Finding your path to creativity with Abdul Abdullah

How do you make it as an artist? Muslim Australian painter, sculptor and artist, Abdul Abdullah says good mentorship is essential.


When you look at a painting, you tend to only think about the end product.

What you don’t see is what’s beneath the top layer.

The planning. The prep. The hours at the easel working to get that one line just right.

For Abdul Abdullah, it’s these moments that make you a true artist.

And he would know.

Abdul’s a five-time finalist for both the Archibald and Sulman Prize (massive in the art world).

His work is in some of Australia’s leading art galleries and he has been making a living off art for the best part of a decade.

The best job in the world, but not an easy one

So, how do you become one of Australia’s most exciting young artists?

Abdul says focus and drive play a big part.

“I need to spend so much time researching, developing, producing work,” he says.

“If you don’t have that discipline and that ability to sit in a space for 12 hours till you work something out then it’s really easy to lose that flow. And ideas go away very quickly.”

As with anything, it has its ups and downs.

“It’s certainly full of frustration,” he says.

“And it’s always two steps forward, one step back. That’s just the way that it goes. But I enjoy it so much and it’s something that I want to do so I’m pretty happy with it.”

Life as a Muslim Australian artist

Part of the struggle is not the work itself, but the way the work is seen.

Abdul admits he faces challenges as a Muslim Australian that other artists don’t including receiving a bit of online hate and the odd nasty email.

“The primary challenge that I’ve faced is the imagined perception of what I represent from people who might find the Muslim identity threatening,” he says.

So how does he rise above that?

“At first I got very upset and very angry,” he says.

“But after getting some advice from some mentors and getting to understand the whole situation, I better understood that they weren’t talking about me. They don’t know my personal actions or beliefs, they’re talking about an imagined identity.

“That helps me separate myself from that nasty stuff.”

Advice for young creatives

Abdul says the most important thing for young artists, and anyone following their passion, is to find their community.

“Meeting people of different generations is really fantastic,” he says.

“Finding good mentorship I think is really essential and learning as much as you can. Being really open-minded to new ideas is important and willing to exchange ideas with people you might not necessarily see eye-to-eye with.”

Sounds like great advice to us! Check out some of Abdul’s work here.

Abdul was also recently featured on The Lowdown, you can watch the full episode here.

What’s your passion? Do you have a creative side? Would you ever give art a try? Get in touch with us here, we’d love to hear from you.