The year was 2015. I met Faisal Warsani for the first time at the Thai How Are You restaurant on Guadalupe & W 21st St in Austin, Texas, where he studies architecture. I grew up 15 minutes from Detroit and Faisal is a Chicago native. Naturally, we spoke about the Midwest. I was (and am still) not a fan of Austin. Faisal treated me to some fried rice. As we had never met in real life before, I was strangely touched. Little did I know how many more interesting meals we would share together in the future - in places like Toronto, Los Angeles, and Paris.
Faisal and I have been communicating online since around 2009 when we were both active in an internet forum for our favourite Canadian musician, Lights. In 2016, we took a trip to Los Angeles together to see her. We got a lot more than we bargained for that summer. I'll say, when your best friend is an architecture student, it's not hard to access the Frank Sinatra suite of the Beverly Hills Hotel. You might even run into Lana del Rey by the pool of the Pink Palace. We were at the Cabana Café and I'll never forget the awed tone of Faisal's voice when he realized that Lana had swept by me.
When I met Faisal, he had under 500 Instagram followers. Today, nearly thirty three thousand people are interested in his tropical temperament. When it comes to this social media platform, Faisal can be very preoccupied with getting the proportions and lines "just right" ... but he also has the capacity to kick back and laugh at a toddler like Tatan.
RS: Can you tell my readers what you do, Faisal?
FW: I paint. I make ponds. I design non-existent architectural projects (for now). I am passionate about painting tropical landscapes, the places I can escape to. I've always wanted to paint and design luxury homes so it's quite satisfying to see that my trajectory consists of that.
RS: What's the process for these ponds?
FW: In terms of concept, my ponds haven’t changed much over the years but, technically, they improve with every collection. I’ve grown from making each individual koi out of clay to popping them out of a mold (that I made, after modeling a “perfect” koi). I use small pebbles as well as fake plants from local craft stores or the pet store. They’re the perfect scale. And I’ve been constantly experimenting with new ideas. For example, my seascapes that include other types of creatures like dolphins or whales. I found the tiniest little plastic animals and felt they’d be perfect on some sand, at the bottom of the sea floor.
RS: Perfect. What does nature reflect to you, in your lush life?
FW: I'm an indoor and outdoor person, because I love being by the beach but also love my bed. Nature is my main source of inspiration. My favorite destination is Hawaii. It's an indescribable connection that I have with that string of islands. I just feel this sense of belonging, and it's an endless source of inspiration and beauty for an artist like me. I feel most comfortable when I'm plugged into my headphones and painting, in isolation.
RS: Isolation is the best. *laughs* We met online and are both very introverted.
FW: I get weighed down by the pressures of communication, sometimes. People don't understand my desire to be alone. I'm not used to being in constant communication with people especially in "real life." Italy was a challenge for that reason.
RS: Ah yes, you were studying architecture in a rural environment.
FW: Italy taught me a lot. For one, it showed me that I can be a spoiled brat and still live in a foreign country where I have to walk up and down a hill to do laundry. I can adjust to situations where I am totally uncomfortable. I am aware that this will make me sound entitled. Despite that, I was able to manage myself for 3 months abroad, in constant communication with people with little to no time alone. It took a major toll on my state of mind that I am just now calming down from.
RS: I can understand that. How do you deal with obsessive thoughts?
FW: I don’t. I think being obsessive is part of my personality, I mean… I do have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. It used to really distract me from getting things done and doubt myself but I have grown into it. I can’t really change that until I change parts of my behavior which is easier said than done. I obsess over the tiniest details that literally nobody will notice. I think I do it for myself. I have high standards, that when met, are that much more rewarding.
RS: What calms you?
FW: Family calms me down because I feel understood. No one gets me like my mom does. She knows me better than I know myself and I often look to her for support in almost every aspect of my life. Even if she hasn’t experienced what I have experienced, she is very skilled in empathy. She’s a true role model. I can relate to [my brother] Faiz a lot because we have similar mindsets. My parents are both very supportive of everything I do. I just feel so comfortable at home, I’m a true homebody. I don’t like leaving the house when I’m home on breaks [from university].
RS: Nothing good gets away. We say that all the time, but what does it mean to you?
FW: That Steinbeck quote really stuck with me in a time when I wondered why seemingly good “things” were slipping away. But I’ve learned, over a long period of time, that "what is meant for you, will reach you even if it is between two mountains. And what isn’t meant for you, won’t reach you even if it is between your two lips.”
RS: Favourite artists and architects?
FW: Artists - Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Edward Hopper, and Riusuke Fukahori.
Architects - Peter Zumthor, Carlo Scarpa, Mies van der Rohe, and Zaha Hadid.
RS: What do young artists need?
FW: They need freedom to do as they please without question, but criticism is important. I wish I were exposed to art history. With architecture, I can get bored with school projects. To overcome that… give yourself time to accept your work and appreciate your work.
RS: Are you at peace with your art and your self? Do they feel like the same thing?
FW: I’m not at peace, mentally, and I think ultimately it will take time. Everything takes time. Time seems to be the answer to everyone’s problems. Is it? There are moments when I DO feel completely at peace about my art and myself and to think that that feeling could last forever is inspirational. Lights seems to be at peace with her art and herself, and I know she has an extra ten years on me so if I can be as successful as she is in terms of that, I’d be really happy.
Take a break from your daily grind and relax in a serene environment...
faisalwarsani.com // @faisalwarsani // Paradise Ponds