Member of the Ocean Artists Society, founded by world known marine life artist Wyland. http://www.oceanartistssociety.org/
Reyhana Farooqi “Sister of the Sea”
I was born in Berwyn, Il., a part of Chicago in 1972 but lived in the suburbs all my life. My father is Pakistani and my mother was German. My only brother and I are what you call a Eurasian. Until I was 4 I lived in Westmont and then moved to Darien where I grew up and still reside. As far as I can remember, I’ve always felt this strong attraction or connection to the sea. It’s kind of hypnotic…like I’m a long lost piece of it somehow. In Chicago the closest thing to an ocean is Lake Michigan. I truly am a mermaid at heart being obsessed with the ocean and all its inhabitants. Just looking at waves crashing apon rocks makes my heart soar! One day a very dear friend of mine, Alan Minshull who’s also a member of the Ocean Artists Society called me “Sister of the sea.” I don’t know how he came up with it but I felt it really fits me well and I liked it so much that I decided to make it my professional name. For me, coincidentally there is a religious side of it too. In my religion, all women/girls are called, “sister.” Many artists who know me for my ocean paintings immediately accepted the name with no questions asked. It was amazing, as if it was always there and meant to be. Some artists tell me how much they love this name for me. Since then it grew and now it stuck like it’s a part of me. Many artists today do call me that. The weirdest thing about me is my favorite color is ocean blue, or turquoise which coincidentally is also my birthstone color (December), a Saggitarian. That means I am half human and half some other creature…a mermaid perhaps? That does explain a lot of things about me. At age 4, I started to draw. My natural, God-gifted talent immediately showed up in my work since I first held a pencil. I remember a drawing I did at 4 years old. At the time I was a HUGE fan of Princess Leia played by actress Carrie Fischer from the “Star Wars” film. I admired her so much I used to ask my mother to make my hairstyle just like hers in the movie and drew a picture of Carrie with that particular hair style. When I showed the picture to my mother, she was stunned and couldn’t believe the resemblance of my portrait compared to Carrie. I drew it from my own mind. No photo was used. Since that day I never was found without a drawing utensil in my hand. My mother kept my drawing in her drawer all her life, but after she died, I searched everywhere for it but never found it. To this day I always wonder what she did with it.
There is a sad part of me though. I was born with a heart condition called, Aortic Stenosis. The Aortic valve of my heart doesn’t open fully, or becomes too narrow for blood to pass through so the left ventrical becomes thicker decreasing the flow of blood. This was detected by my heart murmur. At 2 years of age, I underwent open-heart surgery to have the valve widened. Unfortunately as I grew, the valve shrank back to its original state. At age 15 I had to have the same surgery again which caused me to miss about half a year of high school and almost didn’t graduate with my class in 1991 because of it. Since then I am doing great with no problems, no medications except palpitations. The condition occurs more in men than in women. Looks like I am one of the lucky women. Without the surgeries I wouldn’t be here today as the artist I have become, and wouldn’t have the loving and supportive husband and one son I am so thankful of.
An Uncle of mine always lived near the ocean. When I was 7 or 8 years old he lived in Atlantic City, NJ. near the boardwalk. At that time my mother (his sister) took me to visit him on the east coast. My Uncle who was a scuba diver, introduced me to the ocean for the first time in my life. When I saw the ocean, I was mesmerized and immediately jumped in. I just had to be a part of it. I collected my first seashells (I’m a huge collector since) and was amazed. I wondered what they were, who or what had made them, and where did they come from? Most of all I wanted to know what was out there under all that water! Scattered randomly along that beach I came across 50 or more weird, disk shaped purple domes larger than dinner plates. Slightly transparent they appeared to be very soft, like huge mounds of jello on the sand. When I asked my Uncle what they were he told me, “Those are jellyfish, and don’t step on them, or touch them. The sting is very painful.” They were new and unusual creatures that left me perplexed. As I continued strolling the beach behind my Uncle I cautiously stepped over each jellyfish that happened to be in my path. It was like an obstical course. That same evening my Uncle took me to a restaurant and let me try many delicious varieties of sea foods which I surprisingly enjoyed very much. These new discoveries got me hooked. I loved everything about the sea and realized how much the oceans provide us. What I didn’t know at that time is, how much the ocean CAN provide us if we take from it wisely. That is…what can happen if we waste it. A bond quickly grew within me as I fell madly in love with the sea and still have this burning desire for it up to this day.
