Having always dreamt of becoming a full-time artist, Amy Shoukry quit a lucrative corporate job to pursue her passion for painting and making furniture. A skilled pianist who practices her music on the side as well, Shoukry shows us all that it’s never too late to pursue your passion. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey sat down with this passionate artist to find out more about her exciting, exceptional journey.
How did you decide to get into art full time?
I grew up in a very artistic household. There was always music playing in our house and my family was very enamoured with art. So as a young girl, I became enchanted with art and was very keen on learning and practising art in my free time. When I was older, I worked at several corporate jobs and was very successful in my field, and I was also busy with my children, so taking up art as a career remained just an aspiration for a long time. It was always a hobby, however. It wasn’t until I was well into my 50s that I took a step back and thought to myself, “this needs to be my life.” So I quit my corporate job and started my career as a full-time artist.
What was that transition like?
It was tough at the beginning. It’s a big leap to go from a job with a steady income to a career where nothing is guaranteed. As an artist, you can spend months not making any money, then suddenly you get a big pay, then go back to not getting any money again. With time, however, I became accustomed to that. Thankfully, I was also always very smart financially. So while I no longer wanted a corporate job, I’m grateful for those years because they allowed me to pursue art freely. Everyone around me knew that I wanted to be a full-time artist because they saw that it was my true passion in life. When it was just a hobby, everyone, especially my daughters, would always encourage me to sell my paintings, which I had been giving to my friends for free!
How would you describe your art?
My art is very much inspired by Indian culture. I paint women you don’t typically see in paintings. I spent a lot of my childhood in India so I always associate my paintings with those happy days. It was really a surreal experience, living there and being a part of their culture. India has this essence that really inspires you as an artist. I also love painting portraits of iconic Egyptian stars like Faten Hamama and Mary Moneib, among others. I have those hung all around my house. I just find that classic stars really inspire me for some reason. They were really big personalities full of life, and they bring out the best in my art. I also pay very great attention to detail. If you look at my paintings you will never find a piece that is blurry.
What was it like painting Injy El Mokkaddem for our Covers Reimagined event?
It was really fun creating that painting. Injy seems like a very joyous person who is full of life. When I met her at the event and got to see her reaction to the painting, I was very pleased. She was very friendly and nice and I really enjoyed interacting with her on that level!
You also play music, can you tell us a bit about that?
I used to sing at concerts, back in the day. Now I have a piano at home that I practice on every day. I sort of play by ear. I find that it releases a lot of emotion that I have inside and it’s very expressive in a way that is different from painting. I wouldn’t say I’m as passionate about music as I am about painting, but I am very dedicated to practising for at least an hour a day.
Tell us more about your furniture?
Alongside painting, I also design furniture like tables and chairs, etc. I buy all the material myself and either paint on them or etch designs into wood and metal. I get commissioned to work on different pieces of furniture and I have even done the furniture for entire houses. To choose the right art with the right colours can change a house completely. You can decorate a whole house around a table or even around a painting.
What do you think is different about you as an artist?
I’m not very commercial and I don’t really want to be. I kind of live in seclusion, away from the spotlight as much as possible. I don’t strive to be famous or be a known artist. Despite that, I still get clients, because word of mouth is the biggest PR for an artist. I don’t like doing exhibitions, simply because they can actually be very discouraging to an artist. I don’t look for clients; I wait for them to find me.
I don’t want to paint anything I don’t want to paint. Even though I do commissioned paintings, I still very much love the paintings that I create based on a client’s request. I have clients all around the world, even in Amsterdam! I’m also very affordable. Perhaps too affordable; people tell me to raise my prices all the time. But it would be unfair. I feel like I’m happy with what I charge. I don’t do art to make money. I do this because I love doing it. This might be a flaw, but I don’t like to be commercial.
What do want to do in the future?
I’m actually expanding into fashion very soon with a collection called Little Women, inspired by my daughters. I’m very inspired when it comes to fashion right now, and I’m going to be holding a fashion show for the collection. Aside from that, I’m going to continue working on my art and paintings. I have a few commissioned paintings I’m currently working on. I’m so happy to be doing what I do!