End of an Era ... Sort Of

As of tomorrow, my art will no longer be hung at the CoCA gallery or Freshy's Coffee. It's truly been a wonderful and surreal experience showcasing my work in these venues, and I am so grateful I that had those opportunities.

When it comes to trying to get your artwork hung in public places, I've found that it requires being super proactive and persistent. I've had so many cases where I contacted a venue several times (of course I would leave some breathing room in between messages because obviously I don't want to seem like a crazy person) and never heard back. But, it's one of those things where if you notice something isn't working out or going anywhere, you just have to move forward and look out for your next possible opportunity. 

I look forward to getting my art hung in more places hopefully soon! I will keep all you lovely artists and art lovers out there updated for the next time you can see my portraits on display. :)

Exhibition at the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)

Exhibition at the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)

Exhibition at Freshy's Coffee in West Seattle

Exhibition at Freshy's Coffee in West Seattle


Exhibitions Going on Now

Man, this has been a major week! I now have my art in two locations at the same time! :)

Until the last week of May, you can see "Daisy #2" at CoCA (find out how to get there when you click here) and 9 of my charcoal pieces (including "Daisy #2") at Freshy's Coffee (the West Seattle location). Also, when you drop by Freshy's you'll get to see some beautiful paintings by Eva Lu

Below are snapshots I took at both locations ...

First Thursday opening reception at CoCA

First Thursday opening reception at CoCA

At Freshy's Coffee in West Seattle

At Freshy's Coffee in West Seattle

Also, check this out! This is the catalog CoCA had printed for the exhibition.


Anyway, I hope you'll be able to stop by at either or both places before May comes to a close. And, if/when you do, let me know what you think!

Yep, I Totally Framed Her

This may be a sort of minor update, but I was so excited about it I just had to share! 
Today, I framed my "Daisy #2" piece that's going to be featured at the CoCA gallery this May. It looks so much more like an official art piece now ... though I still have to take off the annoying cardboard corners. I'll be leaving this task to the framing experts at Michael's, simply because I don't trust myself to do it without accidentally ruining the frame.


Guess What? My Art will be in a gallery this May!

I have a major announcement: My piece "Daisy #2" (below) will be featured in an art gallery exhibition this May! Specifically, the gallery is CoCA (Center on Contemporary Art), located in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. As someone who had two amazing internships and volunteers there, I feel super proud to have my work be in its space and I couldn't be more thrilled!

Click here to read details on the exhibition and be sure to mark your calendars for the opening reception, May 3rd, 6-9 p.m.! :)


Song of the Week

I'm trying out this new thing where I share "Song of the Week" posts. Music has always been an important part of my life and also one of my must-haves for when I'm creating my artwork. I thought I'd share whatever particular songs have helped me get "in the zone" while art making, and also it's always fun in general to talk about good music!

What songs get you in the zone when you want to get creative? Here's one of my top choices ...

SONG OF THE WEEK: "Desperado" by Rihanna

Back when I spent most of my free time choreographing at the Velocity Dance Center (in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle), I would often find myself overthinking every move I came up with. The song let me loosen up, lose the fear of doing a "wrong" move and just go with the flow. Out of that came some of the dance moves I was most proud of that were part of a performance I did sometime last year.

It turns out the song has had a similar effect when it comes to my drawing process. I tend to get too cautious and worry I'm going to do a "wrong" stroke that's going to ruin the whole sketch, and the song (among other songs from the same Rihanna album) has helped me get out of my head, really focus and lose the fear of making mistakes. Besides, awhile ago I had decided to force myself to make any drawing mistakes look like they were done on purpose, so it all seems to be working out so far. :)

Exhibition Update: Opening Night Details


As you already know, my artwork (including the below portrait titled "Hope") will be on display at Freshy’s in West Seattle during the month of May. But, it’s also important to know that May 1 is opening night! Be sure to drop by between 6 and 8:30 p.m. to enjoy some art and delicious beer. :)


ANNOUNCEMENT: Exhibition in May 2018!

