Autumn inspires all things artistic. Such is the aesthetic of the season, whether it’s the muted yet distinct colour palette or the earthy aromas. As we enter the new season, FACT decided that there couldn’t be a better time to explore unique arts and crafts in Bahrain. In this feature, we speak to creators about their style, inspirations and more.
IN THE WORDS OF JULIANA OAKLEY
Artistic Style: Illustration
Please share your creative journey with us.
I always loved to draw since I was I child, I guess pretty much like every other child in the world, but I never grew out of it. However, professionally, I joined the illustrator’s world rather late, only about three years ago. I mostly work on children’s books. My art is inspired by daily life observations, my travels and, of course, fellow artists. Being an illustrator is very rewarding in terms of fulfilling one’s passion and creativity. It also has potential to be financially rewarding, but like any other job it requires a lot of hard work, investment in your skills (courses, workshops, etc.) and time to establish your name – your brand essentially.
What’s your artistic process?
My process usually starts with gathering information on the subject and loads of references for inspiration, and it’s during this time that ideas are beginning to form in my head. Next, I might start scribbling on a piece of paper, just to catch some of these ideas. But my main tool is an iPad. I proceed to sketching and later, finishing illustrations digitally in Procreate and/or Photoshop. Also, I am very much a bright colour palette person. I love rich and vivid combinations.
Tell us about your best illustration.
One of the most challenging was for a book (top right) about Hungarian scientist Katalin Karikó, who is a pioneer in mRNA [vaccine] technology. Not an easy topic for a children’s book but I am quite happy with how it turned out and it was very educational to work on it.
Any projects planned for the coming months?
There are a couple of books coming out soon. One of them is about the enormous pineapple – a wonderful remake of a classical tale with the idea of people coming together for the greater good. The other is a beautiful story of a violin that survived through WW2 and, after years of neglect, found its way back to the loving and talented hands of the musician. Most of my work is available on Amazon, some of my books are in Waterstones in the U.K.
IN THE WORDS OF EJLAL ALKHUZAEI
Artistic Style: Photo Manipulation
Take us through your artistic journey.
I’ve always had a deep passion for various forms of artistic expression, from drawing and painting to handicrafts. My discovery of the power of computers and digital art, experimenting with software such as Paint on Windows, ignited my curiosity and passion for digital media. I persistently explore new techniques, merging technical expertise with artistic vision. Photo manipulation is a hobby, which allows me to unleash creativity and explore limitless possibilities.
What is photo manipulation?
My process centres on photo manipulation and digital techniques. It starts with conceptualisation and drawing inspiration from diverse sources. Using different software, I layer, mask and blend photographs and textures [tools to create illusions, merge images and the like]. I then refine the artwork, experimenting with effects to enhance the desired mood, after which I add the final touches.
What inspires your work?
I find inspiration in music, poems, movies, TV shows, books and fellow artists on platforms such as deviantart.com, art forums and social media.
A creation that stands out for you?
One piece that stands out for me is Between the Ebb and The Flow (centre right). Inspired by various sources, including the Arabic song Ejrofni Jamaet Khair Ft. Esra Alaseil, and a line from the novel It Ends with Us [by Colleen Hoover], the piece portrays a woman gracefully navigating the dynamic waves of the ocean symbolising the ups and downs of life. It represents resilience and moving forward despite challenges. This artwork has two versions: a pure photo manipulation piece and another version with mixed media elements such as foil, acrylic paint and shells. I cherish both for their unique qualities.
IN THE WORDS OF MARWA ALI AHMED
Artistic Style: Thread And Bead Art
When did you discover your craft?
I have loved art and craft since childhood. I still remember going to a sewing shop with my sister where we got to fashion bracelets for ourselves and admire the blingy beads. I first started embroidery at age 10 but it was a hobby, I never took it seriously until 2020 when I took a leap and discovered my style as a thread architect.
What or who influences your ideas?
Most of my creations are inspired by the Holy Quran, Bahraini culture, nature and Islamic architecture. I’m also influenced by many Russian and Japanese fibre artists.
Please describe your style and creative process.
I use bold, vibrant colours contrasted with neutrals to make the pieces stand out. I’m drawn to the artistic styles of Expressionism [distorted reality that expresses the artist’s inner feelings] and Realism [an accurate, unembellished depiction]. I use a wide range of Japanese glass beads and experiment with luxurious materials such as semi-precious stones, natural pearls and mother of pearl. For instance, the Fig brooch (centre right) has gold-plated beads and semi-precious stones. My creative process starts with hand sketching the idea onto a fabric after which I gradually stitch the outlines and inner parts based on the complexity of the piece. Finally, I transform it into wearable art – brooches – or framed wall art.
Do you have a favourite?
The Sakura [Japanese cherry blossom] brooch that I’m wearing. The piece features 14-carat gold-plated Japanese beads and semi-precious stones. My work is displayed at Bahrain Authority for Culture & Antiquities’ shop ‘Made in Bahrain’ (@culture_ madeinbahrain on Instagram)
What surprises can we expect in the coming months?
Currently, I’m working on new portraits beside developing a casual and affordable range of brooches.
GO: VISIT @THREADARCHITECT ON INSTAGRAM FOR MORE INFORMATION.
IN THE WORDS OF FAWAZ ALALAIWAT AKA FAWAZO
Artistic Style: Digital Art
You’ve been creating art for 35 years – 20 years in digital art! How did it all begin?
I got into art very early in my life, having a creative family was a great influence. My late father had one of the first bookshops in Bahrain – AlAlaiwat Bookshop – near Bab Al Bahrain. So, my playground was a library with more than 2,000 books. I was very interested in an old Arabic encyclopedia where page after page was illustrated, this was before they could print photos. I won my first art award at 11 years, I was in a UNICEF international schools’ competition and got second place, and the journey continues.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by the beauty in everything natural or man-made, by my culture – past and present; by sci-fi movies and anime; by my family and friends. I see the world through a different lens. The influence list is way too big but I would say the classics Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. I’m drawn to colours such as hot red, teal and purple.
