To be a mural artist takes loads of confidence and skill because the artist paints directly on a wall, ceiling or other permanent surface, instead of on canvas, working with the architectural elements of the space to harmoniously create a picture. Struck by some of these murals we’ve come across on random walls in Colombo, [...]


Looking at the bigger picture


Shahdia Jamaldeen

To be a mural artist takes loads of confidence and skill because the artist paints directly on a wall, ceiling or other permanent surface, instead of on canvas, working with the architectural elements of the space to harmoniously create a picture.
Struck by some of these murals we’ve come across on random walls in Colombo, we caught up with some of the young artists for some insights on what it is like to paint on walls and the details and intricacies involved in working on a much larger scale.

Shahdia Jamaldeen

Shahdia Jamaldeen started her journey with art with the usual drawing on walls as a kid and using her dad’s old reports as drawing paper, all of which were encouraged by her parents as they spotted her talent and enrolled her in art classes when she was 12 years old with well-known teacher Shyamala Pinto-Jayawardene.

Studying at Bishop’s College until her London A-levels, Shahdia transferred to Ladies’ College to take Cambridge Art as a subject under her mentor Ms Jayawardene. Now a Chartered Architect, Shahdia says  her start with fine arts and the immense satisfaction she gains producing creative work without the limitations of rules and regulations are what keeps her passion for art alive.

 “Mural painting came along as a complete fluke. For a long time, I was torn between the logical world of architecture and ambiguous fine arts. Mural painting ended up being that area of overlap where I could help decide the atmosphere and ambience of a space through art,” Shahdia shares.

Murals are definitely more challenging as they require a lot of organization, preparation and physical exertion, she admits, however being able to engage more with the public balances it out. When you’re in the middle of working on a mural, you’re frequently called upon to answer questions and provide explanations to curious passersby, she says.

Collaborating with her close friends and fellow creatives Roshan De Selfa and Dumindhi Nanayakkara, Shahdia was able to complete certain murals in record time with some her favourites being a set of monochrome detail murals done for a leading telecom service provider, a set of floral pieces for O Mirissa Cafe, florals and collab work done for Hometree Co-Working and most recently a wall mural done for the It’s Wella Beach campaign.

Geshany Balder

 “ My style of art was influenced during my teens when I was introduced to Impressionism and Surrealism of the Great Masters such as Van Gogh, Monet, Dali, Miro and Klimt. The style and use of colour allowed me to enjoy acrylic as a preferred medium due to how flexible it is in terms of viscosity and fluidity. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m terrible at watercolours. My style of art evolved from those influences into something I like to think is unique hopefully,” she shares adding that her biggest goal as a creative has been to stay as original as possible.

Right now, Shahdia is focusing on illustration work and digital exploration which she calls a great experience. Check out her Instagram @thereal_slimshahdi to get a glimpse of her work.

Geshany Balder

“I have been painting for as long as I can remember,” says Geshany Balder whose murals can be seen at various spaces in Colombo such as Isso, Bakes by Bella, Space Craft studio, Baked Colombo and more.

Even when she went to Germany for a few years to study communication design, Geshany still followed art classes on the side while taking part in forums, discussions and painting together with other artists. Working in advertising for a few years after she moved back to Sri Lanka, Geshany made the tough yet easy decision to quit corporate life and become a full-time artist.

 “I thought I would mainly focus on canvas paintings however I did a mural for a friend and before I knew it, I was doing way more murals than I was doing canvas paintings because I was able to work with many different styles,” Geshany says. Usually Geshany would meet with clients and figure out what they want and then take it on from there, exploring street-style, line drawing, abstracts and more.

Right now, she is moving away from murals, taking on more commissions, creating pieces that inspire her – more muted realistic paintings with a little abstract connotations in them.

Safiya Sideek

Follow Geshany’s work on Instagram @geshany_balder

Safiya Sideek

A full-time mom to a three-year-old and  freelance artist with a Bachelor’s in Architecture, Safiya Sideek’s style borders along the lines of realism. Drawn towards hands-on craft and being very creative since very young, a factor she owes to the many innovative books her parents introduced her to, Safiya’s love for oil and fabric painting began with holiday art classes when she was 13.

 “I take inspiration from nature and my environment and whatever emotions I’m trying to resonate with. When painting on a larger scale, I prefer acrylics. I’ve used oils for a long time but acrylics are a bit simpler to work with and dry much faster than oils. I’ve recently developed a love for watercolours and love to do some urban sketching now and then,” Safiya says.

Safiya says that the ocean has been a go-to theme of hers as it can be used as a subject that depicts varying emotions.

“When different people look to the sea, it can evoke a distinctive feeling in each of them. I love how the sea can be wild and enraged whilst also being still and calm. It’s quite poetic as is everything in nature, and this is why I look to it for most of my inspiration.

 “I’ve enjoyed the murals done at  HomeTree Co-Working and the one at the Wellawatte beach. The one at Hometree was for an opening night and it helped people approach us and talk to us about our art. The one at the Wellawatte beach was to raise awareness about marine pollution and maintaining the beach as a social space,” Safiya explains adding that murals are different because walls are more textured as compared to canvas or wood and if you’re also working with a completely different medium of paint, it is a little tricky – getting the right consistency is key.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused cancellations of a few painting workshops, pop ups and live painting sessionsthat she had lined up but she has kept busy with a few commissions and used the opportunity to launch her art supplies line, Elements by Safiya – a collection of tools to help art enthusiasts keep their paraphernalia compact when on the move.

Check out Safiya’s work on Instagram @artistsafiya.s and @elementsbysafiya


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