A young artist sharing his gifts and talents with the worldBy FinalCall.com News | Last updated: Dec 14, 2012 - 12:54:36 PM
(FinalCall.com) - You may have seen his paintings or drawings at the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day convention, or perhaps at another prominent art show along the East Coast of the United States. The impressive artwork of 21-year-old Salaam Muhammad may still be unfamiliar to many, but that won’t be the case for long. His talent and legend is sure to grow and he answered some questions recently for The Final Call’s Ashahed M. Muhammad.
The Final Call Newspaper (FCN:) How long have you been an artist and when did you know that you had this incredible talent and skill?
Salaam Muhammad (SM:) I’ve been an artist since the age of nine. I discovered my ability to draw when I was inspired to duplicate a drawing of the 70’s cartoon show Fat Albert by Bill Cosby and when I showed some of the pics to my father, he was amazed and encouraged me to do more. Ever since then the love of doing African American art has increased rapidly throughout the years. When I was young, I would copy anime cartoons like Dragon Ball Z, Static Shock and others. There would be so much competition! All I ever did was draw on lunch break and sometimes during class. I would always draw a free pic for someone. I always had a good eye to look at something and draw it exactly the same way. I discovered I could paint 5 years ago. I went to Wal-Mart picked up some paints. My first painting, my mother loved it and told me I was a natural and from there, I have never stopped.
FCN: Did most of it come natural like that? Did you have to practice much?
SM: Yes, it was very natural as long as I can remember. I heard people say my art is beyond my age. People actually never thought I did these pieces. I do practice a lot, but I taught myself so every new technique comes out of the ability Allah (God) affords me to come across.
FCN: What do you use to create your masterpieces?
SM: I work with acrylic and oil paint and charcoal and graphite pencils.
FCN: How do you determine what you will capture in a piece of artwork, in other words, how do you determine your subjects?
FCN: Are you a perfectionist like most artists? When do you actually decide that a particular piece of artwork is actually considered done and of the level that you are comfortable presenting it to the public.
SM: Through the help of Allah (God), I try to be a perfectionist. If I don’t think the work is good no one will ever see it. I know I have a lot of competition out there and I know with every painting or drawing comes more improvement. I love other artists who do African American art so when I see their work I feel like a baby in this. (Laughs) I’m humble enough to know I have to improve more in the next piece I do. I know that it is done when I feel its complete, then I’ll leave my room for a couple of hours, then come back and look at it again, and if I still think it’s amazing from the first time I saw it, then I know our people are ready to see the work.
FCN: Do you work on many pieces at once or do you begin one, and then finish it and start on another?
SM: I do one at a time. Sometimes I can be all over the place, but I’ll spend several hours on one painting until I feel it’s complete or I feel comfortable to leave it alone.
FCN: Is there such a thing as an ‘artist’s block’ which is similar to ‘writers block’ meaning, are there days when you just don’t feel like the creative juices are flowing?
SM: Oh yes! Many days—sometimes I’ll go weeks without painting because nothing comes to mind. I’m always thinking about what can really attract the audience. If nothing good comes to mind, I won’t paint or draw, and it’s funny because I have many blank canvases and paper and I ask myself ‘why did I buy all of this material?’ If I dislike looking at my work when it doesn’t look good to me, I’ll put on Minister Farrakhan, or listen to some neo-soul or R&B music to relax the mind because painting can become frustrating at times.
FCN: What advice would you give to a ‘starving artist’?
SM: Keep God first! And be consistent at what you do. Keep getting your work out there any beneficial way as possible, and let no one tell you that you are not good enough. Stay humble, keep giving praise to God and it is a guarantee He will increase your ability and success. Stay creative and always be patient.
FCN: What’s next for you?
SM: I guess only Allah really knows, but what I have planned is to find a great publisher that can publish my art and get it out more to the masses and through the help of Allah and eventually open up an art gallery. I also plan to be a great help for our nation as best as possible with artwork and new ideas that I can help out with for the believers and upcoming projects or businesses that they have. I also want to start illustrating children’s books. I want my art to grow gradually reflecting the beauty of our nation and our people. I just want to continue to make people happy and through the help of Allah (God) continue to make them feel good on the inside.
FCN: Excellent. Thank you.
(To see more of Salaam’s artwork or to purchase prints, visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/salaam.muhammad or call (908) 242-1467.)