You’re currently a director, but how and where did you get started on your creative journey?
The same as everyone I think, at home with a sketchbook and some badly sharpened pencils. At around 15 years old I finally moved on to tablets and started learning how to draw digitally. I enjoyed drawing fanart and fancomics of my favorite characters from cartoons or anime.
Many people who are passionate about art may decide to pursue something else because of the risks that exist with its pursuit. What was it that made you decide to continue on your creative journey, despite the possible risks?
The fact that I can afford it? I don’t have rent to worry about since I usually stay with family and I don’t have a family of my own to worry about keeping fed so I think in that sense I’m more privileged than others when it comes to “risking” my livelihood on a job with a usually unstable income. I enjoy freelancing more than fulltime though, as difficult as it can get with freelance deadlines and clients I like working from home and managing my own schedule.
Is there a particular figure that inspired you artistically or in general?
Aside from creators like Natasha Allegri and Rebecca Sugar, some of my earliest inspiration were my cousins: Shahd, Aisha and Moza Thani. I grew up watching them draw and write and eventually started to try doing the same.
What’s one tool that you need in your studio that you can’t work without?
I love working on a Cintiq, it’s so much easier than a tablet that requires you to draw one place and then look another so if I had to pick 1 piece of equipment I wouldn’t be able to part with it would be my Cintiq.
Describe your typical artist’s process.
Plan, mess up, improvise, mess up again, keep Improvising, accept that it’s not going to get any better than this and that I’ve reached the deadline, bury internal screams and submit artwork.
Were there any difficulties you have faced so far on your journey?
For my artist journey, I had to hear a lot of discouraging comments from relatives and others since none of them really understood what kind of future was there for artists or animators. My decision bothered a lot of people, some of who eventually came around to support me and some just continued being bitter – which is fine, helped me lessen my social obligations and focus more on me and my work.
When and how did you get the idea for “Emara”?
I wanted to create a female superhero that actually reflects my home and where I come from so Emara was born out of that and developed to be a fun show that’s still relatable to a lot of people beyond just the cultural representation.
What pushed you to take “Emara” from a simple idea to where it is today?
Stubbornness – Emara is the kind of cartoon I wanted growing up that I never got.
Are there any other projects you are currently working on?
There are a few things floating around, but nothing at a stage where I can confirm is happening or announce is coming soon.
Aside from directing and art, do you have any other passions or hobbies?
I love traveling and writing, I find I write the best when I’m as far as possible from home and people.
How do you overcome creative blocks or slumps?
Either power through them or take a break. Usually when I’m suffering from an artists’ block I focus on my writing instead and vice versa. If I’m suffering from both, then I just play video games until it passes.
What advice would you give to young girls who have started their creative journeys?
What people tell you is not law, figure things out yourself and learn to speak up when it comes to deciding your future. Nobody gets to decide your path in life for you, so don’t let them. Focus on learning, practice daily, learn the basics, learn how to collaborate and communicate with other artists, lift each other up and be kind.
Fatma Almheiri is an Emirati artist, writer and director. As well as being a recipient of the ADMAF Comic Arts Award, she is the creator of the first Emirati superhero, “Emara.” You can find her on instagram here.