The Big Picture Opening Night

So imagine that you are in an art gallery featuring an array of local UAE artists.

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You’re nibbling on canapes as you chat with your arty friends. Everything is pretty laid back and chilled out and you’re enjoying looking at all the impressive artwork. You turn to your left and BOOM!

Salvador Dali, The Horse Series,  Swan

Salvador Dali, The Horse Series, Swan

A Dali.

An ORIGINAL, honest-to-goodness Salvador Dali which is so close you can just reach out and touch it!

No need to go all the way to Barcelona to have this experience; it happened right here in Pro Art Gallery, Jumeirah on the opening night of The Big Picture on May the 5th.

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Curated by artist Ram Nath, The Big Picture is now in its second edition and is under the patronage of His Highness Shiekh Khalid Bin Mansour Al Thani.

As well as Dali, other legendary artists that were featured at the exhibition included Banksy, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Liechtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol

Roy Lichtenstein, Cow Going Abstract

Roy Lichtenstein, Cow Going Abstract

All their original works were exhibited side by side with 45 local artists from the UAE. The best part was there were no walls or barriers separating the legends from the contemporaries.

Vahid Danaiefar, untitled 2, Oil on board,

Vahid Danaiefar, untitled 2, Oil on board,

Luis Vazquez, The Path of the Foxes, Acrylic on Canvas

Luis Vazquez, The Path of the Foxes, Acrylic on Canvas

Kevin Badni, Big head, Sculpture

Kevin Badni, Big head, Sculpture

“The idea of including internationally renowned legends and UAE based artists supported the main goals of The Big Picture, which is to demolish any boundaries or categorization that may limit the artists or their thought processes.” Nath explains.

The exhibition has alot of diversity as it explores multifaceted artistic creations featuring painting, photography, sculpture, digital art, performance art, installation as well as sound and video arts, by emerging and established artists.

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The gallery was packed with an assortment of art aficionados soaking up the atmosphere.

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The interesting part about this exhibition was it had a highly personal touch as there was an audio guide available.

It allowed the viewer to wander around at his/her own pace with headphones on and listen to each artist talk about their themes and inspirations behind their pieces.

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The energy was infectious and the talent was indeed awe-inspiring.

Reem Albanna, Hazy Reality, Oil on Canvas

Reem Albanna, Hazy Reality, Oil on Canvas

Zoya Tariq, Imprisoned in a mistaken identity, Photography

Zoya Tariq, Imprisoned in a mistaken identity, Photography

Eduardo Yup, Face the Reality, Acrylic on fiber matt

Eduardo Yup, Face the Reality, Acrylic on fiber matt

Resurger, Liberty 2, Screen print,

Resurger, Liberty 2, Screen print,

Aleksandar Bezinovic, Annunciation, Acrylic on Canvas

Aleksandar Bezinovic, Annunciation, Acrylic on Canvas

Here are a couple of photos of my work at the exhibition …

My work at the gallery

Free as a Bird, acrylic on board,

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Thanks to The Big Picture, someday I can brag to my future grandkids that I was featured in the same exhibition as Picasso!

If you have not seen it yet, you’d best skedaddle as the exhibition continues until the 24th of May!

Alright Mr Demille, I’m ready for my close up.

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I’d just like to say that in terms of being camera shy … I was awkward wayyy before Kirsten Stewart made it cool.

I know you may be skeptical as it may not seem that way with the abundance of photos I take!! It’s different when taking a photo with a camera – I’m totally cool with that! Basically – when in doubt, the secret is to adopt a “Liz Hurley Stance”. You know the drill – your weight on one leg, which comes forward. Hand on hip. Coy, close lipped smile and bada bing, bada boom!!! You just can’t go wrong with that!

Being interviewed, however, is trickier but I found it an amazing experience all the same!

Last week I was approached by Abu Dhabi TV to be featured on their fashion programme, @Fashion.

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They were filming a special episode on the art of fashion and wanted to interview me about my fashion illustrations and talk about my art blog and live drawing. I was so thrilled to oblige and the best part was illustrating live in front of a camera which they would turn into a speed painting for the programme.

One part of the experience I really took to immediately was having my make up and hair done. There’s nothing better than bouncy hair and curled lashes!!! I’m quite picky with make up, but my make up artist did an amazing job creating a slightly more dramatic yet polished look. He used Bassam Fattouh cosmetics to get the desired look. I haven’t ever used these products, but I definitely am hooked and will go back for more! I was particularly impressed with the awesome eyebrow pencil which is the perfect shade of soft brown!!!!

