two years, Fatima, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management from Bahrain Polytechnic, has been drawing actual people; reflecting parts of their personalities, interests and professions on to the square version of themselves.

“I’ve heard back from many saying that I captured their true essence and honestly it feels amazing,” she added.

She has since then moved on to drawing and painting on canvases, mixed media papers and even on coasters with watercolour pencils, acrylic paint, markers or anything she’d find out of an art supplies store.

“For props I’d go to random shops looking for buttons, sequins, pieces of cloth, fake lashes, fake leaves or flowers and the list is never ending because there is so much you can work with. For me, it’s all about inspiration and finding the missing piece to your artwork.”

Fatima has adored art since she was a little girl watching her mum whilst doodling and sketching on notebooks or magazine covers or seeing her uncle Mohammed Al Hashimi, a painter, hanging up his work in his home.

She said: “As I watched my uncle hang up his newly done painting in his room, I’d wonder how good it must feel to see your work come to life. I am one of those people that would get excited over colouring books and colours more so than toys. All my allowances were spent on art supplies and I’d look forward to visiting my grandmother Zubaida A Rahman, aka Nana, on Fridays because it meant that I could visit my favourite stationary shop in Bahrain.

“I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember and because of that, I consider it to be a part of my identity. I like it because I believe it to be a form of self-expression. When I look at a painting or an art piece, my mind wanders and wonders about the thought process behind it. It helps me see things from a different perspective.  I like to draw because it helps me unwind or to untangle a knot that’s been in my mind for quite some time. I draw because it makes me happy and leaves me feeling calm. Art has taught me patience and made me resilient to making mistakes.”

When Fatima isn’t busy drawing her square people, she sketches random things that catch her attention or motivates her to create her own version of it. Although she still finds herself adding bits of her square squad in the art work.

“My art is personal because every single square person represents someone I know, or someone a loved one knows, or even a stranger who requested to be drawn,” she said. “I create them all with love and gift them to family and friends. Others that have asked me to draw their family or friends have also used them as gifts.

“To know that my art has made someone happy is the ultimate inspiration behind Square People. I’m also inspired by the sky, nature, outer space as well as other artists and of course, people. I’m inspired by the stories I hear of strength, struggles, determination and fearlessness and I am moved by people who have managed to overcome whatever obstacles they face because it leaves them stronger than ever. Plus, if I’ve managed to make one person happy with my art, then I feel that my goal has been achieved. It is something that I’ll always be passionate about.”

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