Happy Friday, fellow art lovers!

I am thrilled to announce that I will be showcasing my work at Freshy's (the West Seattle location) during the month of May! Expect to see some of my favorite charcoal pieces as well as a few of the reworked versions I did recently on Illustrator. Not only that, but you'll also have the pleasure of seeing some great pieces by Eva Lu. Stay tuned for details about the exhibition, but for now I've shared a quick preview below. Also, please help spread the word by sharing this blog post on your social media page(s) and/or by sharing the Facebook event page I've created. 


ANNOUNCEMENT: Rebranding Coming Soon

Hey guys!
I wanted you to know that pretty soon I'll be giving my brand and website a big makeover. This may or may not include changing Black & White by Shirene to a different name. I'm super excited and a little nervous ... and it might partly be because I have at least a hundred business cards with my current brand name printed on them and I wonder how much it would/will cost to print new ones. 

Anyway, stay tuned for the new version of my website! :)


With love,


A Pop of Color

Last night, I gave it another go at taking one of my charcoal portraits and adding effects and color to it. This time, I did it to "The Gaze" (you can see the original charcoal piece below). I decided to go simple rather than adding lots of color (like when I added pink and green to "Daisy"). Let me know what you think! :)

"The Gaze" (the original piece)

"The Gaze" (the original piece)


Black & White ... & Red

This past weekend, I experimented a little more with my "Daisy" piece on Illustrator with my Intuos graphic tablet. Being the type of person who always likes to mix things up, I tried for something completely different from what I've done for my previous versions of "Daisy" -- I added some Farsi and a splash of red on top of the black and white portrait. Also, instead of my usual Spotify playlist I decided to give it a go at listening to Anna Faris' podcast (it's called Anna Faris Is Unqualified and it's super funny and entertaining).

Anyway, my illustration turned out like this ...

"Hope" (2018)

"Hope" (2018)

Fun fact: Because the last time I made a real attempt at writing in Farsi was during the Saturday morning Farsi classes I took in sixth grade, it ended up being quite the challenge to master writing what you see above. I think it took me about 20 or so tries to make it look somewhat decent.

Anyway, I hope you like this more intense version of "Daisy." Or, if you don't like it, I'm fine with that as well. As long as the picture is causing some sort of strong reaction, I'm happy.

Getting in Touch With My Inner Leslie Knope

For years, my precious charcoal drawings were sitting in my sketchbook, waiting to be released from their mini prison. Today, I finally set them free. 

If you know me, you know I get a lot of joy from organizing and doing other super productive things. I like to think of myself as a less intense version of Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation. So, not only did I finally rip the cherished pages from my sketchbook but I also slid each piece in a plastic sleeve and put all the sketches in a (really cute) binder in chronological order. 

Thanks to my inner Leslie, a cup of coffee and a trip I had made the day before to Michaels (where I try not to go more than once a week ... #addict), I was able to get all of this done in a flash. Also, I can't stand how adorable the binder is; I go crazy for coral and simply the act of resting my eyes on the gold pattern makes me happy.


Basically, it feels damn good to be organized especially when it concerns something you truly care about. Plus, it's a lot of fun.

Finding Inspiration

Sometimes, whether it's at the end of a work day or after I've drawn several portraits on a Saturday, my brain feels fried. That's when I know I need to take a break and look for inspiration. I always rely on this to recharge my brain and help propel me toward making more drawings. 

By looking for inspiration, I of course mean scrolling through Instagram (I'm obsessed) for any artsy images or specifically looking through Instagram profiles of artists I admire (some of whom are below). You'll notice right away that all the artists here have styles and media completely different from mine. Looking at their pieces feels super refreshing for my brain after it has focused so much for so long solely on charcoal and paper.

