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Eelhum: Evoking emotion with storytelling in art


A picture is worth a thousand words. Now more than ever, the power of visual communication is strong in the digital age. We share our lives, offerings, issues we care about, and things we love, all accessible in the palm of our hands. Coming across so many visuals every day, we slowly become desensitized, constantly swiping, shutting our brains off, and losing track of time. We rarely connect and evoke emotions with a picture such as the excitement of a product launch or even the jealousy of our ex with someone new. This is where art comes in.  

We discussed this further with Eelhum, an aspiring digital artist who loves taking on new challenges and experiments with 3D, illustration, GIFs, and AR. Much like her real name (Ilham), she intends to inspire and create unique meanings with storytelling through art. Her usage of comic strips, illustrations, and colors with a hint of dark humor brings the audience to wonder in their imagination and form their own stories. Visit her art account and make sure to follow for more interactive innovations coming soon!

Read on as Eelhum shares her advice as a student and freelancer, the exploration of art mediums, and contributions through the art of storytelling.

Who is Ilham Alshahab?
I’ll describe myself in 5 words. I am quiet, chaotic, colorful (as you can see), introspective, and curious. I’ll use quiet and introspective as a way to introduce my artworks. You can see a lot of my work is very quiet and what you see is not what you get. You need to put a little thought into it and that’s where the introspective comes from.

Colorful, pretty obvious, I love colors. Chaotic is more like an organized mess. I like compartmentalizing my thoughts and everything. I like classifying things which probably is an element in my work as well. Filtering the chaos and funneling it down into the simplification of things.

What is the story behind your artist name/IG handle - eelhum? What is the inspiration behind your logo (blue eye)?
Eelhum is a wacky spelling for my name. People used to call me either Eel or Hum and I thought, those are actual words that stand on their own and I’ll put them together. As for the logo, the eye is an “e”. I like the eye motive a lot. I wear a lot of rings and necklaces with the eye motif because I feel I’m a very observant person, internally and externally. I’d imagine I have an inner and outer eye. That’s why I’m very connected to the eye motif.

Tell us more about your art style and the message you want to convey.  
How I usually describe my art to people is that I like to see the maximum with the minimum. You can see this a lot in my animations or comics that are very silent. No text, no narration, just sequential frames. What I want people to experience in my work is that I don’t want to tell them the story from A to Z. I want to take them halfway and let them to complete the story in their head because that’s where the magic comes from. 

You have an impressive line of artworks ranging from 2D, 3D to AR creations. As a Jack of all trades, do you see yourself constantly expanding your reach? Or do you intend to explore, then master specific mediums in the future?
As of now, I want to expand my reach, specifically in more interactive works. I want to make work that invites audiences to contribute or give their say in such a way that completes the art piece. I want that sort of connection with people, two-way communication and connection. Not only from the artist but also garner more meaning from the audience. That way, my work will be personal to them because it relates to them in some way as well.

To date, what is your favorite medium to work with? Why?
Animation and illustration. Animation because it’s so limitless, you can do a lot with it. On the technical side, I like the problem-solving challenges such as figuring out how to move something a certain way and figuring out the quirks along the way.

Illustration because of how limiting it is. It allows me to think about what details are necessary for me to show and what details aren’t for people to figure things out themselves.

“I want to take them halfway and
let them to complete the story in their head
because that’s where the magic comes from.”

Congratulations upon receiving your degree in media and digital arts from MMU last year. With your experience as a thriving artist, what is the difference in school compared to the workforce? Do you have any takeaways or share any gaps that can inspire or assist aspiring artists?
There’s a big difference because I’m doing both of them at once – working and school. At school, most of its just you working on yourself, sort of in your little world. You do the work, submit it, and whether you get a good mark or not, it’s fully on you.

At work, there’s a bigger responsibility for yourself, the people around you, your co-workers, and so on. There are more of those soft skills you need to learn and navigate through your work life, to deal with a lot of different people, especially when you’re a freelancer like I am. I meet loads of different clients, some are easy, and some are difficult. You have to find the middle ground between dealing with the client and giving them what they want while maintaining your vision and identity as an artist.

It is really important while you work on your technical skills in school, also keep in check that you need to work on your soft skills. Once you get out there, you will be more comfortable with your technical skills that you can focus more on meeting people and making connections.

We heavily rely on grades in school. As an artist, do you think we should purely focus on grades or finding our own style? The reason being grades don’t matter much in the end, also art is very subjective. What is your take on this?
I believe in the latter. I’m a really stubborn artist. I believe you need to be able to express yourself in your own style. I guess we also need to find jobs in the real world. Once again, it’s about finding that middle ground between what does this assignment asks of me and how can I, the best way that I can, still make this very me in my work.

Always look for opportunities, never let the current opportunities go because they’re not the top priority. Everything could help you either way. You could never know this challenging assignment could suddenly help you figure out and uncover a different talent you never knew. Good to step out of your comfort zone sometimes.

With working experience in advertising and with clients, what do you think are the barriers that limit artists or designers? What solutions do you propose for both ends?
When working with clients, there’s always a communication barrier, especially when you’re starting out because I had that problem too. It’s really important to understand the client doesn’t have to know everything from A to Z. You need to know which details to pick out, how to package it in a simplified way, and update them throughout the process. That’s one.

Another thing young designers tend to get wrong; we tend to do whatever the client wants. I believe you as an artist also have a say in it. You need to know when to listen and when to stand your ground. At some point, it would help to improve your relationship with your client and with your work as well.

How do you contribute to the world through your art of storytelling?
I contribute more in the emotional sense. My work helps people build that emotional connection maybe first with me as the artist showing the work, then with the people around them, and most importantly, within themselves. A lot of themes of my work talk about human connection and internal conflict which I have. Because I’m vulnerable with my work, it comes across to people as well. My work has a lot of gaps and people fill those gaps themselves.

It’s very personal and special to them. I even have people come up to me saying, “looking at your work makes me feel very seen and vulnerable”. That is something I am happy to give to people when they see my work. To harness that emotional connection and intimacy with the audience through storytelling and art.

Any projects we should look out for this year?
Still too early to tell. Since I’m graduating this year, it’s more exciting and I’m working more on interactive works. Wink wink maybe games? A lot of ideas in the bank 😉

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