When was the last time you thought your stretch marks were beautiful? Or better yet felt empowered by the stripes on your body? Collage artist Sara Shakeel wants you to feel this way all the time. Using photos of women posing and showing off their tiger stripes — she adds glitter to the stretch marks so they appear to be part of their bodies. Through her beautiful and empowering work, Shakeel has garnered the attention of the ‘gram, amassing over 250K followers on social media with no signs of stopping soon. We recently caught up with the collage artist — who plays with texture, color and a variety of subjects — and talked about her art, empowering women and what beauty means to her.
What's your preferred medium? Digital or physical creation?
I started off being a digital artist, and recently with my crystal artwork all over the place, I wanted to give art an extra pop! The reason I have worked on crystal I place glass on top of my crystal print, which gives [my work] a new dimension. My brain tries to experiment with everything, but I say I will be a digital collage artist for life.
How did you come up with the idea to place glitter in stretch marks?
I’ve been playing with crystals and glitter for a year now. It started almost a week ago, when I went over to my friends place for a photoshoot. I remember I was taking pictures of her for my collage art series, and she was asking me to remove her stretch marks on Photoshop. This honestly made me sad, because at first it came as a surprise for me. First, a girl so lean and thin had stretch marks on her and secondly I am a chubby girl with so many of them — and cellulite. I came back home and though I had no intentions of making art out of stretch marks, another picture of stretch marks came up — as if God had all planned this for me. I took that picture, added some glitter to it, and stared at it for a while, I have this habit of over criticising myself and my art, and still remember that feeling of asking myself again and again why the HELL anyone would be interested in me adding glitter to stretch marks. But with a crazy imagination like mine, I’ll tell you how I convinced myself and uploaded it. I imagined that when the skin stretches, glitter pops out from the inside! So the more you stretch the shinier you get. I posted that artwork, and my God! The response was super shiny!
The response to your work has been great — has social media/the Internet affected the way you make art?
Oh, absolutely. I live two lives! One here in my country Pakistan and the other through Instagram and social media. My life has changed from being a medical student to a full time artist and all the credit goes to Instagram! It’s been a rollercoaster ride. Just to give you a little sneak peek — I am coming up with a #glitterstretchmark clothing line collaboration with Mimic London this weekend! Leggings, T-shirts, along with two T-shirts dedicated to my stolen artwork by a London based magazine which features Kendall Jenner — so yeah, super exciting stuff!
I love the quote in your bio — “Each picture heals a part of me & i hope it heals a part of you too” — can you expand on what that means to you?
I am a super emotional being. Living my life is equal to having a huge magnifying glass instead of my eyes, and I see, feel and relate to almost everything I come across! I’ve gone through being rejected from numerous schools, failing my last year in dental school. Honestly, I just gave up on my studies. All my life I have been the black sheep of my family. I wish I could tell you what made me do what I do today but the whole feeling of mixing and blending pictures was so powerful that I just had to do it. I remember when I made first piece of artwork — how peaceful I felt. It was like a void being filled with contentment. I started making six to seven pictures a day! It was therapeutic for me and with time I realised that others felt the exact same way when looking at my pictures! That’s the reason I came up with this quote! It not only healed me, as a person but healed a lot [of people] out there. It’s the reason why I still exist — because there are many who can relate to me and my work!
Tell me about the proudest moment in your career thus far.
Ah! Many! When Sarah Jessica Parker commented on one of my pictures! She’s one of the kindest celebrities that I actually look up to. And when Miley Cyrus shared my artwork of Donald Trump and crystal kitty paws! Then Noah [Cyrus] shared my UFO artwork along with many other celebrities. Ii was featured on photoshop for my collage artwork and worked for a Polish artist in collaboration with Universal Music Poland. I’ve also worked with Sue Gragg precious jewels. So many doors are still opening for me; I couldn’t be more grateful! I still have a lot to achieve and I know it’s not too far away. I’m on a roll!
Fenty! Fenty! every single product from Freaking FENTY!
Aside from your wallet and phone what do you keep in your bag at all times?
Lots of tissue paper haha!
You made the jump from dentist to artist. Any advice to someone who wants to take that sort of leap?
Oh yes! For a leap of this sort you need to be fearless baby! Fearless as f*ck! Let no one decide who you are and create yourself everyday. Fall in love with your existence and believe that there was a purpose for you coming to this world. That belief and confidence will take you places. That’s a promise from God and I am living that life for sure!
What does beauty mean to you?
To believe in your abilities and to do what you want to do. And if you don’t know yet, keep on searching. Experimenting! That’s beauty according to me and the new era we live in. But having good makeup on is also plus, too.