Abu Dhabi Book Fair

I was certainly a busy bee from the 30th to the 5th of May!

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This year, I had participated in the Abu Dhabi Book Fair to promote my work as a children’s book illustrator. I was also looking for potential publishers for my latest book project. (hint hint)

I was really impressed by how huge and well organised the fair was. The illustrator’s corner was situated RIGHT next to publishers so it was perfect for my ongoing pursuit!

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The fair is not just for sitting still in the corner in silent bookworm mode, though!

Infact, it was actually quite interactive and action packed! There were lots of seminars on the agenda everyday on various topics such as culture and tourism, book launches, career strategies and so forth.

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I noticed there was some artistic activities for children to participate in so there was something for everyone!

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I must admit, I got a little bit bored of sitting around acting prim and well behaved so I decided to paint my booth walls on the last day! I always wanted to do murals on the wall for children’s room so it was great practice for me to just go to town.

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I decided to paint a mermaid – I had always done mythical fashion illustration ones in the past, so for this one I wanted her to look child like, sweeter and more cherub-y (is that even a word?? haha!)

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Here’s how it turned out!

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Although Abu Dhabi is quite a trek for us native Dubaians, it’s well worth it and I highly recommend checking it out next year!

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Choix Project and Live Painting

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Personally, I love Paris.

Like the song says – both in the springtime, when it sizzles AND in the winter when it drizzles. Aside from being the city of l’amour, what I like about it is how unashamedly chic the fashion is. It’s the kind of style that never goes out of fashion. It’s timeless.

In the era of baggy boyfriend jeans, slouchy blazers, and shaggy Alexa Chung coifs, I admire the femininity and the classic details that make Parisian women in a style league of their own. This is why In a heartbeat, I’d choose haute couture Paris fashion week first over any others.

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Katch PR approached me one fine day and explained that they needed an illustration project for the their advertising campaign which was was all about bringing the aura of Paris to Dubai. The STYLE of the quintessential “fille a paris.” This meant, stripes, ballerina flats, oversized buns, bardot necklines and full skirts.

They were speaking MY language.

They proceeded to explain that world famous French chef, Pierre Gagnaire, owner of the eponymous Pierre Gagnaire restaurant in Paris was opening up a new luxury patisserie at Intercontinental Dubai Festival City.

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What they needed from me were a couple of contemporary, clean illustrations depicting glamorous stylish women next to the Dubai skyline using the Choix colour scheme and showing the monogrammed shopping bags.

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This is how the final ones turned out. I wanted to show how multi cultured the city of Dubai is, so for one illustration we opted for a glamorous lady in an abaya and for the other, more European inspired attire. I used soft but vibrant watercolours bleeding into each other with a muted slate blue/lilac background.

The abaya illustration was used in ads in Time Out Dubai, OK magazine and many more publications for announcing the launch party.

For the actual launch, we decided that it would be a great idea to paint the second illustration live at the venue since no one had seen it yet so it would be a nice surprise. After that, Choix would proceed to use both illustrations in their advertising campaign.

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the finished illustration

the finished illustration

The event was a lavish and sophisticated affair and the lucky guests were served an array of exquisite and unique dishes such as beef tenderloin and onion marmalade, comte cheese and baby spinach as well as camel milk panna cotta and saffron cake and dates – some very innovative, regionally inspired treats!!!

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Needless to say, there were plenty of their signature pastel macaroons around!

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I should know. I had some. They were marvelous.

The mood was further enhanced by a talented pianist playing in the background, which really made you feel like you were transported back to a deco style 1940’s lounge in New York.

Here’s some more photos of the event and of Choix.

Stunning view outside

Stunning view outside

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It truly was “une nuit magnifique!”

Bisous!!!!

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