Although Arale has been blessed with profound artistic talent since her childhood, it has taken her many years to explore and develop her creativity and become a true artist. Her preferred medium of silk painting has led her upon a fascinating creative journey, during which she has brought vibrant and exciting new life to stretched silk through the imaginative use of liquid dyes. bq talks to Arale while taking a peek behind the enigmatic billows of her silken creations…..
bq: How did you discover art?
Arale Vallely: A lot of people ask me that question, particularly when they discover my unusual fascination for silk painting. I grew up in Hong Kong and had embarked upon a career in Public Relations (PR), when suddenly my husband got a job in Qatar and we moved over here. I found sitting at home and doing nothing distinctly unappealing, so I began to look for something to satisfy my creative urges. Finally, I came across silk painting, an artistic medium that proved both interesting and absorbing. It was a craft that freed my imagination, gave me a fresh perspective on life, and provided tremendous inspiration.
bq: When did you start your journey in this creative field?
AV: I’ve been painting on silk now for over five years, and I am constantly developing and shaping my skills. One fascinating aspect of the technique is the purity and clarity of colour that can be achieved.
bq: Have you had any kind of formal art education? If so, how did it go?
AV: I am a self-taught artist, and I have had no formal art education. I believe that this actually enables me to be more expressive. Though I enrolled in a short silk painting course in Qatar, my expertise is the result of hours and hours of practice at home, aided by the excellent guidance now available through social media platforms, such as YouTube, and from different specialist websites.
bq: How do you begin a painting?
AV: Painting is basically a way to bring a certain reality to an image or idea that is already in my mind. I endeavor to fully grasp that image, figure it out, and then encapsulate that feeling through artistic expression. The process of creativity is essentially a space where I can free myself to look around, uncover emotion, and explore ideas that entice me. So the first thing for me is to discover and focus upon an object as both a starting point and touchstone, and then let the process take me where it will.
bq: Do you focus on any themes?
AV: I paint a wide range of subject matter that includes still life, folk art (specifically involving female imagery), women themselves, celebrations of life, landscape, and interiors, to name but a few.
bq: How long does it take for you to create your work?
AV: Every piece is different – they can take between 5 to 15 hours or even up to a month to complete.
bq: Do you also offer courses?
AV: Yes, I do offer courses that consist of six two-hour sessions for beginners. My courses cover all the basics of silk painting and I particularly enjoy being able to offer hands-on classes. Advance level workshops are available too for my students to further develop their skills and styles.
bq: What is the fee for this course?
AV: The beginners workshop fee is QR 500, which includes tuition and all the necessary materials.
bq: Is there are a demand for your courses, and why?
AV: To be frank, a lot of housewives can suffer from depression, which is often due to their predictable, everyday routine and workload at home. So they need to discover something that can help to free them from their everyday worries and at the same time inspire them to bring their inner creativity to light. Basically I get responses from housewives, a lot of them find it fun just to try it, and see if they like it. If they feel comfortable, they go forward and carry on with it, whereas others who feel that silk painting is not their thing they try something else. Most of my students have been painting with me for over two to three years and they enjoy the classes a lot. And I continue open up new sessions for beginners too.
bq: Can you give us an idea of the price of your artwork?
AV: Each silk painting I create is special and unique. I don’t like to print or copy my work, so I sell only original works, and every work is an individual piece. I try to keep my prices reasonable so that most people can afford them. And my prices vary, mostly according to size and detail. I do quotation accordingly.
bq: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your art?
AV: I achieve this through time and research, by attending art shows, and by looking at how others price their work. This gives me a better idea of where I stand in relation to the competition, and I try to pitch prices that I am comfortable with and are reasonable so everyone can enjoy the art and afford them.
bq: How many people approach you to buy your work?
AV: I have been lucky enough to acquire loyal customers throughout my career, who return to buy different pieces from me on a regular basis. I usually begin with my own unique idea, but I can work to order as well. Sometimes people commission a piece according to their own specifications and colours, and provide me with their own ideas, then I try my best to reflect their dreams in my work.
bq: How do people get in touch with you?
AV: I attend different exhibitions and workshops throughout the year and people usually approach me with enquiries. I also have a website and a Facebook page, where I keep posting regularly and update people about my latest piece of work.
bq: What challenges do you face?
AV: Sadly, sometimes people copy my work, so it can be a challenge for me to preserve the unique nature of my creations within the art world. I think the secret is to constantly strive to be different.
bq: How do you see the competition?
AV: Silk painting is getting more popular in Doha. When I began, there were only a few silk painting artists, but now the number is increasing and many people are offering silk painting courses. However, given the unpredictable and unique nature of the medium, everyone has their own distinctive style, so I don’t see them as direct competition. Although the market in Doha is pretty small, we get our share of clients.
bq: So what do you do to stay ahead of them?
AV: I always try to create something different. That’s the way I keep learning – by introducing new techniques, and effects. I try to paint about life, by using recognizable references that surround us all the time. As life changes, so my art changes.
bq: What is the most interesting part of your work?
AV: Most of all, I enjoy teaching my art to the students that attend my courses. It gives me incredible joy to watch the progress that students make as they gain new insights, techniques and ways to express their inner imagination. It also feels great to contribute towards the welfare of others by donating pieces of my work to charitable institutions – pieces of art that I have created specifically to help raise awareness and, more importantly, money, at a variety of fundraising events.
bq: What advice do you have to anyone who wishes to pursue an artistic path?
AV: Beginners often copy existing works of art, and that is fine in order to gain a mastery of various techniques, but my main advice to the budding artist would be to let it flow from your heart. Just let the art pour out of you as it comes, and your own world will show you the way. Recognize your strong points, address your weaker points, and ultimately, find your own style!
bq: Finally, what are your plans for the future?
AV: Currently, I am working on expanding my website, and hopefully I will be able to develop some facilities to enable orders of my work online. I am always trying to expand my knowledge, so that I can boost my own skills, and teach people in a more interesting way. Ideally, I want to earn an art degree, and I have plans to study online for a Master’s degree in Art. My goal is simple – to maintain that vibrancy in my work forever, and pass that joy on to a new generation of artists!