The art world has evolved, and Leena Al-Ayoobi tells OHLALA about her career path as an artist and the exciting NFT universe.
“My advice to emerging artists is not to look for a quick return, focus on building a robust portfolio and do not be afraid of trying new things.”– Leena Al-Ayoobi
OHLALA – When did you know that art would be part of your life? Could you see yourself doing anything else?
Leena Al-Ayoobi – Art was always a big part of my life and personality since childhood, I’ve worked as a business analyst for more than 12 years, but that did not change my passion for art. As a child, Anime and Manga were very popular entertainment shows, and I was very attracted to the art style, the details in the eyes and the presentation. I used to watch TV with a sketchbook and pen with me so I could draw along the way.
OHLALA – Some young creative talents fight the idea of becoming an artist for its hardship in creating a profit. What would be your advice?
Leena – Art, by all means, is not an easy path to make a living off. It’s a highly competitive field, and the collectors are spoilt with choices and options. It is becoming even more competitive with the abolition of barriers and borders, if you take NFTs (NFT means non-fungible token, a noninterchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of a digital record book, that can be sold and traded) into consideration. My advice to emerging artists is not to look for a quick return, focus on building a robust portfolio and do not be afraid of trying new things. Be creative, reach out to established artists, collaborate and create a network. Eventually, money will come, or maybe not. It is a risk, but I am in this field because I love it. Profit is not everything.
OHLALA – You were behind the NFT MENA Exhibit 2022. Do you believe the future of art is digital, or do you think it is possible to have a parallel existence? What are their main differences in your view?
Leena – The NFT MENA Exhibit was the first dedicated NFT art exhibition. It focused on art in NFT forms mixed with panel discussions to educate people and artists about this new era we are going through. I’ve been a traditional artist most of my life. The main difference between being a digital artist and minting my art on the blockchain is that it opens up many opportunities internationally and exposes my art to a new international crowd. NFTs protect the artwork by the smart contract it is attached to and offer a lifetime royalty for artists, which is lost in the physical world when the painting is transferred to the first buyer only. NFTs are not here to replace any medium, but to add a new one, just like when TVs came into existence, computers, phones, they’ve all added a unique opportunity for artists to flourish.
OHLALA – When did you start to explore the NFT universe, and what does NFT mean to your art?
Leena – The first time I heard about it was in November 2020. I got really interested in it as it created a channel for digital artists to exist commercially and be recognised as proper artists. At some point in time, people would mock digital art as ‘computerised’ work, though it takes just as much talent and work, if not more sometimes, to create a digital art piece as a traditional one. So, I started reading and learning about it more and more until the infamous Beeple (the act of selling an NFT work that usually consists of an image or video verified with a digital signature on a blockchain) sale happened and added legitimacy to the field. I am originally a digital artist, so NFTs allowed me to dedicate more time to my digital pieces and explore more possibilities and directions to my art. It’s extremely exciting.
OHLALA – What do you think of pieces of art that have been destroyed to become an exclusive NFT? Do you think this is a practice that will grow?
Leena – I have not heard of this practice, but what I know is that traditional artists are turning to NFTs. They are digitising their art (some add animation to it to bring it to life) which is great as the artist will continue producing art in their traditional way alongside the NFTs.
OHLALA – What are your expectations for the future of NFT in the MENA region?
Leena – It is picking up very quickly when it comes to art and NFTs. There are simply no artists who haven’t started thinking of, or at least read about, NFTs by now. Hopefully, NFT MENA Exhibit 2022 has played a role in explaining this interesting field.
OHLALA – What are the most exciting things about Bahrain in the artistic field?
Leena – Bahrain is relatively small when it comes to the NFT world. I love Bahrain because you literally know everyone in this field, so it makes it easier for everyone to get the support they need. That creates opportunities for emerging artists that it would be nearly impossible to get in other countries. Bahrain is a perfect launching pad for any talented artist.