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

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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’ …