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


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.


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


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.


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

Ruben Sanchez and eL Seed at The Archive


Don’t you just love that feeling when you discover a great new place hidden away in some corner of Dubai? That’s exactly how I felt this weekend when I came across The Archive for the first time. It is a community space located at gate 5 in Safa Park and it’s a library, cafe and art center all in one. The Archive focuses on the arts and culture of the MENA region and frequently holds workshops and seminars on the topics of art, illustration, murals and all things related. Funnily enough, The Archive has been around for 8 years already and I’ve only just discovered it! (Doh! How slow am I, eh?!)



Often featuring some pretty impressive talents, it also has an awesome collection of coffee table books to browse through and excellent food to nibble on! Exhibit A … my eggs Benedict which had some serious om nom factor.


I stopped by because I was very eager to check out the joint live collaboration that über talented artists Ruben Sanchez and eL Seed were working on.

To give a brief overview, Ruben Sanchez is a Barcelona-based urban artist whose inspirations include break dancing, skateboard and graffiti culture of his native Spain. He has been living here in Dubai for a year as part of Tashkeel’s art residency program and has been doing a variety of interesting projects and commissions all over the city as well as a recent solo show at Tashkeel.



I really love his vibrant tribal style.




His use of pattern remind me of Aztec/South American designs and motifs. Regarding his murals in particular, I love the contrast of his bright, cheerful and eclectic work on the sandy, broken down walls of Satwa. It’s like he has given these old areas a fresh new lease of life, and breathes an unexpected zest with his quirky, imaginative art.




As for eL Seed – to put it plainly..(and not to sound like a total groupie) he is a LEGEND!! The French Tunisian street artist is known for his signature style which is a hybrid of Arab calligraphy and graffiti. He coins his unique invention as “Calligraffiti ” and believes that the art of graffiti brings people together. He is most famous for his decorative (and some say controversial) Calligraffiti work on the minaret of the Jara Mosque in the southern Tunisian city of Gabes in 2012.

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Some of his other work


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He’s also known for his artistic limited edition collaboration with designer Louis Vuitton on luggage.
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Soo..getting back to the point, these two amazing artists were joining forces for the day to beautify The Archive walls with a massive graffiti style mural. The air was heady and artistic that Friday afternoon with the addictive aroma of spray paint. It really was a sight to see and experience. The best part of it was that it was completely interactive as passers-by could partake in the project and actually join in with spray cans, impromptu style.








No-one was excluded. In fact, even kids could have a go with their creative input!



The joint painting paired up with the gorgeous sunny December weather at Safa Park made the energy a very infectious one, indeed!

With the intriguing projects, the massive library and the delicious food that seduces my taste buds, I have a feeling The Archive will become one of my new favorite haunts – right up there with Bastakiya!

the finished mural

the finished mural

Live Illustration for THRIVE at Music Room


Last week, the very slick n’ sauve Ethan Auguste asked me if I’d like to illustrate live for the season re-launch of Thrive. I have to say, I jumped at the chance to be part of it!

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Thrive, it is a series of industry nights managed by Ethan Enterprises. It’s specifically for us bright young things to sparkle in all fields of fashion, art, music and entertainment. A perfect setting to network in a chilled out, youthful and bohemian ambience.


As much as I love events, I’ll admit that sometimes the art/gallery scene in Dubai can have a tendancy to get a little “stuffy” and “uppity.” What I like so much about Thrive is it’s refreshingly open and friendly with a warm atmosphere. Everyone is very welcoming, and game for a lively little chat with no airs or reservations and just upfor a good old fashioned night out. I have to say that it was so interesting to see the sheer variation of people from creative fields at this event. From graffiti artists to Saudi hip hop musicians to hypnotherapists – there was never a dull moment!





Presenting the event was the very sexy and sassy host Sheena Kay from Radio one. She introduced a myriad of talented musicians for the evening and, I have to say, her bubbly banter and incredible singing voice was the icing on the cake! She was styled by West L.A who were also there promoting their fabulous outfits.



Speaking of fabulous outfits – Kanztee were there too. Ofcourse that is expected seeing as they are such a trendy young brand – it’s typical of them to be always one step ahead and hot on the trail of happening arty events!


As for me, I was at the back of the room in my own world – drawing up a storm whilst soaking up the amazing environment! I wanted to create something moody for the evening in a spectrum of blues. I opted to illustrate a fashionable and chic cocktail party.





And this is how it turned out …



I hope to see you at the next Thrive event. It really is a wonderful energy and worth checking out. I definetley think Dubai needs more events like this!

Viva la Revolution!

All images courtesy of The Studio. Link to more of their work is below