I included just one image per artist in this post but I definitely encourage you to see more of their work on their websites (or Instagram pages if you're like me) if you want to be inspired as well. :)

(Fun fact: I have this image as my desktop photo at home and at work!)


(As an artist and coffee fanatic, I very closely identified with this specific piece.)


Watermelon Daisy

If you read my last blog post, you're already aware of my latest obsession: my new Wacom Intuos Pro tablet. 
This past week, I've used the tablet to add color to my latest charcoal portrait (see below). I didn't add any filters on top unlike what I did for the first piece; I just added the green in the background and various shades of pink and red on the lips. Along the way, I somehow ended up with this watermelon theme. It was totally unintentional, but I don't mind it. :)

"Daisy" (2018)

"Daisy" (2018)

"Watermelon Daisy" (2018)

"Watermelon Daisy" (2018)

Stay tuned for more versions I plan on making of the same drawing. I might keep the same colors in there and add filters on top to make the charcoal strokes darker and more intense.

Blast From My Past

This past week, my Wacom Intuos Pro came in the mail and it felt like Christmas morning. After getting the hang of using the tablet and pen with my laptop, I decided to revamp a charcoal portrait I had done back in high school that was based on a Burberry magazine ad.

It took awhile to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with the drawing, and at the same time I had to try to figure out how to solve the problem of the picture not being of the best quality. It was slightly pixelated and blurry. Below is the first result of reworking the portrait on Illustrator.

Decided on a whim to title this "Women in Motion"

Decided on a whim to title this "Women in Motion"

Not only was this fun because I did it all while blasting Katy Perry and Britney Spears on Spotify, but it also felt great to work more freely with tablet and pen. And, I then made a second version of the portrait ...

Big surprise, but this is titled "Women in Motion #2"

Big surprise, but this is titled "Women in Motion #2"

Overall, I enjoyed adding lots of texture to the charcoal piece (which I thought helped solve the pixelated-look problem) and more texture on top of that with the bright illustrations. Stay tuned for when I make more versions ...

Gaining Strength Through Drawing

Originally posted on September 4, 2016.


Today, I decided to try something new: drawing a portrait where the subject's eyes aren't the main focus. Pretty much all my other portraits have the woman's eyes open and directed near or at the viewer, but this time I wanted to have the eyes diverted.

It's almost like what they say about the five senses where if one is blocked then the other four gain strength. After choosing to block most of my concentration from the eyes, that focus gravitated toward the woman's other facial features. I even ended up spending more time on shading. The original photo barely had any shadows, and I wanted to make my drawing a more intense version.

Also, I diverted a bit from my general drawing routine in terms of the music I listen to. I went for something fierce to hopefully bring out more emotion in my piece, and I ended up going with a Kimbra playlist. I hadn't listened to her in awhile and always loved her style! Below is the music video of one of my favorite Kimbra tracks. Enjoy!

One Woman, One Voice

Originally posted on August 28, 2016.

When you look at these two images side by side, it's obvious one is straight up the zoomed-in version of the other. But, if you were only observing one of the two on its own, you'd probably come up with a different interpretation.

This was the idea I explored while drawing the above piece. I didn't want to copy the original photo (which I found thanks to Google search); I tried to think of a way to illustrate the same woman in a new perspective. Thus, the close-up drawing.

The eyes have always been my favorite facial feature to draw just because here I have the freedom to add as much intensity as I want in the person's expression (which always turns out to be a lot). Surprisingly, I also found that for this specific picture I could add intensity through the eyebrows. Something about this woman's eyebrows made me think I could use them to make her face bolder, more attention grabbing.

The woman in the image on the right has stopped in the middle of an outdoor stroll to wonder where she's going next (literally and figuratively), looking to the viewer for some sort of possible guidance. The woman on the left, however, is in deep thought, too deep to even realize there is a viewer. She's withdrawn from any outside influences or voices and is focusing on the internal, relying on her voice and her voice alone to tell her where she's headed next.