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The interview took place at trendy and spacious A4 Space, situated in Al Serkal Avenue. I just love how open and sophisticated it is, and I particularly adore the inspirational messages on the walls.

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I always thought on TV, the crew do quite a few takes before deciding on the final cut. The surprising thing about this interview was it was done in only one take! The producer, Georges Estephan, wanted a really natural and spontaneous dialogue with the gorgeous TV presenter, Rulan Omari. It was completely unrehearsed, candid and really nice and raw!!!

The interview itself was really breezy, but I had to do a brief solo introduction so if I seem terrified, that is because…er…I WAS!!! haha!!!

A truly wonderful day and I am really looking forward to watching it live on Abu Dhabi TV in approximately one week!!! I can’t wait to see how the final segment turned out all put together with all the other artists/designers. Yayy!! 🙂 Here’s some photos from that day!

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Live drawing for Dune London event at Meydan Beach

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Shoes and the beach. My two most favorite things! Any event that combines these is good in my book. And that’s precisely what Apparel Group did on the 28th of Jan, when they hosted an exclusive launch event for Dune shoes London at the luxurious Meydan Beach in JBR. Just look at all those gorgeous shoes and handbags! Mon Dieu!!! C’est magnifique, n’est pas?

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I was there to do some live sketching of all the guests’ sophisticated and colourful outfits. The weather was glorious with the sunlight flooding the room through the large glass windows. Check out that splendid view of the beach!

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You’d think it would make sense to dress in something breezy and summery … but you know how I abhor being predictable! 🙂 Since I was feeling quite Mary Quant that day, I went for a Missoni-esque print minidress in mossy, rusted Autumn hues and some high-heeled boots to finish off that 60s leggy Twiggy vibe I was trying to channel!

Gettin Twiggy with it. Na-na-na-na-na-nana

Gettin Twiggy with it. Na-na-na-na-na-nana

Time was not my friend that day. I only had a couple of precious minutes to paint out each outfit and there were close to fifty guests in total! Fortunately though, I had the figures photocopied in advance which were bare and bald, so I could just concentrate on the outfits and hair on the day itself. Pretty organized eh?! Just like Neil Buchanan’s trademark phrase from Art Attack – “Here’s something I made earlier!”

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Surprisingly, it was not as stressful as I thought it would be. The weather and beachy air was so relaxing so it really put me in a great mood as I sketched away busily in the corner!

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Here are some happy customers!

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One lady had a cute idea of wanting an illustration with her baby. This is how it turned out!

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Apparel Group also wanted a souvenir of the whole team in a group illustration.

TA DAH!

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On a separate note, today is Valentine’s day! Now, SOME people complain that Valentine’s day is commercial. Riiiight. As if the rest of the holidays like Christmas and Easter are COMPLETELY commercial free, consumer free AND 100% authentic (?) hmm…*skeptical eyebrow raise*

This may be a very controversial statement to make but – In my opinion and in my experience… guys who complain about V-day are often the “Cheap Charlies” who are reluctant to splurge for their love ones!!! So, cmon fellas. Show your lady what you are made of!!!! Give into it.

As for those ladies who single … then it’s even MORE important to celebrate it! You can either choose to wallow in self-pity by watching Jerry Maguire’s “you complete me” scene for the umpteenth time with your cats and Ben and Jerrys, or you can round up your other single girls and drive to Jabel Hafeet for a spa weekend. As an empowered single girl myself, guess which option I will be doing? 😉

Single or taken, here’s wishing everyone a very blissful, happy and magical Valentine’s day!

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My entry for the Van Cleef/Tashkeel Middle East Emergent Prize

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A while ago, I posted details about the press conference I went to where I learnt that Van Cleef was holding an annual competition with Tashkeel for emerging artists.

I knew as soon as I went to the event that I really wanted to participate.

After all, the stakes couldn’t be higher – the winner will have the opportunity to travel to Paris to attend courses at L’ECOLE Van Cleef & Arpels. With such an attractive and tempting prospect, I knew I had to crack a shot at it! I set about thinking of ways to interpret the theme. As I said before, the theme of the contest is called “Turning point” which is all about when an artist reaches a state of inspiration and the work comes together.

