About the artist
This week we meet conceptual photomontage artist, Raqee S. Najmuldeen. Raqee is from Iraq and is currently based in Baghdad. He works as a lecturer of graphic design in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad, where he teaches website design and graduation projects for undergraduate level. He also teaches digital design to graduate level students (Masters and PhD).
Raqee studied graphic design in Malaysia and got a PhD in Design Technology from the University of Malaysia Sarawak in 2012. He already had a background in photography and, after discovering photo-manipulation, he began to produce his images.
How did you first get into digital art?
I had a simple beginning with digital art when I was working on my PC using Photoshop. The real shift began when I created an account on Instagram. I noticed the works of many artists, including amateur and professional ones, and I wondered why I didn’t have artworks like them!
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
Traditional art requires a studio, and this requires space and materials. Being tied down to a location may not suit an artist who is moving around and looking for a job in another country. Digital art is always at hand, wherever you are, and has infinite possibilities for the artist to create, modify and redefine their work.
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
I adore magical realism and, even though my doctoral dissertation was on photographic surrealism—I also wrote a book about it—magical realism, conceptual art and sometimes abstraction are what I seek to create in my digital art.
What inspires you?
Collage artists and graffiti artists in general. Through the teaching of design to my students, however, I learned mind mapping, and this helped me a lot in my work.
What is your artistic motivation?
I am currently trying to acquire skills in animation. My intent is to create a digital collage that not only depends on the still image but also on a moving sequence of images; I think that will add a new dimension to the general meaning of digital work. I always try to teach my students what I am learning and inspire them.
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?
Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?
Magical, conceptual and paradoxical.
What interesting responses to your artwork have you had?
The response I got from Photoshop Creative magazine to publish many of my works. Also, the reactions of some fans to my work on Instagram, although my images do not reach all Instagram subscribers, maybe due to my geographical location!
Name three artists who inspire you.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
I have discovered many applications, so I have new tools and have also seen a considerable amount of works of artists and other designers.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
I would advise myself to learn how to think first and practice design every day without stopping. Sketching any idea that comes to my mind and comparing my work with the work of others.
What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?
I use the iPhone as a creative tool and my Dell workstation along with Wacom Intuos Pro. I also use a Nikon D7000 digital SLR.
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
I use Affinity Photo for more advanced works, Snapseed from Google, and Adobe apps.
Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
Yes, I do. I almost always use Unsplash because I can find professional images on it and they are available to use for everyone. I also use the photos taken during my travels.
And finally, do you find people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?
Sometimes yes, especially by old or traditional artists. Some do not acknowledge that digital art is made through the same artistic process and that the only difference is the tool that’s used.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and artwork, Raqee!