2020 has been a whirlwind, but I tried to make the most of it by crossing a couple of things off my bucket list, such as having a custom portrait made of me. I guess this wasn't something directly on my bucket list - it wasn't something I always knew I wanted - but when I saw Stella Löninger's stunning painting, Aquarius, I instantly fell in love. It reminded me of my favourite painting, the Phenomenon of Floating by Rob Gonsalves, mixed with a modern and contemporarily unique touch. I felt so *seen*, even though that wasn't a painting of me. I couldn't stop staring at that beautiful painting.
I instantly knew I wanted to get a portrait made in a similar format by Stella, but I didn't want it to be just any portrait, I really wanted it to capture who I was as a person. So, I reached out to her, with my fingers crossed, wondering if she could possibly recreate her masterpiece but with me as the subject. She promptly and kindly replied, and we got to work soon after. I sent her a few photos and a video of me attempting to look similar to the girl in the original Aquarius portrait, but uniquely me. To begin, I thought about what things were important to me, and how they could be included in this portrait to represent me, my life, and my story. I've listed and analyzed these down below.
I've written a couple of entries about my adoration for the night sky (1, 2, 3,), but here's a quick summary - growing up as a TCK means everything is constantly changing; you're always surrounded by new environments, people, homes, weathers, you name it. The one thing that always stays constant, however, is the sky. The same sun, the same moon, and the same stars are always watching over you, going through your adventures with you. You're never alone. Growing up, the sky was the sole constant I could depend on, and often "leaned" on for comfort when my life was turbulent (no TCK/plane pun intended haha). I felt like the stars were a representation of my identify at a TCK.
The moon holds the same meaning to me as the moon does. However, in this beautiful portrait, it is also a representation of something else that is important to me: my faith. The crescent moon has been used to represent Islam in art for centuries. When Stella sent me photo of the completed piece, I absolutely fell in love, but I also felt that maybe something (the moon) is missing. Stella added it in for me, and sent me a new photo. When I saw the completed version, it felt complete, and I felt so seen. I felt like the moon was a representation of my faith.
I am extremely proud of being a Pakistani, even if I never truly lived there. I really wanted my Pakistani identity to be represented in this portrait, and I thought the best way to do so would be through the jewelry. I wore traditional jhumke and a maang tikka in the photos I sent Stella, and she painted them beautifully. I felt like the jewelry was a representation of my Pakistani identity.
The blue aura.
I am quite a spiritual person, and I do sometimes think about things like, "If there was an aura around me, what colour would it be?" Whenever this question crossed my mind, I always concluded that it would be royal / lightning blue. This colour has always been one of my favourites. I feel that it embodies strength, resiliency, and power in a safe, calming, and patient way. I strive to always have strength, be resilient, and know my worth, while also being kind and a friend to all. I felt like the blue aura was a representation of my personality.
My skin tone and features.
Obviously, this was a portrait of myself, so the skintone and features were going to be of my own. I think that this was so important to me, and kind of explains the whole reasoning behind having a portrait of myself made, because I struggled with my self image and confidence throughout my life. I wished I was fairer. I wished my nostrils weren't upturned and so wide. I wished I had bigger, rosier lips. I wished I had blue eyes. I wished I had blond hair. I wished I was white, in summary, haha. I wished I was beautiful. As I've gotten older, my relationship with my looks has improved. The features that once bothered me so much (my nose, the colour of my skin, eyes, and hair) are now celebrated. I'm not saying I'm Aphrodite, by any means, I've come a long way in terms of accepting myself and finding beauty within myself too. I fell in love with Stella's original painting, Aquarius. I could have just bought that. And if I had the same mentality and mindset as I did when I was younger, I absolutely would have just bought Aquarius. I would have never felt like I could be beautiful enough to be painted. I don't know if I'm making any sense, but what I'm trying to say is, the reason I wanted the portrait to be of me is because I wanted to celebrate myself, the growth in my self-love, and my newfound self-acceptance, by seeing me in the original painting I fell so deeply in love with. I felt like seeing myself in this portrait was indirectly a representation of my self-growth.
I've been writing here on my blog/diary for a few years now, constantly explaining myself to the world and trying to find ways for people to see who I really am. Stella, though a different mean of expression, captured my essence and soul effortlessly in one permanent, timeless fairytale, yet real, moment. And I will always be grateful to her for that.
So, now I turn it over to you. If you were to create a portrait (or commission the ever so talented Stella to paint your portrait), what would it look like? How would you capture your essence, soul, personality, life experiences, and truth? What does the essence of you look like?
Lastly, please check out Stella's work! You can follow her on Instagram, or purchase her art directly from her Etsy store. And, if you are interested in buying a print of my portrait, click here.