Interview with Ahmed Al-Refaie

By day, Ahmed Al-Refaie is a creative director, but the Kuwaiti native is also an incredible digital artist and graphic designer with a truly unique style. We caught up with Ahmed to find out just what makes him (and his art) tick.

Hi Ahmed! Please start by telling our readers a little bit about yourself, and how you got started in design? Are you self-taught or do you have a degree in design?

My journey with art started at a young age, I was horrible at it but I loved the notion of “creation”, I wanted to create something out of a simple plain white paper. Towards High School, I began playing around with computer software and fell in love with Graphic Design. Though I wanted to pursue studies in Graphic Design, it was not an option. Instead, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. Till this day I create art and I hope to continue on this path.

Your online alias is OwaikeO – how do you pronounce that and where did it come from?

OwaikeO is pronounced as “OU WAY KEY OH” and it simply does not mean or resemble anything. I wanted to create a unique name that looked interesting when written and sounded interesting too and this name came up and I got used to it.

Looking at your online portfolio, your work seems incredibly diverse. Which title would you say you identify more with – graphic designer or artist?

At the moment I create both illustrations and graphic designs. I love creating illustrations because they are limitless and are catered to what I like whereas graphic design is catered to what the client wants which may provide some constraints but I honestly enjoy both. In other words, I am both an artist and a graphic designer.

Your artwork is so intricate and beautifully detailed! Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? 

 My tools are very simple, I mostly use Adobe Photoshop and a mouse and though I would like to use a tablet, but I just never got around doing so. My art is an exploration, for large scale illustrations I don’t plan or sketch, I just start drawing. They consume a lot of time and therefore I experiment as I go along, it is a very tiring process but it is worth it. As for the pencil sketches, I start and complete each in a day.

What’s your favourite kind of work to create, and why? (ie. digital drawings, illustrations, logo designs etc.)

Though general, as long as it is art, I enjoy it. But I have to say, illustrations have a greater share of my love as they involve creating characters. It is always fun to come up with them as each proposes a different challenge to me. I aim to create each in a unique form yet still retain the art style that I am known for.

What’s in your sketchbook right now?

 Drawings, drawings and more drawings of characters and the rest are stored in my head.

What are some of your essential “tools of the trade” that you couldn’t live without? Software, hardware, apps, books, etc.?

 For digital art, I cannot function without Photoshop and Apple’s Mouse. As for traditional sketching all I need is my regular HB pencil and my abused eraser.


What tips do you have to get inspired and stay motivated while working on a project? What are some personal sources of inspiration for you?

 Never be afraid of trying something new every once in a while, have your own unique style and embrace the work of others as inspiration, that’s what I try to do. Most of my sources of inspiration are sometimes unrelated to the subject of design. For example, it was very windy the other day and some person was walking in the direction of the wind and his long beard split in half, I snapped that in my head and went back and drew something completely different but had that beard. Art is all around us even in places you never imagined them to be.

 And finally, we can’t leave without asking you about your uncovered mystery. You include an Easter egg of “M27″ on all your personal artworks – any chance you’ll give Sketchbook readers a clue on what that’s about!?

 Revealing a secret only destroys it beyond repair, imagine a magician exposing his tricks, the secret is lost and there wont be much to look forward to. Not to say the easter egg isn’t significant, but because it is so I like to keep it that way, I’ve always loved Where’s Waldo; my 27’s are my Waldo’s and a lot of the fans of my work love to look for them.

Any final perils of wisdom for our readers?

This is the point where I tell you “reader” to do this and avoid that, but no one is supposed to tell you what to do. I strive for better and try my best, the support of others and love of art keeps me going, you too will find your inspiration.

Check out Ahmed’s website at or follow him on twitter @owaikeo.

WORDS: Nada El Barshoumi
  • badria amin

    could you please tell me why is there the number 27 in all of your art work?