Sayeef Mahmud aka Inksmith is a Name that Resonates among Young Artists and Enthusiastic Potterheads in Dhaka. ICE Today Sits in for a Round of Q/As with the Artist Himself

Sayeef Mahmud – also known as Inksmith, is a well-known face among the young and talented artists of Bangladesh. Selecting ink as primary medium, he started his own art startup ‘Inksmith’- a few years ago. He also hand crafts and sells Harry Potter wands through online. Let’s get to know him, shall we?

A wall mural Sayeef did back in 2016 for the exhibition InvisiBellas

To begin with, how does creating art make you feel?
Most of the people will talk about freedom but for me it’s more about power. When I draw or make something it makes me feel really powerful as it’s a continuous process of realisation that I am being able do something on my own.

How did it all start?
I was a lonely kid. I was around 3 when my family started to fall apart. Moving from Dhaka to other places sort of shut me down. All I would do was stay home and draw whatever I could. I had a hard time making friends and drawing was the only escape to a better world.

Why have you chosen ink and watercolour as your medium?
We didn’t have much money when I was growing up. My art kit looked something like this: red and blue coloured pencils, yellow, orange, brown pastels, green, black, purple crayons- never the same medium. And the results would be terrible when I tried to colour something. Ink was everywhere. You just need to have a pen and you already have the best you can expect from this medium. I started with water colour not so long ago; thats when I finally started getting into a better place in life because of my art.

What is the most challenging part about working with ink and watercolours?
If you have a clear idea of how you are feeling and don’t plan too much ahead of the process, then there aren’t much to worry about. It goes the same way for any medium. Just build up your idea as you draw. Or else the end result might not meet your expectations and you won’t be happy. But things you need to be careful are clean lines during inking and letting the colour dry first during watercolour.

Inksmith pays tribute to Alan Rickman with a drawing of him as Severus Snape

How did you come up with the idea of Inksmith?
I came up with the name way before I set that up on the page. I always found blacksmiths some of the coolest people out there. And I still wish I could have been born centuries back in a place where I could forge brilliant swords. As that can’t be done right now so something similar should do.

What do you look for when you’re looking for something to draw?
The thing is nothing will come to you when you look for something to draw. I mean, the way it is on the question makes it sound really forceful on yourself. The process is way natural than most people think. You do your daily stuff like going out, working, hanging out with friends, eating and at the same time collecting emotions and visuals. Some of these get stuck with you and take brilliant forms in your head sometimes. And when you start drawing you just pour them out as needed.

So how do you go about choosing a subject?
A subject speaks for you on your behalf. It always needs to be something you actually can connect with. Drawing something only because it looked cool on the internet shouldn’t be the way of doing it. I do go to Pinterest. There are thousands of beautiful pieces, I try to take inspirations from there but never to imitate something. For example if someone there uses some unique colours while painting a horse then I will use something similar or totally opposite while painting a horse. But it’s slowly changing for me. Now I try to be more true to my experiences when it comes to choosing my subject, emotions and colours.

Wolverine art made out of coffee

Which artists influence your works most?
There are many artists I like but not more than 2 or 3 whom I can name to have inspired me on a certain scale. Takeshi Obata is someone who has a lot to do with my work now. His works have helped me cope with some really bad times and has also encouraged me to take art more seriously. Jake Parker made drawing fun and polite for me. He gave the heart to my works I will say. Ikeda Manabu on the other hand influenced me to understand the values of detailing.

What do you think about the future of Bangladeshi art scene?
If you translate art into music then I can explain in an easier way. Bangladesh had only been focusing on classical music for the longest time, after that kids started liking Rock. And then the revolution took place which made deshi rock scene what it is now. Something similar if not bigger will happen in art scene also. A lot of young people are trying to do new things, most importantly finding their own style. We can expect animated feature films in the next decade from our country.

Can an artist make a comfortable living in Bangladesh? What do you think?
I believe so. Now there are more opportunities than ever out there. If you ever thought this profession doesn’t pay enough then the wheels have turned. You have to understand the market and how you value your work. Don’t price your work based on hours, but days. How much is a single day worth? Set your price, value your work, go out, talk to people, meet new people, participate in all the events you can. You will never be out of work and if you value your work properly then you will for sure be able to make a comfortable living even in Dhaka. But make sure your quality of work stays constant.

Your favorite Burger place in Dhaka?
Takeout.

Inksmith showing his love towards TAKEOUT through this beautiful illustration.

On a scale of 1-10, how much of a PotterHead are you?
Merlin’s Beard! I don’t know if you can actually scale it. Harry Potter books have built up the foundation of my imaginations as a kid. And if I am capable of turning every myth into a fantasy now in my head then it’s all because of the rich world of wonders in those 7 books.

Did you like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
I got the book during the release event. Couldn’t finish without getting bothered. It was okay but just not as cool I will say. It was just okay.

Tell us something about your Harry Potter wand business.

Handcrafted wand by Inksmith.

Well I consider myself a distant relative of the great Olivander’s. In Dhaka I tried to start up a service for the witches and wizards. They can come to my Facebook page ‘Inksmith’ or Instagram ink_smith and ask for a wand. I will then ask them some questions to understand their characteristics. And their Hogwarts house also helps big time. Their height will decide the length of the wand and beliefs will decide the core. I hand craft every single one of them and it also comes in a handmade box to bring you the magical experience.

Which character from Game of Thrones do you miss the most?

Hodor- Illustration by Sayeef Mahmud/ Inksmith

I miss Hodor; that was just too much for me to take at that point. He was the only character who wasn’t selfish in the entire series.

What’s the most important prerequisite to becoming an artist?
I will answer it based on how you can be an artist in our society. First of all be passionate and clear about what you wanna do. Try to ignore what others have to say about your choices. Take risks, don’t lock yourself in and explore. Don’t expect much in return from your work. Because you are still growing and your work will be valued much more over the time. Respect others in the art scene. We are all trying to do the same thing, making this country look much more colorful. And believe in yourself. Focus on drawing original concepts rather than copies from Pinterest.

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Tanzil Tonmoy

Tanzil Tonmoy is the Digital Content Producer at ICE Today. He loves to play piano and make tribute to Rabindranath Tagore. Harry Potter and Game of Thrones are his key interests in life.