This is what I sent in to explain my artwork –

As an artist, I have noticed that while painting, there’s a moment in time – a “turning point” where the rest of the world appears to dissolve and melt away and the elements of your piece start to synchronize together. An unfinished painting that is JUST starting to come alive seduces you and leads you to a sense of addiction. All background white noise transitions to uniformed murmured hums and ceases to be a distraction anymore.

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I wanted to convey this magical metamorphosis to artistic zen in a visual way. My concept was to create an illustrated mural of myself painting abstract lines and paint splashes. I wanted to create random explosions of colours, which gradually turn into exotic birds flying away, thus conveying the painting literally coming alive. By playing around with space and dimension, my aim was to reiterate the idea of artwork coming alive by having it literally come off the paper– the paper being concept or imagination and turning into reality by reaching out from the dimensions and invading the viewers “space.”

And here are some photographs to document the stages of the artwork. The first hurdle was getting the portrait to resemble me. I do a lot of portraits for clients, but I must say, it’s very challenging to draw myself. I tried not to let my vanity get the best of me by chopping and changing too many things as I didn’t want to faff about for too long. I worked from this reference photo taken at the Thrive event I drew live for –

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The beginning of the mural - the initial portrait

The beginning of the mural – the initial portrait

Once I was happy with that I proceeded to draw the rest of my body. It had to be done in a convincing way where it looked like I was painting. I naturally drew myself in a blazer, since that’s my wardrobe staple! I can’t get enough blazers, y’know!

painting in the rest of the body in acrylics

painting in the rest of the body in acrylics

Then came the fun part. The random splashes of paint. I used bright inks and watered down paints and dropped them onto the mural. I let them merge together and bleed for a little while, then I blew around the paint with a straw creating spontaneous bright splashes. Although I wanted it to look impulsive, I still had to plan the right colours at the right areas because the splashes would be turning into parrots so the right combinations were very important.

Joining the splashes into the birds

Joining the splashes into the birds

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After I painted a few birds, I needed to make some extra wings which will protrude out from the board. I did this by cutting them out of cardboard and mixing it with emulsion and a little cement from a hardware store. This quick drying mixture gives the wings a little bit of strength so they won’t be floppy.

Cutting out the wings from cardboard

Cutting out the wings from cardboard

Applying a paste with emulsion and cement on the wings.

Applying a paste with emulsion and cement on the wings.

After that, I painted the rest of the birds and added a few more random drips, splashes of paints and lines to make the painting look more connected as a whole.

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I noticed my hand was looking really off too, so I fixed it. This is what the final piece looked like!

I’m pretty chuffed with it! Fingers crossed!!!! 🙂

Final piece

Final piece

Fashion illustration workshop at The Archive

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If there’s anything I have noticed about teachers, it’s that there are generally two types.

There’s the bitter ones who have had big career dreams in the past but failed and so they ended UP teaching, much to their dismay. As a result, they’re disillusioned and don’t hesitate take it out on their students. These are the ones who are skeptical, negative and revel in giving you a good hard daily dose of their (not so) delightful “realistic advice.”

On the flip side of the coin, there are the teachers who genuinely love to teach and let you in on all their secrets and tricks of the trade. They are teaching from a place without scarcity and truly want you to succeed. Those are the ones inspire. Like Miss Honey from Matilda. I’ve encountered both types and I’ve always known that if I were to teach fashion illustration, I’d strive to be the latter type.

In short, I wanna be a Miss Honey.

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When I was invited to teach an illustration workshop at The Archive, I knew this was my chance to inspire. After all, I love what I do and so the idea of sharing what I have learned so far in this field really appealed to me.

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As I mentioned before in a previous post, The Archive is an art community center/library and cafe located in Safa Park, Dubai. I thought their location was perfect for my class – the tables were large and spacious with plenty of natural daylight flooding the room – just perfect for a leisurely afternoon of illustration! Another upside is that because it’s in a library, there’s lots of reference material to browse through for inspiration.

The workshop was an introductory one which was primarily used just to gauge if there is any interest in the subject. I’m happy to report that it turns out there was an abundance of interest!!! I had lots of people wanting to sign up, and a great turnout for the first class!

In a nutshell, we went over some basic 101 watercolour techniques. These included tips on how to control the paint, what brushes to use for what purpose, how to shade and render fabrics, how to draw clothes on the body and a little information about prints and simple ways of covey them realistically.