Dance the Night Away

Originally posted on August 26, 2016.

Last night, I decided to divert a bit from my usual style of portrait drawing. Instead of zooming in on and making sure to carve every facial feature of a woman's face, I focused on drawing the whole body. I also told myself not to spend more than five minutes on each piece. And, of course, I only drew dancers. :)

In case you didn't already know, I. Love. Dance. I've also always been fascinated in general by the human figure, whether I'm watching someone perform a modern dance piece or catching sight of a Bernini sculpture, dramatic movement and muscle and all. Thus, even though I didn't spend that much time on the above pieces, I put most of my energy into detailing the dancers' muscle tones. I wanted to accentuate the power and contagious energy that a person can carry within them, which shows through movement, especially dance.

Embrace the Fall

Originally posted on August 19, 2016.


Above is my first-ever abstract portrait. Specifically, it's my first-ever abstract self portrait, reflecting the past month or so where I've been coming to terms with past events in my life.

I won't go in too much detail, but I recently realized that while I believed I had dealt with the past events and moved on, I really was pretending that they had no effect on me. Basically, I was in denial. I believed I was untouchable. Some of the past hardships took place as far as 20 years ago, so I was struck with the fact that I have a lot of catching up to do. This is where I explain why my self portrait is abstract: After I came to the realization, all the memories and feelings started adding weight to my shoulders; one day, I was so overwhelmed I reached the point where I suddenly saw my body in the form of flat shapes falling on top of each other and crumbling to the ground.
What was most interesting about this moment was that I couldn't remember the last time I saw a mental image so clearly. So, I saw it as a sign that I had to get it down on paper.

I used to think that realistic looking portraits, drawings that were faithful to original images, were more powerful than abstract portraits, but now I see it all differently. These last few weeks also taught me art can be used as a reminder of one's past and of the lessons that came out of it. I actually still have the drawing open in my sketchbook in my room so that I don't go through a day without seeing it. It reminds me that even though I may fake smiles for the sake of others, I don't have to fake a smile at myself.


Originally posted on June 21, 2016.


The above photo is my latest work. It's the first time maybe in years that I've used charcoal and oil pastel in a single piece. Oh, and I have my adorable 7-year-old cousin to thank for generously lending me his oil pastel set. He's an angel. :)

As per usual, I had grabbed a picture that caught my eye after typing something along the lines of "portrait photography" in Google search. But, this time I chose to draw a figure instead of a face. Also, I decide to create a portrait of a woman facing away from the viewer rather than toward the viewer. I was generally faithful to the original photo of the dancer ... except for the fact that I completely removed her dance partner. I wanted the woman to be alone to give the piece an air of solitude -- not in a negative way, but in the sense of one facing inward, toward your own thoughts instead of focusing on all things outside yourself. Basically, I wanted to focus on the internal versus the external. I partly chose to think this way while drawing because generally I see dance as a profound way of expressing oneself, of deciding who you want to be and how to portray that through movement.

Do you modify original images as you draw or paint? If so, to what degree? What things inspire you to do this?

Another Case of the Unfinished

Originally posted on April 26, 2016.

So, the above drawing was my second attempt at doing the whole half-winging-it-half-being-faithful-to-the-original-photograph thing, except in this case I winged not actually finishing the drawing.
This might have partially come from how I've been listening to a lot of Nirvana lately (specifically the MTV Unplugged in New York album, if you must know) and how I've had a lot of necessarily and unnecessarily stressful things turning over in my mind. Thus, my artistic style became more aggressive, rushed and borderline sloppy.

Usually, when I veer away from my usual artistic style like this I give myself major guilt trips, but this time I'm fine with the change. The different mindset allowed me to explore a different way of creating art. I also like how it added a bit more of variety to my range of pieces.

Do you rely on being in a certain state of mind for when you draw/paint/etc.?