Creating change and cultivating community with Maïa Faddoul

Montreal-based illustrator and designer Maïa Faddoul creates imagery that is vibrant, with a sense of immediacy and lightheartedness that stands in contrast with the austerity of more academic arms of design culture. While her work’s approachability is integral to Faddoul’s greater practice, she also imbues each piece with messaging that is meaningful to her. As one of the featured artists in the Adobe Express Print artist series, she brings a uniquely important perspective to the fold.

One of the more immediately striking things about the artist’s digital footprint is her outspokenness in the political arena. Faddoul’s support for the Palestinian cause has showed up in drawings, sticker fundraisers, and other artistic invitations toward engagement. At a time when artists and other public figures alike are silent for fear of losing their jobs and other funding, Faddoul has maintained a consistent voice.

“[The] positives have outweighed the negatives of being outspoken about the things that I care about because it allows me to work with clients that are or have the same values. And it just makes the work so much better because people reach out to me for things that I kind of tend to already either believe in or messages that I wanna push.”

Even when she had a corporate job, Faddoul moved toward conversation, rather than the standard of professional silence. Her move toward engagement is reflective of a greater interest in communal cooperation.

“This is the kind of stuff I would bring up even like at lunchtime. And like when people were having casual talk... I'm not like a huge extrovert or anything, but I find it mind-boggling that things can go on and we can kind of pretend they don't exist.”

Faddoul credits her upbringing with her political candor. Her father’s family is from Lebanon, while her mother’s is from Argentina. Activism on some level was a given. “Both of my parents come from countries that are historically very unstable,” she explained. “They both had to immigrate here for just, like, a chance at a better life, like most immigrants.”

Her mother often worked with immigrant communities and managed a women’s center for over 20 years, according to Faddoul. With family in Lebanon, bordering Israel-Palestine, having to do safety check-ins regarding the longstanding conflict in the region is simply a part of familial communication. Integrating a message into creative work was, in this way, second nature to Faddoul, and continues to influence what she puts into the world.

“I did a lot of pro bono work at the beginning [of my career],” she said. “I was making posters ever since I was a kid.”

“I can’t ignore these things, but both of my parents have been somewhat activists for most of my life, even though I didn’t realize it when I was a kid, but I’ve been going to protests since I was quite young.”

Faddoul’s value system is not only integrated into her art in the form of a political message but influences her style in ways she hopes to connect with others.

“I think the world of design can be kind of pretentious and there’s a lot of elitism. That’s something I never really found my place in,” she admits. “I like to see my style as something that’s perhaps more approachable and that’s one of the reasons that I love working with Adobe, because they have a lot of tools that push the idea of the democratization of design tools.”

She cites Adobe Express being free and how this allows those who can’t afford higher education access to design tools. Her ambition for her artwork is humble and incorporates a certain lightness that she hopes has a positive impact. At its core, her work is connective.

“I’m not hyper precious about it. I like my artwork to be something that perhaps makes people smile, makes people think, brightens up their day.”

It is no surprise, then, that the mantra “Create Joy” is a central message of her Adobe Express Print offerings. It’s a deceptively simple message that obviously corresponds with a deeper investment Faddoul has in her community and the world at large.

“I just want to bring color and life and happiness into whatever space I'm in, and I like to do that in a way that's not reserved to, like, a specific niche of design enjoyers, let's say,” she offers.

Eager to design for the Adobe Express Print program, Faddoul also has an Etsy shop and sells various offerings at independent stores and art markets in Montreal — which is why she sees AEP easily incorporating into her business.

“I don't have a printer at home because they're bulky; whenever I've had one, it was like a nightmare to try and upkeep,” she said. The materials become a whole other issue.

The Adobe Express Print program offers an alternative to the necessity of having printer access and presents the opportunity to experiment, which Faddoul enjoys doing often.

“I like to switch out the packaging for my shop and to do that, I don't order huge quantities, but I love, like, solutions like that that let me test out stuff,” she said.

Faddoul’s work with printed products also gives her the opportunity to connect with her community. “One thing I really love to do — I know it's like so anti-business — but, like, I'm always giving stuff for free,” she laughed.

Markets are a unique venue where Faddoul finds it meaningful to connect with the public.

“I love to hand out freebies and to kind of create mini friendships with everybody [who] buys something from my store and so I would totally, like, make postcards and give them to every single person that stops by.”

Her booths at market events tend to be vibrant and bring in younger fans, who she’s happy to send home with stickers. Faddoul remarks: “I love to make stickers because my booth is usually really colorful and it attracts a lot of kids because, you know, it's a little girly pop and stuff. [Their] parents don't always want to buy stuff for the kids, so I love giving stickers to [them].”

In addition to selling at markets, Faddoul, along with fellow community members, has sought to create spaces that are more inclusive, offering accessible artwork, and elevating specific communities of artists.

“Me and my friends, we created a market ourselves because we weren't really seeing the kinds of artwork and the kind of people that we wanted to see in markets,” she explains. “So, we made it. We made one ourselves from scratch that was specifically open to queer artists and had a focus on people of color.”

Additionally, Faddoul has been teaching in an illustration program at a college for over three years. Her class is business-oriented, dealing with how to succeed as an artist and market yourself.

“I really like being an open book for the sort of new generations of creatives,” she explains. “[It] keeps me young too, to be in such close proximity with the Gen Zs.” She laughs when telling an anecdote about one of her students interrupting her to ask, “Why do you look so drippy today?” For the uninitiated, the question is referring to a sense of style or swagger Faddoul was serving up in a Carhartt jacket. Her students catch her off guard often, seemingly breaking down walls that typically define such institutional relationships.

“I can still be strict, but they have a very different relationship to authority, I think, which is refreshing to me,” she acknowledges. “It's also helped me realize, like how big of a difference having small conversations with people [who] are interested in what you do, or just people [who] are in the same field, in the same boat.”

Whether she’s making a statement online, mingling with her communities in art spaces across Montreal, or exchanging vernacular with her students, it’s clear that Faddoul is engaging with social webs all around her, doing what she can to make the world a little brighter.

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