I was very impressed by my students’ work! Here’s a few photos of what we got up to!

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And here I am with my adorable youngest student who is just ten years old! Talk about a prodigy in the making! 🙂

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It’s still early days, but hopefully we plan to include a much more intensive course in March spanning over a few weeks where I will cover an array of illustration related topics in even more detail.

Hopefully this will keep the art aficionados happy! Until then, as Dori would say (if she was an artist) just keep sketchin’ …

Humphrey the Hippo

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One trait that everyone always notices about me is that I am very imaginative. I always have a habit of envisioning bizarre humourous scenarios in my head and then when telling a story, I laugh much harder than anyone else in the group …followed by several minutes trying to explain why it’s so funny, followed by quizzical looks and an awkward silence and sparse hesitant chuckles.

You just had to be there.
In my head.

This is why the art of storytelling appeals to me so much. I can finally put my imagination to good USE.

I’ve always had a soft corner for children’s books – particularly the offbeat zainier ones by Roald Dahl or Dr Suess.

With Roald Dahl, I just loved how some of the stories were so tragic YET so hilarious – for example a kid being orphaned because his parents got eaten by a killer tiger at the zoo (sure…because that happens all the time?!)

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Don’t even get me started on the illustrations of Quentin Blake! His illustrations seem so impulsive with such a unique sense of character ..I just adored them! The Twits was my personal favorite! It was genius, random, mad and wonderful!

I always wanted to get into children’s books and my dream came true when I teamed up with American author Kelly Sheehy Degroot to create the Princess Charleston and the Isle or Palms series. It was such fun to do those books because Kelly gave me such freedom to explore and interpret her characters and scenery so I had a grand time experimenting!

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I’m proud to announce that I am finally releasing my very OWN children’s book, “Humphrey the Hippo.” This is very exciting for me as it’s the first time I have written a book as well as illustrating it so it is a very personal project.

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The story is a very simple and relatable one – it’s about a shy hippo who has a tendency to worry and over-analyse every situation. One day his classmate throws a party and, Humphrey being Humphrey, imagines all the possible terrible embarrassing potential situations that could arise. In the end of the book … you’ll just have to wait and see what happens! I’ll leave you in suspense! Tonight the e-book version of the book releases precisely at the stroke of midnight (how very cinderella!!!) It is being published by American publishing house Tuxedo and Beans. Here is a sneak peek of some of the pages and illustrations.

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Enjoy!

‘Twas the night before Christmas …

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Even though I’ve been raised a Muslim, I still love celebrating all festive holidays and there’s something about Christmas in particular that is so enchanting. Don’t get me wrong, Eid is nice too – but we don’t have nearly as many sparkly looking props as you guys do !!!

I adore christmas lights, gift wrap, gingerbread, glitter, hot chocolate, shop window displays … yep… the WORKS!

Everything but the miserable winter weather .. I draw the line at grey skies and snow …no need to be THAT authentic! Therefore, I appreciate Christmas even MORE as a spectator from the sunshine soaked city of Dubai sans Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So in the spirit of my homeboy Saint Nick, I decided to give out illustrated Christmas cards this year to my clients. I made two designs. One is very couture inspired and has a hint of festive cheer with a Hollywood floor-sweeping red gown complete with a Gatsby-esque headpiece. (Because If you can’t wear that at Christmas .. I don’t know when you can!)

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For the other one, I wanted to convey a little bit more of a Winter Wonderland atmosphere and nothing says Christmas like Moscow in December. (It’s on my wanderlust list, y’know.)

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I’ve also been making some illustrated calenders this year for my favorite clients. These are small enough to fit on your desktop and I added cute arty easels to go with them. Here’s some photos of how they turned out.

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I hope everyone has an amazing magical year ahead. One where dream jobs are discovered, travel plans are in full swing, taste buds are tantalised, dream shoes are bought and soulmates are met.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!

My London Fashion Week Project

As an artist, it’s very tempting to become anti-social. You know what I mean – you lock yourself up in your studio and furiously paint for days, virtually going into “hermit mode.” I’ve done this myself, but besides lending a little bit of a stuffy air and added eccentricity to your reputation, the truth of the matter is being anti-social does nothing for you.

It is my opinion that it is far more enriching to go out there and get to know other artists/designers, collaborate and share your experiences. The best part about uploading your work and blogging about it for the world to see is you end up really engaging with your readers,forming great relationships and meeting/ working with some truly fabulous people along the way!

