Sketchbook Artist Profile: Q&A with Hibaaq Ibrahim

Sketchbook Artist Profile: Q&A with Hibaaq Ibrahim

Posted February 3rd, 2022 by Blaine Garrett

The local muralist, who participated in our 2021 Sketchbook Project, offers insight into her own creative and professional evolution


We at MPLSART are excited to unveil the results of the 2021 Sketchbook Project

Following the success of the 2020 Sketchbook Project, which was started as a way to connect and support artists during the pandemic, this second iteration features an entirely new roster of 70 local artists, who contributed 120 pages of original work to a series of five sketchbooks that travelled around the Twin Cities throughout 2021. The sketchbooks have been compiled into a beautiful 88 page limited edition hardcover book available exclusively via a Kickstarter Presale starting March 1st. All net-proceeds from the sale of the book will be directly distributed to the participating artists.

As we gear up for the Kickstarter, the related exhibition at Gamut Gallery in March, and the auctioning of the original sketchbooks by Revere Auctions in April, we wanted to spend the next few weeks introducing you to some of the amazing artists who contributed to the project in 2021. You can see a full list of participants and timeline of events here, but in the meantime, meet Hibaaq Ibrahim!




Hibaaq Ibrahim (she/her) is a botanical and abstract muralist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was born in Sweden and has moved over 20 times. This drives her sense of curiosity and exploration.  Every new home and neighborhood was an opportunity to discover: new friends, new flowers, new places to bike to. This carries over into her artistic practice. With her use of bold colors and familiar shapes, she aims to spark joy in viewers. As one of the 70 artists contributing to the 2021 MPLSART Sketchbook Project, we wanted to learn more about her and her practice.


Ibrahim's mural Zoe’s Bakery in Minneapolis

Blaine Garrett: How did you get started as a muralist? 
Hibaaq Ibrahim: I’ve made art for as long as I can remember. I used to turn all my school projects into art projects. However, when it came time for college, I didn’t study art — I studied philosophy. I still love philosophy, and I probably would not have changed that if I could go back. I deliberately did not choose art because I thought it wasn’t a career. This is why I didn’t share my art with almost anyone until I was in my mid-twenties. Art was just something I did and I thought no one would care.

Fast forward to the global pandemic in 2020 and suddenly I was spending a lot more time at home. I was working from home for the first time in my life. I could pretty much work on my own schedule, so I started leaving large gaps of time in my days. One night early in the pandemic, I realized I had ran out of cat food. I did a quick Google search, and the only place in town I could find cat food at that hour was Southside Food and Deli. The exterior had a faded mural from over 20 years ago. I had a sudden idea, “what if I offer to repaint their mural?” I asked the owner and he agreed. I worked on it for about a week in my spare time. I loved the experience so much I wanted to paint another mural. Soon after, I started an Instagram page to share my art and I’ve been painting murals ever since. 


BG: Does your artistic practice extend beyond murals? 
HI: I only paint murals right now and occasionally do digital artwork (just for myself). I love painting large, and murals are the only way I can do that. I haven’t had a studio so large scale paintings aren’t feasible for me. I am getting a studio in about 2 weeks as a new member of Public Functionary Studio 285! I’ve wanted to venture into large paintings, prints, and furniture painting for a long time. Murals are my passion but I know they aren’t accessible to everyone. Many of my followers rent for example. I would love to provide more ways to get my art to people who want it. Right now, you’d have to go where my art is to see it. It would be to nice see my work framed in someone’s home! I’ve got a lot of ideas and this new studio space will make them possible!


Ibrahim in front of her mural at Graze Provisions + Libation


BG: Where might people see your murals out in the “wild”?
HI: It would be a lot to mention every place I’ve painted at this point, but I’ll list 5 of my favorites! The hops themed mural I did at Acadia is one of my proudest. Graze Provisions + Libations is just amazing on it’s own. I’d recommend taking a photo with my floral mural and getting a latte at The Last Drop Cafe. If you’re more into abstract, my mural at A Side Public House is for you! I go to Zoe’s Bakery anytime I’m near downtown. The mural I did there is super cute and is another one that I think makes for a great photo background. Lastly, a super fun one is at Stella Belle in St. Paul. It’s connected to, and also a part of, Cafe Astoria. In a few weeks I’ll have a mural map on my website where you can easily see all my public murals.


BG: You were involved in several of the murals throughout Minneapolis created in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. How did this time affect you as an artist?
HI: It was just a very confusing time. I, like many other artists, just felt in the dark. I wanted a way to process it and I think that’s why I turned to art. I looked around Facebook and Instagram to see what community events were happening. I went to any art centered gathering I could because I really just wanted community. I met muralists for the first time in my life and I started to see it as something I could actively do.