Throughout school I always had a passion for art. Not a day passed without me drawing, painting, or creating something. In Junior High, I started painting in Acrylics. All I painted were tropical seascapes and just couldn’t get the ocean out of my head since that day on the beach with my Uncle. My father thought I was a little nuts but I didn’t care. I just loved the sea. In high school I used to get advertisements for ordering decorative ceramic plates mailed to my house. Underwater scenes were printed on them which were painted by well-known marine life artists of that time. I don’t remember which artists because I never really paid much attention being a teenager that I was. I used to admire those paintings on plates so much that I saved those clippings in a large envelope and looked at them now and then. I would sit and dream, wishing that one day I too could paint scenes like those artists and and be successful. As the years passed by I lost those clippings but never stopped dreaming. In high school I took as many art classes as I could. All in a variety of areas which included ceramics, sculpting, jewelry making, advertising, and my favorite-painting. My work was admired by my teachers and peers. I was an A student. They even put me on a special program called “The Gifted Program,” only for gifted art students or those with a special God-gifted talent would be entered. I was also selected as one of two artists for the school newspaper. My art teacher, Mrs. Veril Cox, asked me if I see differently. At the time I didn’t know what she meant but now I do. All the great artists see the world in a different way than non-artists. My art for some reason was always different from other students. Mine were unusually more vibrant in color, alive, happy. One day, all the art students were asked to create Christmas cards that would be sold by the school. I remembered I drew only snowflakes with a technical pen using pointalism to give them that “lacey” look. Then I sprinkled it with iridescent glitter. The very next day my art teacher came up to me with a huge grin and told me my card was among the first ones sold! Since Jr. High I’ve always dreamed of visiting or living in Hawaii. I used to clip pictures out of magazines and go to travel agencies and ask for brochures on Hawaii. With all the clippings I created a scrapbook out of a photo album. My seascape acrylic paintings usually were created using ideas from my scrapbook.
During my high school years I traveled to Pakistan to visit my long-lost relatives. While there I experienced love at first sight and later married the most romantic, loving and sweetest man from Pakistan anyone can imagine. We were married in December of 1991, after I graduated from high school in the very same year at the tender age of 19. He and my father-in-law were always big supporters of my art and always encouraged me. My father-in-law used to draw people and faces real well. I must have inherited my artistic abilities from my ancestry. My relatives in Pakistan live close to the Arabian Sea so whenever I visit I never miss the beach. It pleases me to see the WWF branched over there with hatcheries next to the beaches where they help save the sea turtles. I have also seen the large sand pits dug by mother sea turtles and empty shells left in the nests. Unfortunately for me the new little hatchlings had already raced their way to the open sea in the early hours of the morning long before I even arrived. Just my luck I missed the excitement every time!
I attended the College of DuPage of Glen Ellen, Il., in Advertising, Design, and Illustration where I received my Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Certification in 1997. Highly admired for my extraordinary work, I had strait A’s and received the “Outstanding Academic Achievements Award” every year. In the summer of 1999 I took a trip with my husband and son to Boston where we took a whale watching tour on a boat that goes far out into the Atlantic. This was the only time I saw humpback whales in person. Yes, it did change my life as Wyland and many people claim. They are such gorgeous animals and so magnificent. I can’t understand why would man want to hurt these intelligent, peaceful, loving and harmless creatures? In 2006 my mother passed away from lung cancer after two months of being diagnosed. Her passing hit me so hard that I had an extremely difficult time accepting her death which made it even harder for me to move on with my life. My heart was so full of grief that I thought I would go crazy so I had to find something to keep my mind occupied. It had been quite a few years since I held a paintbrush but I decided that was the one and only thing I needed as my own therapy. Finding a decorative painting called, “One-Stroke” by Donna Dewberry, I was personally taught several one-on-one courses by a direct student of hers named Mary Sterling. After teaching me everything she knew about the one-stroke method in Acrylics, I earned a teaching certificate in 2007. Hearing she was familiar with oils I became very curious as I never painted in oils before. Mary and I had become good friends so one day I asked her to give me just one course in oil painting, to see what it was like…how does it feel? I just wanted to try it. After all, I’ve got nothing to lose. In another private lesson she taught me the basics. It was truly an experience. A whole new world opened up to me….completely different than acrylics. I wasn’t used to it because it felt a bit awkward. It was like trying to write cursive for the first time. No matter what, I LOVED it! Knowing my extraordinary talent Mary presented me with a Certificate of Completion in Fine Arts also in 2007. Since that day I dropped acrylics cold turkey and didn’t stop oil painting since.
