Nada Khatib

"I often allow my heart to naturally guide me through the painting and when I hit bumps along the road, I work through them."
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A self-taught professional palette knife painter born and raised in Toronto, Nada began painting in 2006 (shortly before she went to university) as an outlet for creativity and self-expression. In 2018, she took a leap of faith by starting her own business Expression by Nada. Since then, she has built an expressive artistic community on social media with her account @expressionbynada.

The path to self-employment and entrepreneurship has not been easy, but Nada’s passion gave her the strength to overcome any challenges. Nada is passionate about inspiring other artists, breaking the cultural barriers that she faced and building a body of work and community around something she feels has a positive impact on our society.

We chatted with this inspiring artist and asked her a few questions about her artistic process.

Happy reading!

DeSerres: What does your creative process look like?

Nada: My creative process has evolved over time along with my work. Sometimes, it involves having bursts of ideas and planning out paintings as I lie in bed at night. More often than not, I go for nature walks and hikes to take pictures and get inspired. Other times, I start with a colour combination that excites me and work backwards from there. When I am feeling a little more stuck or experiencing any kind of “artist block”, I revisit some of my older works and get motivated to recreate a similar but elevated work of art using new techniques and skills I have gained since then.

When I sit down to paint, I often start with an idea of what I would like to create, but the outcome is usually not calculated. I often allow my heart to naturally guide me through the painting and when I hit bumps along the road, I work through them. This is when I most often find myself creating fascinating new techniques such as mixing paint with mediums to create magical effects, layering paint over multiple sessions, manipulating paint to create intricate textures and finding interesting surfaces to paint on, such as wood.

My preferred medium is acrylic paint because it allows for deep layering with the impasto technique. My love of palette knives stems from the feeling of freedom they provide because I know I can let go of control and allow the knives and paint to naturally create texture. I never know how the paint will land on the surface and I don't blend the paint like I do with traditional brushes – it is about intentional strokes, but then it just is what it is. I find great joy and satisfaction in that. Simply moving thick paint around with a knife is also therapeutic and very gratifying for me.

D: What does creativity mean to you?

N: Exploring my creativity has been life altering for me because it allowed me to discover my full potential that was previously left untapped throughout my schooling and professional career. My creativity is so personal and sacred to me; sometimes it feels like the most intimate gift I could give myself because only I can truly experience it. I really appreciate that, as an artist, I have full autonomy to choose what I would like to contribute to this world through my art.

I faced many challenges and struggles growing up to find the motivation and desire to work hard. Throughout all my experiences prior to my creative career, I never felt that I was on a path that would allow me to grow exponentially. So I can say creativity means a lot to me because it energizes me in a way I had never experienced before. I think part of that is also being my own boss and operating my art and business on my own terms. The best part about creativity is that it is not about logic and it has absolutely no limits. My creative potential is infinite and boundless, and I am deeply grateful to be able to explore it. That really excites me for the future.

D: What purpose does art serve in your life?

N: Because I do what I love, art has mostly taken over my life (in the best way possible). This has certainly been the case during the pandemic. I recently moved to a small town just outside of Algonquin Park and although the nature is stunning, I feel a little isolated sometimes. Many mornings I wake up and have the thought: “Today, art saved my life.” I can’t imagine what some days would look like if I didn’t have my art to help me forget about time and space and take me into these magical worlds of colour, iridescence and nature. Seeing my creations and the response people have to them brings me a lot of joy and fulfilment. Although I still feel I need to do a lot more to serve the greater good of humanity through my art, it has so far been one of the biggest blessings in my life.

D: Can you describe a key moment in your artistic journey?

N: I remember the day I decided to just go for it and started planning my art business. I literally asked my husband, “Should I actually do this or just get a regular stable job?” It was such a clear fork in the road. I needed that little push and someone to believe in me to actually take the plunge. He said yes, without a doubt, and I only looked forward, never back, since that day.

D: What are your favourite products to use?

N: My favourite type of paint to use is heavy body acrylics, which allows me to build texture with my favourite tool – palette knives. I absolutely love trying new products, especially mediums to see what kind of cool effects they can add to my work. Though I often paint on canvas, I often source beautiful wood surfaces to paint on because I love their rustic feel and the sense of connection to nature. I also enjoy exploring various ways to add iridescence to my paintings, as that has become a signature element in my practice.

Nada's artwork

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