I also co-ran a 4H youth club at a local library. I’d often share my art and mural work with the teens who became interested in painting one of their own. My co club leader Alyssa connected me with Smoke in the Pit, a BBQ spot. They were located in George Floyd Square and had been continuously tagged. The club had been looking for a place to paint a mural and it just worked out. All the ideas in that mural came from the youth of 4H through discussion. They wanted to make the mural a message about connecting rather than breaking apart from one another. The quote on the mural is from Black Panther and it reads “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges. While the foolish build barriers.” This whole experience was about community building. It merged my passions of youth work and art in a way that still impacts me today. 


The mural on Smoke In The Pit Ibrahim created with her 4H group


BG: How did your involvement with these murals shape your artistic practice moving forward?
HI: I started to see murals as a community thing. Even though now I paint mainly commercial murals, I consider my work to be centered in community. I paint in spaces that people gather. Places like restaurants, coffee shops, and homes. I love that my art is a part of spaces that hold positive memories for people — somewhere they go to study with a friend or have a birthday dinner. I always start my mural design process by imagining who will be there. 


BG: You had the distinction of being one of the first and last artists to contribute pages to the 2021 MPLSART Sketchbook Project. In the time between, how did your approach them change?
HI: When I made the first sketch, I was strictly a botanical artist. I still love that style but since then, I’ve found a love for abstract art. My version of "abstract" isn’t what you would first think of when you say the word, but I think that’s why it took me so long to try it. I thought that abstract had to be moody and chaotic and have lines everywhere! I just wanted to make pretty things I saw in nature. I was not into abstract at all. I was actually against it, which just makes me laugh now.

I had a client who told me "absolutely no botanicals." I was in a panic. I thought about dropping this client a few times. However, I decided to just see what I could do. It took 2 whole months to get a final mock up, which ended up being abstract. I was pushed every step of the way, further and further from where I felt comfortable as an artist. That experience was the most transformative of my career thus far. In a way, I had to go back to the basics to succeed on this project. I felt like a little kid, learning a new language. That sort of inspired the second drawing. Which has a little girl at the bottom. That’s me. The drawing incorporates abstract, botanicals, and lots of color. It’s a story about going back to the basics, learning new things, and then fusing that with what I was doing before to create a new lane for myself. All of the things coming out of my head are experiences. 


Ibrahim's contributions to the 2021 MPLSART Sketchbook Project


BG: Did you find difficulty transposing your large scale mural style to the small scale of the 2021 MPLSART Sketchbook Project?
HI: Yes and no. I sketch on regular 8”x11” paper and on my iPad often. However, it’s typically through the lens of knowing it will be large-scale. I tend to draw very simply. With murals, it’s important to consider how it will look far away. I’m very concerned with the readability of the work so I do minimal linework, large shapes and botanicals, and tend to do solid color. It’s also just my taste. My style doesn’t always translate well to a typical size canvas. However, I find sketches in ink make more sense to me.

My first sketch [for the Sketchbook Project] had more detail than I typically do, because I could. It was fun to be able to add more lines to the leaves without thinking “I’m going to have to paint that 10,000 times in real life!” I used to paint fairly small-scale landscapes from age 17-20. I tended to only do half of a painting and abandon it. I see now that it was because I don’t like painting small, and I also really really don’t like painting landscapes! 


An example of Ibrahim's digital design experiments.


BG: How do you see your work evolving during 2022?
HI: I am most definitely going to incorporate furniture into the list of things I paint this year. I also want to casually do an art form that is unrelated to painting or mural work. I’m thinking about sculptures but I don’t know yet. My top priority right now is to start painting actual paintings again now that I will have more space. I also have a secret project I’m working on that will likely take a year, so I’m laying the groundwork now.


BG: Do you have any advice for artists wanting to get into painting murals professionally?
HI: Yes! Start with your own walls if you can. Or friends/family members. Even a piece of wood from Home Depot (a nice smooth surface). Don’t worry about being good, or even sharing on social media. Don’t worry about the best paints or supplies. I did my first mural with brushes from the Dollar Store. Just experiment and see what lights you up. And if you don’t like painting something, drop it. Dropping landscapes really sparked my creativity. Sometimes you need to let go of the things you think you should be doing in order to make space for the things you want to be doing!

I also recommend finding podcasts by other artists. It helps you stay motivated and gives you great ideas you can apply to your own practice. My favorite podcast is Creative Pep Talk by Andy J Pizza. If you’re local, reach out to me. I love giving all the advice to young people!


BG: How can people best support you and your work right now?
HI: My instagram is the easiest way to see my most recent work. My website is a good place to look too, although it’s usually a few weeks behind. Also, take pictures with my murals and tag me — I LOVE seeing it!


BG: Thank you so much for your time and contributing your work to the 2021 MPLSART Sketchbook Project. Is there anything else you'd like to say? 
HI: I just want to say thank you to my community, I would not be an artist were it not for your support! ◼︎


Photo of the artist. Photo by @ryleeann_k

We can't do it without you.

Help keep independent arts journalism alive in the Twin Cities.