Naela Ali is a female illustrator from Jakarta best known for her watercolor drawings of women, their daily life and feelings. And if there’s one thing we have to confess to you now, she’s one of our online girl crushes! Ever since we discovered her artworks on Instagram a couple years ago, we instantly fell in love not only with the drawings but also with the words she wrote to describe her drawings. They are genuine and sound exactly like how we feel when we were bored, anxious or lost. No wonder when sent us a copy of her then latest book, “Things & Thoughts I Drew When I Was Bored” in 2017, we were super excited! That moment, we felt like we wanted to take picture of each page just because the book pretty much summed up our daily life. 

We met Naela in the studio around Tebet where we used to do photo shoots. Meeting her for the first time, we could tell that she was a shy person, but also instantly likeable. She arrived at the studio, rocking a comfy and minimal look in an earthy-toned shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. We’d say that effortlessly chic were the words that suited her perfectly.

Currently working on a new book, we talked to the illustrator about where it all started, her creative process and what art means to her.

Text by Lulu Nisrina. Photographs by Ila Schaffer

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve enjoyed drawing since I was little. When I took Visual Communication Design in uni, I learned more about [graphic] design and decided to dive myself into the visual art world. 

Is there someone specific that inspired you to be an illustrator?

It was my dad. I mean, from the very first time I showed my interest in drawing, he’s been there to support me. He always told me to stay consistent in doing what I love. The fact that now I keep on creating stuff, that’s because of him.

How did you find your style?

I used to work with acrylics and didn’t really enjoy using watercolor. Until one day, I felt like playing with watercolor and turned out, I fell in love with it. 

Can you tell us your creative process?

For my books, I didn’t have any specific process outside my routine. I make time everyday to draw and write. And when it comes to the ones I put inside my book, sometimes I already have some writings and then create or find drawings that suit the story. Other times, it’s just the other way around.

How do you use feelings to fuel your art?

It’s just that every time I had random thoughts or felt a certain emotions, I’d turn them into drawings or writings. My books are basically the platform for me to express my feelings.

What does art mean to you?

Art to me is [a platform] to express ourselves. How we create something that makes other people happy out of our thoughts and feelings. Either aesthetically or message wise. To me, it’s delivering those feelings through drawings.

How important it is to you to have a platform such as Instagram to promote your work? 

Actually, it’s all because of Instagram that I got the chance to publish my books. My publisher even found my artworks through Instagram. It’s kind of important for me. Because of Instagram, I could bring my works to global audiences.

Where do you go to look for inspiration?

I mostly do my work at home. I’d never really went out somewhere to look for inspiration because I think inspiration us actually all around you and all you have to do is feel.

Who are you when no one is looking?

You’ll find me sleeping most of the time. I’m a very introverted person, and I’m actually quite shy.

What’s your biggest dream of now?

I want to keep on writing and hopefully I could create a place where I could create workshops. I don’t have a lot of dreams actually. I just want to keep making art.

Is there anything exciting coming up?

I’m preparing another book to be launched this June in Singapore!

Read more articles at 247 COTTONINK Magazine.

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