Taskeen Zahra chats with the one man army behind the Pencil House, Ali Mesum and his struggle as an artist in Pakistan
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Ali Mesum, I am 20 years old, from Lahore currently studying Architecture DesignÂ at the prestigious National College of Arts, Lahore. I run a page named PENCIL HOUSE (oneÂ man army) where I sell my art work and customized accessories. I love making portraits, 7Â billion faces and each one of them is unique in its own way. I had no idea Iâ€™d be here where I amÂ today a few years ago I was an average student destined to be an engineer I used to drawÂ whenever I could but I had never thought of myself studying in an art school because the societyÂ in which we live in, art as a career is very critically viewed. My interests are very mixed up, IÂ walk a lot, I remember 2 years ago I didnâ€™t even know how to handle a camera though my fatherÂ was a photographer but one day all of a sudden the interest developed I learned and well itÂ became a hobby. If I want to do something Iâ€™ll dig down to the roots of it, if I donâ€™t well goodÂ luck convincing me to do it. I like to keep myself busy 24/7 or else the existential crisis kicks in.
From the little experience that Iâ€™ve had Iâ€™ve learned 2 things.
1. â€œWHATEVER HAPPENS, HAPPENS FOR A REASON(OUR BEST INTREST)â€
2. â€œTHERE IS ALWAYS A BRIGHT SIDE TO EVERYTHINGâ€
How would you describe your sense of aesthetic in three words?
Iâ€™d rather say in a quoteÂ â€œ there is perfection in the imperfectionsâ€
What is your most preferred medium to work with?
Pencils, Pencils and pencils – give me pencil and a paper and Iâ€™ll be the happiest baby in the room.
Who are your biggest three inspirations in the art world?
My biggest inspiration is Sir. Saeed Akhtar (My Teacher) after that I love the works ofÂ Rembrandt and Van Gough.
What is your go-to place for inspiration?
My Bathroom. Haha, just kidding. Iâ€™d go sit somewhere quiet without any distractions preferably aloneÂ to get my process going.
What made you want to start the Pencil House?
Well the idea of it came to my mind in my gap year. That was the time when I got rejected by allÂ the Universities including NCA. I had nothing to do. I had lost all hope. Wanted to do somethingÂ to prove to myself and others that this was just a bump on the road and that this rejection wasnâ€™tÂ the end but a beginning. That was the point when Pencil House started.
What kind of things do you offer at the Pencil House?
Quick Sketches, Portraits (B&W/Colored), Customizable Metal Tags, Customizable ButtonÂ Badges, Wall Designs, String Designs.
What is the funniest thing a customer has ever asked you to draw?
I donâ€™t remember exactly but this once I had to make a sketch of a hybrid of a humanâ€™s face andÂ a Monkeyâ€™s face it turned out pretty funny.
What is the most memorable sketch you remember making and why?
It was my NANAâ€™s portrait, he told me he wanted something he could show to other people andÂ Alhamdullilah it was one of the most realistic portraits I did at that time. I have a lot ofÂ attachment to that portrait.
One person that you would love to make a piece for and why?
For my teacher Sir. Saeed Akhtar. I CAN but I never did because well heâ€™s the master and Iâ€™m just well a bit scared.
Did you always know you wanted to go to art school?
NOPE! As I mentioned earlier I was destined to be an engineer I did have art school in myÂ mind but it wasnâ€™t the priority for my parents. It was for me though.
Biggest support system?
My biggest support system are my ABU and MAMA without them I would not be the person IÂ am today. It is all because of them.
What are your plans for the future?
Well the priority is to complete my studies and expanding pencil house. And to travel A LOT.