I have been into art for as long as I can remember: Umair Najeeb Khan

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Umair is a 26-year-old illustrator from Karachi who is currently based in Islamabad. His graphic illustration of a post-apocalyptic Karachi became a viral sensation on social media. He speaks to Karvan.org in this exclusive interview.

1. Tell us about yourself?
I’m Umair, a 26-year-old illustrator from Karachi, currently based in Islamabad. I mainly illustrate for children’s books and comics with a focus on Pakistani representation and our culture. I’m also an aspiring writer.

2. What made you venture into the world of animation, illustration, and graphics?
I have been into art for as long as I can remember. I mostly used to paint and make crafts with my aunt but as I grew up I started moving towards digital art and decided to turn it into a profession when I couldn’t get into an Engineering college.

3. How hard is it to translate thoughts and ideas into meaningful images and artwork?

It depends on your state of mind, to be honest. Sometimes it’s really easy to do it while there have been times I struggled with it. I have realized that having a strong concept and doing proper research on what you are trying to work on does helps.

4. What was the first design that you ever made? How much have you evolved as a designer since then?
I made a children’s book in 2014 in the first year of college for a client. I have come a long way since then, now that I think about it.

5. What message will you give to those who aspire to become graphic designers, artists?
My advice is to start instead of waiting and preparing. Get the basic low-cost equipment and begin what you want to do. You will require a lot of practice, patience, and persistence, but you will eventually become better. Keep at it!

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6. What future do you see in Pakistan for freelance designers and illustrators? How can their work and services be promoted?
The freelance industry is already pretty big in Pakistan, especially during this pandemic when most of the world has started working remotely. As a freelance artist, you will have to work twice as hard. Mostly because having a strong social media or an online presence will bring you more work. To build such a presence takes a lot of effort and time. You will need to manage this alongside projects that will pay your bills.

7. Your speculative illustrations titled “Bayabaan” showing a post-apocalyptic future of Karachi is making rounds of appreciation on social media. How did you conceive the idea to do this project?
Bayabaan like all of my other personal projects was a very spontaneous idea. I was researching post-apocalyptic content after watching a show on zombies. I realized that there is no Pakistani content that highlights such a universe. I began to imagine a monument in Karachi in a post-apocalyptic setting. But when I was done illustrating it and decided to post it, it felt incomplete. It needed a caption. And somehow writing that caption took me into that world as a creature who was questioning everything it could see.

From there on I wrote the chapters first before illustrating the scenes because I liked to see things as that creature. I think it’s the writing that makes Bayabaan so fascinating for me. But that’s also what holds me back. I only write it when I’m in a certain zone. I feel I can’t force the writing for this specific series.

8. Your advice to the youth of Pakistan
My advice would be to just start. Whatever is it that you want to do, find a way to get started. It will not be easy but if you do manage to do it, it’ll be worth the effort.


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