How do you go about creating a piece?
I’m a multidisciplinary designer, artist and consultant. I specialise in digital art, and I love typography and creating my own fashion. I usually work on a theme so I come up with the concept and execution style, then I plan a few pieces and start working on them by looking for the images I need to create the artwork and then I move to Photoshop and Illustrator to put the collage together, after which I layer, fine-tune and clean. To finish things up, some colour magic [playing around with colour combinations] and that’s one of my favourite parts.
Talk to us about the best piece you’ve created so far?
That’s a very hard question to answer, most of the time it’s my latest artwork. My message usually is how my art affects people or touches someone deeply. My latest theme is Arab Futurism (below right) and I’m in love with exploring the future of the Arab world, from architecture to fashion to technology, and this has given me a new understanding of my culture and the times.
What surprises can we expect in the future?
During the pandemic, I completed 365 days of art and that was a transformational journey for me. In one year, I learned more than I did in my whole career! I’m planning an exhibition for that project. One-man Army is another exhibition to watch out for. I also plan to launch my online store soon.
GO: FOLLOW @FAWAZOSTUDIO ON INSTAGRAM FOR MORE INFORMATION.
IN THE WORDS OF ALEXANDRA NOVIK KHAMIS
Artistic Style: Painting
In the last decade or so, you’ve painted more than 500 artworks. How has the journey been?
I showed great interest in painting and drawing right from my childhood, which my parents noticed and encouraged. At the age of 10, I started attending art school. Over the years, I’ve gained profound knowledge of different styles and techniques. I started learning more about realism – my favourite artistic style. During 14 years in Bahrain, I have organised several exhibitions and created an educational art material book among other things.
What guides your artistic pursuits?
As a Russian in Bahrain, I find inspiration in the intriguing blend of cultures and landscapes that surround me. The vibrant colours and patterns found in traditional Bahraini architecture, along with the dynamic energy of the bustling markets and the serene beauty of the desert. I am also inspired by my Russian heritage; the folklore, the ethereal landscapes and the passion and emotion conveyed by Russian artists throughout history.
What does your colour palette look like?
I am drawn to a rich palette; the warm and earthy tones of ochre, burnt sienna and deep blues, reminiscent of the desert sands and the shimmering waters of the Arabian Gulf. My artworks serve as a visual narrative of my own personal journey.
Please tell us how you go about creating a piece.
My artistic style is characterised by a harmonious blend of traditional techniques with contemporary elements. I predominantly work with oil and acrylic, as they allow me to explore the interplay of colours, textures and depth. When it comes to my creative process, it begins with a spark of inspiration. The next step involves sketching and planning. I use pencil or charcoal to translate my initial vision onto canvas, carefully considering composition, proportion and balance. Then, I transition to applying layers of paint. I build up the colours and textures gradually, using various brushes and tools to achieve the desired effects. Throughout, I continuously evaluate and make artistic choices based on my intuition and the desired emotional impact. Finally, any final adjustments or enhancements.
Is there a creation that’s close to your heart?
One of the best pieces I’ve created so far is Glimmering Reflection (top right). This artwork is a zoomed-in portrait of a girl with a strikingly large eye, reflecting a sense of glamour and intrigue. The composition focuses on capturing the viewer’s attention through the intense gaze and mesmerising allure of the subject. The exaggerated size of the eye serves as a metaphor, symbolising the depth of perception and the power of observation.
IN THE WORDS OF IRINA KOTOVA
Artistic Style: Painting
Please tell us a bit about your artistic background.
My passion for painting started with buildings, cityscapes and perspectives, reflecting my architectural background. Later, I expanded my artistic range to include seascapes, abstracts, portraits and flowers. Now, I explore other aspects of art such as graphics, sculpture and conceptual art, striving to make each of my works emotional and unique.
What inspires your art?
I draw inspiration from the beauty and power of nature. My paintings of seascapes, landscapes, flowers and other natural elements capture the essence of hope and the human spirit. Through my art, I aim to convey a sense of optimism and resilience, reminding us that even in the face of adversity, there is always hope.
What colours set your artistic soul on fire?
In my paintings, I use a vibrant colour palette to bring nature to life. The blues and greens of the ocean contrast with the warm yellows and oranges of the setting sun. The bright colours of the flowers stand out against the deep shadows of the garden. These work together to create a sense of harmony and balance, reflecting the hope and optimism that I strive to convey through my art.
How would you describe your technique?
I use a variety of techniques in my paintings to capture the movement and energy of nature. I use loose brushstrokes to create a sense of motion in the water or the wind movement through the leaves, while finer details are added with a smaller brush to capture the richness of the textures. I also use layering and glazing techniques to build up depth and luminosity in my paintings.
Do you have a favourite creation?
I love my Arabian Voyager collection, which featured in my solo exhibition at Downtown Rotana earlier this year. Reflections in Reflections in Yellow (below right), one of the pieces in this capsule, is an example of impressionistic art that captures the beauty and tranquillity of nature. I used a vibrant colour palette to create a contrast between the warm and cool tones of the sky and the water. I used light, colour and movement to translate an emotion of hope and freedom to the canvas.
What future projects are you excited for?
I’ve been co-mentoring fellow artists whose work will be on display at Downtown Rotana until October 22 (follow @Workart_ workshop Studio for more info). I’m also honoured to participate in Confluence 2023, the Bahrain Writers’ Circle’s annual exhibition, where artworks are displayed together with poems (follow @bahrainwriterscirclebwc for more info).