We knew we wanted to work with Aliya Ghare the moment we laid our eyes on her OCAD thesis this past summer. Her intricate and surreal illustrations now grace the menu covers of our 2018 Winter menus across the GTA, and you’ll also spot her work on our bill cards from now until the end of February. We had the pleasure of chatting with Aliya recently to learn more about her work and studio. Read on!
Hi Aliya, what made you decide to pursue illustration at OCAD?
I really loved drawing and painting since I was a kid, for as long as I can remember. Initially I entered the drawing and painting program at OCAD, and I was there for two years and for me the program wasn’t as structured as I would have liked it to have been – I’m the type of person who requires structure so that’s why I transferred into the illustration program. I really liked having a prompt, and trying to figure out ways to communicate ideas. With drawing and painting I think there isn’t as much storytelling, and I find that with illustration I really get to do that so that’s one of the things that drew me to illustration and why I still really love doing it and decided to pursue it as a career.
Growing up did you always want to go into illustration, drawing and painting, or some form of art?
Yeah I did! I think it was in kindergarten when I saw this movie of Vincent Van Gogh, and I just wanted to be him. It was a really weird thing for a five or six year old to think, and my style isn’t at all like his, but I just kind of loved that idea of just being an artist and being able to create pictures. I just can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
We were looking at your thesis work – If Not Now, When? – and every illustration had a political or social motivation behind it. Is this something that you always incorporate into your work – or at least, your personal work?
Not all of it for sure, but I really got into activism after I took this illustrative activism class at OCAD. And I was really intrigued by how you could have activist messages and really share your opinions through art. I like writing a lot as well, but for me art illustration gets across a message very quickly.
Is illustrative activism something that you wish to carry forward in your work?
Oh for sure! I mean I don’t see it being a part of every personal project I do, because I also am finding my work moving into this sort of surrealism area where I’m exploring things through fantasy. But yes activism is really important to me – it feels like the only way I can share my opinions at this point.
What are the most important tools that you use in your daily work?
So far in the studio I’ve mostly been drawing in my sketchbook and using my tablet. I probably use my Wacom tablet the most. A lot of people draw their sketches on their tablets, and I just can’t do that so I will initially draw my sketches in my sketchbook in analog, and then scan images and complete the work digitally.
Do you have a favourite pen that you use?
Yeah I do actually! It’s really hard to find really fine-tipped pens, and the Sakura pigments are really great, but they don’t come as fine as I would like. I feel like I’m still on the hunt for the thinnest line possible.
What do you put on in the background when you’re working?
I used to listen to a lot of music, but I’ve found that in the past couple of years that it doesn’t really help me concentrate. I’ve moved on to listening to a lot of podcasts, a lot of audiobooks. It’s a form of entertainment obviously, and with art, I find that unless you’re doing sketches and coming up with ideas, you can honestly just turn your brain off while you’re doing the work itself and you know how things are going. When you’re not doing anything else, when you’re just making the art, it can get a little frustrating especially if you’re working long nights, so audiobooks and podcasts really help with that. They make the time go by a lot smoother.
Do you have any podcasts or audiobooks to recommend?
Oh for sure! I really love Radiolab. It’s kind of a mix of a lot of different things – it’s sometimes about politics, and sometimes about social and economic issues, that sort of thing. There’s another podcast that’s derived from Radiolab called More Perfect, and it’s about the United States Supreme Court, and it tackles a lot of the major court cases in the history of the Supreme Court like Roe v. Wade. I listen to a really great podcast about the X-Men because I love the X-Men, and it just goes through the entire history of the X-Men comics. It’s called Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, where they go through the Silver Age down to the modern period.
What do you think about the new X-Men movies?
I think they’re not as good as the Marvel movies, obviously. Those are my favourite characters because I’ve identified with those characters since I was a child. I didn’t read the comics because they were so hard to get into, especially I think for a kid, but I watched the X-Men Animated Series, and X-Men Evolution. Those were really integral to my childhood and I really identified with those characters in being the outsider, being very different. There’s a lot of talk about “othering” in the shows without actually showing representation – where a lot of people that generally would not be considered minorities are these mutants. But despite that, I still really connected with them – I think a lot of people of colour do. So yes, even though the movies suck more often than not – Logan was great though – they’re still my favourite characters.
Thanks for chatting with us Aliya!
Here’s our 2018 winter menu cover: