Magic Down Under: Sparks Fly, I Draw
Nour, the artist better known by Sparks Fly I Draw, has developed a following for her unique style. Finding her Instagram, I instantly vibed with her work. We set up an interview, the snag being to find the right time — she’s in Sydney, I’m in New York. 16 Hour difference. We set it for the weekend, and I gave her a call my Friday night.
When she picked up, the first thing I heard was meowing.
“Sorry!” Sparks said in a charming aussie accent. It was Saturday morning. Birds were chirping. The cat was hungry.
After she fed him, we got into the interview. We spoke with casual conversation, and during our pleasant chat, Sparks told me about her style and story.
Scrolling through her insta-feed, you see many shades of black and white, and the gray between. Neon and aqua colors pop up, striking against the sea of monochrome portraits. Some of Sparks most powerful pieces seamlessly blend the forms. I noticed one of the most recurring motifs was horses.
“[Horses] are my spirit animal.”
Sparks is a rider, and she holds a respect for the animal’s power.
“They’re these huge, massive, muscle-y beasts right? But they are so delicate and sensitive. A full grown horse can weigh almost a ton. They’re so powerful… they force you to level yourself.”
This meditative leveling is what draws Sparks to the sport. Horses can sense fear, as well as pride.
"You can have control, you can have understanding, but you cannot have an ego with them. They’ll just throw you off. They’ll beat you to pulp, easily.”
Sparks spends a lot of her time in the countryside. One of her neighbors is an equestrian, and has a stable of 8 horses.
"I’m that weird neighbor, that just comes and stares at her horses.” Sparks laughed. Her connection with horses is like a semi-psychic emotional bond.
"One horse in particular, Morocco, huge, but he’s just like a puppy. He’ll roll around and follow you and get too close.”
Nature has been a strong influence on her aesthetic, often depicted with minimalistic technique. Sparks takes an organic approach to creativity.
“One minute, I’ll do a line drawing, and the next I’ll do something really chaotic with color.”
To her, "creativity is another being,” and as it travels, she follows. Though sometimes she doesn’t know where it will take her.
One of the muses that guides Sparks is jazz. Late at night, she tosses on some Nina Simone, and draws across her notepad.
“I can listen to [Nina] all day and not get sick of her… Jazz is one of the purest forms of music.”
Beyond the subject matter, the beauty in her art develops from its radiant honesty.
The Art of Practice
When she was younger, Sparks was at her aunt’s house, studying for her “university” exams. Frustrated with the college prep, she began doodling. When she left, she “threw it in the bin.” Coming back the next day, her aunt had taken it out of the trash.
“I was like, that’s scrap.”
"No, no you should do more!" Her aunt encouraged.
“That was the first time I thought ‘maybe yeah I will explore it a little bit more.’” She always loved drawing, but now she took art more seriously.
Sparks laughed at herself, joking that if you go to the beginning of the Instagram, her artwork shows an amateur.
“There was something there, but I had to nurture it, I had to practice and constantly challenge myself.”
Scrolling through, you see how much her style has grown. Her dedication to practicing shows in her craft.
“The more you draw, the more honest, the more authentic you are with yourself and what you want your work to be.”
Now 22, the young artist has experimented with different ways of practicing. One of her past resolutions was to write down 10 ideas a day, and review the list when she went to draw. Few materialized on the page.
“I have all these plans for artwork, all these concepts. I’m a machine! I can’t wait to draw these. And then, when I come to the paper, I only have a certain extent of control… I’ll draw something different. I think it’s about tapping that element that’s in all of us, that’s completely unique and authentic and honest. The more you do that… your style will catch up to you.”
Sparks is a big reader. “I read more than I draw.” Lately, she’s been reading Big Magic, written by Elizabeth Gilbert. [Better known for her book: Eat, Pray, Love.] The book is about finding creative essence. She liked Gilbert’s emphasis on art flowing from positivity, rather than just a cliché of the tortured artist.
This positive approach is the reason behind the Instagram name, Sparks Fly, I Draw, because “of that sizzle when creativity and passion collide and materialize. I guess those sparks are the closest we can get to magic. The magic of creating something true.”
Although she’s amassed over 22k followers on Instagram, she creates not for outward validation, but inner understanding.
“Art needs to be authentic, because that’s why you do it. You’re looking for truth within yourself.”
Family & Faith
Sparks has lived in Sydney her whole life, “born here and brought up here.” Her dad is Egyptian, and her mom is Pakistani, but they’re all Australian. However, like many of our generation, she’s a global soul.
While her cultural identity has felt “diluted” in her family, as they’ve all lived life down-under, aspects of her background resonate in her art. Still, she’s absorbed bits of everywhere she has been to.
“Traveling has shaped me more than having this kind of culture at home.” She laughed. “I’m a bit of a mix.”
Thanks to her dad’s business ventures, she’s traveling throughout the Middle East. Sparks loved Turkey, feeling a connection. Dubai, less so. Her father’s work took her there often, but she didn’t like the crude steel of the big city. She missed Sydney, where “there’s nature everywhere."
Sparks has since settled back home in Australia, finishing her Bachelor’s degree. The middle child of three, she has an older brother and a younger sister, and grew up with lots of freedom. She's set up her own studio away from home, where she toils away on her art. In truth, Sparks likes living with her family — “I’d go a little crazy, living on my own."
Family and faith play a huge role in Sparks life. She is Muslim, and growing up with her family was a more conservative household. At first, she felt restricted by her religion. However, she came to realize that faith does not need to be constrictive, but instead can be liberative.
As she got older, she came to realize faith is deeper than just observing rituals.
"A lot of times, I thought, I can’t do this because of my faith. But I actually could do it better because of my faith, not despite it!"
For Sparks, she came to understand that faith is about worship through love, not mere obligation. To her, faith means purifying her heart by digging deeper within herself and finding God there. “The only way out, is in.”
This understanding has helped her art. By coming to terms with her faith, she was able to develop a more authentic relationship with herself. To Sparks, faith is also about putting trust in the unknown.
"Even if i don’t completely understand something right now, I trust it enough… it’s the truth. You can’t escape the truth, for long.” She said laughing.
As we began to wrap-up the interview, I asked Sparks what she was working on lately. Mostly, she’s been focused on her schoolwork and earning her bachelor’s degree. I was surprised to learn, she doesn’t study art, but science instead. Her field is biology. “It’s torture, but it’s exciting.” After university, she wants to go into teaching and genetics research.
I noted that the different aspects of her life — art, nature, faith, science — seem a little contradictory. I asked if she ever felt divided. As always, she took it with good humor.
“They’re all related, we try to break them apart, but they’re all together. They’re a family.” She laughed.
“Art is people seeking truth through emotion and through the heart, while science is trying to seek the truth through facts and experiments, things that are tangible, through the brain. And then faith is this thing in between. You can ignore it, but at the same time you can’t. Because there’s something we don’t know, something beyond our understanding.”
I heard the smile in her voice as she explained, "They all come from truth."
Photo courtesy of Sparks Fly I Draw