Remembering that awesome trip in Boston I thought of all I had learned along with my born talent and put those skills into my oil painting. I would paint what I love and just go for my dream. It is a combination of both things. Feeling how lucky I was to have seen humpbacks with my own eyes, I knew there are people who have never seen them. Knowing the possibility of whales becoming extinct caused by many conservation issues, I wanted to share these gorgeous beings that I’ve grown to love with the world. I began to study everything I could about dolphins and whales and I will paint any possible creature from the sea. By painting marine life and the ocean this way people might think twice about how they live each day and treat the environment around them. People will want to learn about these animals even more and possibly grow a love for them the same way I did. They will want to protect them from extinction. As much as I love the sea, there is no one I know of in Chicago who could teach me marine life painting so I decided to teach myself. Studying the works of modern day artists I admire the most I would work for long hours each time. These artists are Al Hogue, Christian Reis Lassen, David Miller, Neolito, and my favorite, Wyland, to name a few. Learning from books and DVD’s was the only way I could learn. I always say that each painting is my practice. After a year of painting in oils, 2 days before Christmas in December 2009, my house burned down by a huge fire. Thanks to God, all my family members made it out safely. Unfortunately, just about everything I owned was destroyed, including my entire studio. All my paints, brushes, easel, everything was gone in one night. All my paintings, all the money I spent, all my hard work, gone. I was absolutely devistated. What was I going to do? Will I be on the streets? Is my life as an artist over? Will I get everything back? Will I ever paint again? With my mother, my home, and my work gone, what do I have left? My husband and family I thankfully have but what about everything els? One thing gave me courage. I emailed an art instructor of mine whom I had one oil painting class with after Mary. His name is Richard Laurent and not just my instructor but an old friend of mine. He was always a very kind and understanding man and for some strange reason at that crisis in my life I felt like sending him an email…I poured my heart out to him, telling him what had happened and how can I get through this? I felt he was the one that would truly understand my feelings since he was a professional artist himself. He wrote me a long and heartfelt letter which included these words: “The fire may have taken away your paintings and your studio, but it CAN NEVER take away your talent.” These words stuck with me up to this day. They gave me confidence, courage, and patience. They gave me faith, and hope. I never forgot those words. That burden was like a weight being lifted from me that time. Then was I able to fight within myself and move forward, no matter how hard the struggle. Eventually I did move forward, and now I’m pleased to announce that I have a new studio, much better than before. With good insurance I was able to purchase all my supplies, even the same ones I had before. As Richard also told me, “put all your past work that was lost behind you, you CAN paint new ones better than the past.” I did. My improvements showed up in my very first painting after the fire. I think his words were a miracle for me. I took his advice and forgot about the past, and focused on a new beginning. I wish to thank Richard for his words of wisdom. He taught me with only those words which helped me become what I am today. He helped me see clearly through the fog of my confused state of mind. To forget about what I don’t have anymore and look at what I do have right in front of me. Richard, if you’re out there reading this, thank you.
My work has also been selected to be part of a global ocean conservation project called the "Race for the Oceans" campaign through a group called, "Ocean Story." They have a regatta that will hopefully sail around the world this year or next year (2012-2013)and it will be completely covered with images of paintings, photos, stories, poetry, and slogans, from people all over the world. Sail and all-a mosaic. Ocean Story especially asked me to contribute some of my work and I am honored to accept.
Our planet needs our help to fix the problems we have created upon ourselves. Our earth is indeed in great need of repair. If we don’t take that first step right now, very soon our world, the only world we have will be a dead earth. Most of my work is for sale so if you're interested please feel free to contact me at my email. All my paintings are sold without frames unless requested by the buyer. If you would like to sighn the guestbook, go right ahead. Comments or questions are much appreciated. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. God Bless and may peace be with you.