I’ve worked with London-based blogger Natalie Theodosi about a year ago on an illustrated project for her blog. We had an awesome time putting our heads together to do some serious brainstorming and came up with an end result that was both fashionable and artistic. About 3 weeks ago, the lovely Natalie approached me to collaborate with her on a great little project she has been planning. She explained that she is in the process of creating her very own publication based on her very succesful blog, “Le Bon Chic.” This 30 page print magazine will be distributed at London Fashion Week during all the main shows. I don’t want to spoil the surprise buuuut to give a brief overview, it will include some great features including interviews from the top fashion industry leaders, buyers , fashion shoots and OFCOURSE…. illustration!!!! (Which is where I come in, incase you haven’t guessed!!)

Natalie had some very specific ideas she explained to me. She envisioned the back cover illustration to include certain key characteristics of London. I was to create one full-page illustration incorporating elements such as the London Eye, the tents outside Somerset House and a myriad of street style outfits. In addition to this, we agreed it would be great to include some real portraits of iconic women currently in the London fashion scene to make it appear more personal, specific to London and unique. I loved the fact that Natalie was so articulate about her ideas, yet she had trusted me with my own interpretation and given me a certain degree of carte blanche to experiment. In the end, I decided to do a double spread of stylised fashion illustrations from last year’s shows and a more detailed back cover. This is how it turned out. I’m quite pleased with the end result, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how these will look at London Fashion Week!!

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Australian Themed illustrated backdrop

In March, I was asked by Dubai-based event company Dot the i’s to illustrate a massive photobooth backdrop for an Australian/Arab couple.

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The bride and groom had met in Australia so since the place was very nostalgic to them, they wanted an Australian touch to the wedding! Something fun for the guests and since photobooths and poloroids are all the rage right now, they loved the idea of an illustrated photo-backdrop to take wacky pictures against!! This was a great project to do and I loved the idea of one of my illustrations being part of a cool wedding!

I was travelling at the time, so I couldn’t do it live for them – instead, we opted for a digital print I sent online, they printed it out on canvas – stuck it onto a board and voila! It worked just as well!

I drew a cartoon- like illustration straight from my tablet onto photoshop making sure it was very very high res so that it could be blown up really huge, and wouldn’t get pixilated. Then I had to calculate a few measurements to guess the accuracy of the size of the “heads” so they’d fit nice and snug when the guests stick their heads in!

Check out a few of these photos to see how it all looked at the event!!!
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Dot the i’s is an amazing event planning service and I adore their tasteful wedding settings and themes. Take a look at some more beautiful photos of the work they have done for other Dubai weddings. Stunning and dreamlike!!!

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Recent Editorial Illustrations

It’s been a good few months for editorials, live drawing and all around new experiences! For instance, I was approached by Jumeirah Magazine to create a illustrated map for their new travel feature on Dubai Rome and Shanghai! This was quite a challenging project and we went through many options and variations. Initially, they wanted underground metro maps of Shangai and Rome in the background underneath the illustration. My first draft was a map a sort of bird’s eye view like so –

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and the Dubai illustration –

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After a bit of debate, we experimented with some other options. They wanted the illustration to appear more compartmenalized, and more of a moody colour scheme and so we tried out something in indigo hues, and added lots of boxes to seperate the buildings. Resulting in this

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It still wasn’t looking quite right, so we decided to ditch the Dubai illustration altogether (aww …sad face) and concentrate on just the two. I was really going beserk and running out of ideas at this point so I decided to throw something crazy into the mix with a multi coloured version (you never know…?!!!)

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and a sepia version …

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After none of these were approved I threw them ALL out and started afresh. This time, instead of a typical “map” like appearance, I chose to interpret it more like a landscape watercolour sketch. They really liked these ones and thats what got chosen in the end for the article. Here’s how the finished piece looks in the article

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In April, I received a design brief from Abu Dhabi based luxury and fashion magazine, Masquerade Magazine. They are a bi-monthly publication and they needed a fashion illustration to go with an article about the pressures and constraints of living in a conservitave Arab society. For this, we needed something poignant, artistic and with a certain atmosphere to go with the tone of the article.

This was the first draft

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and a variation of a small huddle of women in the background. This was to give an added feeling of isolation.

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But since her expression looked too sad, so I made a new illustration for the article, without the women in the background. This is the final piece

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