Maha Kamal is an attorney in Colorado and founder of the Colorado Family Law Project, a family law firm. Maha was born in Aurora, Colorado and is everything Colorado. She graduated with honors from the International Baccalaureate program at Smoky Hill High School in 2003. She then went on to obtain her Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the University of Colorado at Boulder as well as her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Denver.
But this piece is not about her work as an attorney. This piece is about Maha's contributions to our state as an artist. From writing to digital and hand drawing, Maha’s imagination and skill transcend mediums and display tremendous imagination.
Maha describes her style a bit abstract, very playful, and caricature/cartoon oriented. However, Maha has been experimenting with other styles and break out of her comfort zone. She just started taking private classes at Art Garage in light and shadow (the one thing, which, in her estimation most every artist struggles with).
Maha started drawing at an early age. She made comic books as early as kindergarten and into middle & high school years. Maha shares, “I spent a lot of my middle school and high school years immersed in art. As part of the International Baccalaureate program in high school, I specialized in Art as my Sixth Subject (specialty subject).”
While Maha dropped off in her artistic pursuits for a while, most recently (in 2016), Maha discovered Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver. Maha is currently in their Book Project, a two-year, mini-MFA program designed to help authors complete their draft manuscript. Maha is working on a short story collection of South Asian sci-fi ("Black Mirror-esque"). Maha also often takes classes at Lighthouse and sits on their Board of Directors.
When asked what piece Maha is the proudest of, and why, Maha answers, “That’s a hard question! I have a lot that I really like.” But she continues, “Digitally, I actually love this comic strip that’s based on an auto-fiction novel I started writing. It’s about my journey through my subconscious state, where I meet old friends like my Teddy Bear and this cheetah who was an imaginary friend. It’s got an existential theme to it, kind of dark and abstract like Dali.”
Maha’s difficulty in picking a piece is not surprising. Her self-portrait, which Maha describes as “a mix between my afro (which is pretty iconic) and a gazelle,” has garnered much positive reactions. However, what most don’t know is that “Maha” is Arabic meaning a species of gazelle native to the Middle East (“Al-Maha”).
Maha mixed them together to create an abstract self-portrait, which is striking on its own but intriguing once the layers are peeled back. Another piece, adigital self-portrait in black and white was published in the Stonecoast Review earlier this year too.
As far as traditional art goes, Maha shares that she had fun doing some finger painting a few years back. The resulting piece is supposed to be a mix between Putin and John Lennon (“Don’t ask why, I don’t know,” she adds), and the final product came out a lot like Dr. Strangelove.
“Speaking of Putin,” she muses, “I really like this charcoal portrait that I did of him. Still working on light and shadow but that’s the best I’ve done so far.” It’s an interesting choice of subject but striking for sure.
Maha has found places in Denver to help her hone her skills. Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop is he favorite place in the city and if she wants to channel her energy for a short story, she spends her time either at Hooked on Colfax or at the Mercury Café. For art, Maha really loves Art Students League of Denver, “The class there on human anatomy helped her create the Putin charcoal portrait,” she explains. Maha is also currently taking private lessons at Art Garage with an artist. Sometimes she joins the Portrait Drawing Meetup at St. Mark’s Café. She loves going to the two-hour unstructured live model sessions at Denver Art Society on Sundays as well. And, “There’s also a cool live model session from time to time at the Mercury Café through the Denver Illustration Studio,” she adds. Maha also used to go to Dr. Sketchy’s on the first Sunday of the month at Zeppelin Station (co-hosted by the Denver Public Library). While raw talent is unteachable, practice makes perfect and Maha’s varied self-development endeavors make the obvious.
And the community has noticed: Maha has already won a few awards from the DBA Arts and Literature Contest.
On average, Maha spends about 4-5 hours a week on art, mostly on weekends. She also takes private classes on Mondays at Art Garage.
Her influences are varied, ranging from Quentin Blake (Roald Dahl books) to Edward Gorey, and Peggy Fortnum (Paddington Bear). Maha’s favorite digital illustrators include Loish, Jake Parker, and Aaron Blaise (former Disney animator).
When asked about the future, Maha tells us, “Well, if I take a break from family law practice, I’d love to get my degree in illustration and finally apply to work as a storyboard illustrator for Pixar. That would be pretty cool. Or write some more children’s books (I wrote and illustrated one but it was an experiment more than anything else).” I’d read it!
And for a parting thought, Maha says, “I would encourage anyone reading to make sure they are dedicating time in their lives to their passions, or trying something new like a class in writing poetry or Pottery 101. Life’s too short not to experience new ideas and things (or be chained to your office desk all the time).”
Ain’t that the truth!
Giugi Carminati is a women’s advocate and litigator. After founding The Woman’s Lawyer, a firm focused on representing victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, she joined NDH, LLC, as Managing Attorney, W & SW United States. NDH practices commercial litigation and civil rights law, including filing high impact lawsuits challenging unlawful conditions of detention, law enforcement overreach, and constitutional rights violations.
Giugi speaks four languages (French, English, Italian and Spanish). She is an avid scuba diver, sailor, and reader. She has a blog, Argue Like a Girl, and a doctorate in Space Law from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Giugi is licensed in New York, DC, Texas, and Colorado. She has been practicing eleven years, including five years as a complex commercial litigator in Houston, Texas.
Giugi is on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Community College Systems Board and Denver MAMAs. She is also co-committee chair of the CWBA’s Publications Committee.