Aysha Natsheh is a digital artist and a full-time graduate student from Toronto. Known under @ayshadrawsthings on Instagram, she succeeds in portraying what it is to be authentically, introspectively and beautifully human. Without a surprise, it did not take long for her to grow a family of individuals drawn to her words and visuals. Us included. Eager to know more about the voice behind the drawings speaking up our thoughts, we reached out to her in hopes of getting a little closer to her personal creative universe.
Aysha: I've been making art my whole life. My mom is an artist and curator, so I've always been immersed in the art world. It was in my late teens, when I began drawing in sketchbooks, that I really started to feel like an artist myself. I developed a style and started combining my love for writing with my drawings. I went through sketchbook after sketchbook, and even started a different instagram account (now deleted) to showcase my art. Last winter, when I was on a month-long break from grad school, I impulsively decided to start another instagram account (@ayshadrawsthings) where I transitioned into digital art, and I've been posting on there almost daily ever since!
As for why I create, the answer is always (and has always been) for myself. drawing is an escape and a release. It's where I put my difficult and complicated feelings. It's where I can be messy and human. it’s where i can be everything and nothing at all. I can make no sense and I can make all the sense in the world. I can scribble. i can experiment. I feel free when I draw, and so I keep doing it. somehow, an audience has followed.
Aysha: It’s hard to pinpoint one specific situation that inspired me: often it is little moments together that inspire me. Something(s) that continues to influence me to this day is all of the weird and nonsensical art I experienced going to dozens (hundreds maybe?) of art shows growing up. I remember seeing pieces worth thousands of dollars and thinking I could’ve done that (I could’ve). I remember seeing things that weren’t art being shown as if they were (they were). I remember being confused and intrigued, realizing that I could do whatever I wanted and call it art. For example, I remember when I was 19 and on a trip to San Francisco I went to a David Shrigley exhibit at SFMOMA and saw his Five Years of Toenail Clippings piece (which is literally just 5 years of toenail clippings in a glass sculpture). I realized that if David Shrigley could clip his toenails and call it art, then I could do that too, just kidding, I’m not (yet) clipping my toenails and making it into an art piece but I can make messy colourful childlike drawings and write whatever’s on my heart.
Aysha: For some reason this is a hard question to answer, not because I don’t like my own work (in fact, I love my own work), but because I don't know how to choose a single favourite aspect of it because it is so many things. For example, while some may think my art is just about feelings, it is also grounded in a social justice and trauma-informed framework. So, I guess, the thing I like most about my work is its complexity yet simultaneous simplicity.
Each piece is inspired by complex thoughts, feelings, and experiences. some pieces themselves are a contradiction. On the outset, my work might seem highly relatable, but there are also such specific stories, emotions, and theories to each piece that I don't share publicly. You know how when you read a horoscope you wonder how it’s so spot on, but you also simultaneously realize that it’s vague enough for anyone to insert themselves into it and it makes sense? That’s kind of what I've realized my work is like: complicated, yet simple; specific, yet relatable; academic, yet childlike; about myself, yet about you, too.
Aysha: Okay now this is my type of question. I love music. Love love love love love. Music always inspires me, especially music that makes me feel sad (not sad music-- there’s a difference, but i don’t know how to explain it). I listen to a bunch of different kinds of music-- R&B, alternative pop, hip hop. I don’t have a specific creative playlist, but I do often post songs that I love on my instagram (i have a highlight called ‘good music’). I’m currently obsessed with the song Self by Noname. So good. Some other artists that I’ve been loving lately and drawing to are: Rhye, Boogie, Sales, SiR, Brent Faiyaz, Lewis Del Mar, and Pip Millett.
I CAN’T FIGHT MYSELF FOREVER is about being tired-- tired of hating myself, tired of putting myself down, tired of living in a way that doesn’t honour or celebrate my worth. The image is both about letting go (of old toxic ways of thinking and existing) while also, in a way, holding on to my past self (honouring my inner child and all the ways I adapted to survive). I have grown a lot this year, and this piece represents that growth.
HOW TO GET MORE COMFORTABLE FEELING HAPPY is a part of my “how to” series where I pose several different questions that reflect on what it means to exist in this world as a sensitive person who has experienced hardship and trauma. This piece reflects on the ways that I have held on to my pain and identified with it so closely that it becomes hard to move on. it is both a reference to my newly found happiness, while also recognizing how uncomfortable it is to feel happy once you have spent so much time feeling hurt.
LET ME SHOW YOU MY INSIDES is visually one of my favourite pieces i’ve made this year. it’s about opening up, revealing everything that’s going on internally. I'm a huge believer in honesty and openness, and I think that nobody benefits when we push away our hard feelings or hide the more difficult parts of ourselves. This piece is about letting myself be fully seen, in all my flaws, in all my messiness, in all my humanness, and not hiding any of it.
TERRIFIED, BUT WITH OPEN ARMS is about feeling things that don’t match up, that feel conflicting, or that seem contradictory. It’s about recognizing the complexity of our emotions, honouring that we can simultaneously feel afraid & hopeful, excited & anxious, angry & happy. That we can want to scale back and yet move forwards anyways. That to be human is synonymous with being imperfect, incomplete, confusing, and messy. That we can feel everything at once, or nothing at all.
Aysha: I think a dream collaboration would be to work with a musician I love to make their album art. I also secretly (although now it’s not a secret) want to make t-shirts and hoodies with my art on them. I'm such a nerd for specific fits of clothing and material that I would just make the clothing that I want for myself (a good, tight neckline is everything). I'm open to going so many ways. I’m not just an artist, I have varying interests and goals, I'm a grad student and soon-to-be therapist, I'm a human. I would love to showcase my art in a gallery. I would love to collaborate with a brand I love. I would love to get a studio soon and start making large scale paintings, but my dreams also reach way beyond this. I want to grow and expand, as a person and an artist. I want to dabble in 1000 different styles of art. I want to become more widely known. How I get there will reveal itself with time.