[Interview] Soufeina Hamed on how comics can change misconceptions and how she illustrates everyday Muslim life
Ever since she could hold a pen, talented artist Soufeina Hamed (Tuffix) has been drawing and experimenting with her creative ideas. As her love for art developed, from oil painting, manga, to realistic sketches, Soufeina finally adopted comic art after discovering that this would be the ideal medium for her.
Since then, she has produced an interesting collection of art and comics about everyday Muslim life, culture, religion and identity, with an authentic and humorous twist.
I talk to Soufeina about who her biggest inspirations are, how she smashes through “Artists block”, and how comics can be used as a medium for social and political causes.
Tell us a bit about yourself. When did you start drawing?
I’m Soufeina, I’m half German half Tunisian. I’m working on my master’s thesis in the field of Intercultural Psychology and I began drawing ever since I hold a pen. I enjoyed trying out different art styles and techniques: oil painting, manga, realistic sketches etc. Finally I found comic art to be the most suitable medium for me.
Who/what are your biggest inspirations?
My biggest inspirations in the field of comic art are Scott McCloud and Craig Thompson. The former, because he managed to present the comic as a serious art genre, and the latter, because he is mastering the medium better then anyone else in my opinion.
You have amazing talent. How do you create your art/comics? And what are the processes involved?
Thank you! I would say that getting an idea that I’m really convinced of, is the most important step. Once I found it, it’s pretty simple: sketching, outlining, colouring and finally texting.
What tools do you use to draw?
Tablet pen and photoshop for digital drawing, coloured pencils and a brush pen for “analogue” drawing.
What is your process for warming-up before sketching? If so, what warm-up sketches do you do?
Actually none.. Only when I know that I’m going to add something to the drawing that I never drew before, like.. let’s say a hippo or a recumbent. In that case I would google for references and just start sketching it a few times.
Some of your comics explore themes such as religion, culture and identity in a very humorous way. How do you come up with the ideas for your comics?
It’s basically everyday life. The more I draw the more I become sensitive for funny moments. And this sensitivity even reached friends and family. That’s why people around me often tell me: “Soufeina! You should make a comic of this situation right now! That would be so funny!” 🙂
What do you enjoy most about creating your art and why? What do you find most challenging?
The most challenging part is definitely to come up with ideas, that kind of keep up the level or standard of my former artworks. This goes along with the need to find a balance between drawing for myself and drawing for my followers. And both these aspects are exactly the answer of the first questions: Being in the flow of creation and realising that my art is actually making a difference for some people are two aspects I really enjoy.
Do you ever get Artists block? How do you smash through?
Definitely yes. And there are two paradoxa: First, I get them as soon as I have a lot of free time. And second, there are no satisfying results when I force myself to produce something, while deadlines that others give me are my best motivation, my “muse”.
Do you have any favourite doodles that you scribble when bored or waiting?
I use to draw people around me, especially in class.
Comics are often associated with just entertainment, but do you think it can be used as a medium for social & political causes, If so, how?
Definitely, just take a look at Joe Sacco or “Zahra’s Paradise”. These are comics that have nothing in common with Mickey Maus. I admire these artists, though I decided to take an other step. My works are from time to time political. But the main topic of my works is everyday life of Muslims in the Western world.
Comics like any other medium are a perfect way to express an opinion and to show issues in different perspectives. With comics you can make difficult topics simple and easy to understand. That’s why you can reach a wide audience, which is especially useful when you try to change common opinions, misconceptions or prejudices.
What do you hope to achieve through your art/comics, and how has the feedback been so far?
A large part of our current problems such as islamophobia and xenophobia are based on the lack of contact to or knowledge about „the others“ – that’s something I’m really convinced of. And that’s why the topics of my works are often very ordinary, very simple. I show the banalities, as well as the special features and problems of a young Muslim girl. The fact that she – or me – is wearing a headscarf is not always the main point. It’s sometimes just a feeling, a personal event that everyone else can relate to, no matter if he is Muslim or not.
“Being in the flow of creation and realising that my art is actually making a difference for some people are two aspects I really enjoy.”
My aim is to to show that we all have much more in common than we (are willing to) admit. Muslims are in fact as boring as everyone else 🙂 Of course we do have our small differences, but they make coexistence even more exciting. Therefore more open mindedness is needed on each side. And sometimes a little bit of humour.
Fortunately most of the feedback is really positive, by Muslims and by non-Muslims. Muslims can identify with the situations I draw and non-Muslims find my drawings to be a window to an interesting world that is equally different and similar to their own world.
Where can our readers find your works?
They can follow me on tuffix.deviantart.com, on Facebook (Soufeina Tuffix Ha) and soon on my own website inshaallah (God willing).
We are big fans of your work and are really keen to see a book with your art and comics, please tell us that you are working on one.
I do 🙂 But it’s going to take much more time.
What is the story/thought process behind her nickname “tuffix” ?
It’s actually pretty simple. My name “Soufeina” has always been a platform for my friends’ creative outbursts. I guess I am one of the people with the most nicknames ever. One of them was tuffix. I used it as a username on deviantart, when I first decided to stay anonymous.
“With comics you can make difficult topics simple and easy to understand…which is especially useful when you try to change common opinions, misconceptions or prejudices.”
Any other future plans?
No plans but curiosity and excitement about any new chances coming.
Last but not least, what do you think of Sufi Comics?
Sufi comics is really awesome. It’s very inspiring to see, how fast an idea is growing. I just got a Sufi comic book for my birthday and I love the simplicity that perfectly fits the content of the Sufi lessons. I wish you all the best; keep it up!