I came back from Iceland yesterday night and went straight to work with an icon painting workshop all of this week. Here's a glimpse of my icon at the end of day 1 of work:
While I wade through the 1,101 photos I shot, here are the answers to what I was asked in my last journal!
asked: Who are some of your greatest inspirations?
Some of these show influence in my work, others inspire me by their vision and work approach rather than their style. In no particular order:
Samir Sayegh (my dear teacher), Hassan Massoudi, the anonymous early Arabic calligraphers and Qur'an illuminators, Alphonse Mucha, Nicholas Rœrich, George Nakashima, Alan Craxford
, JMW Turner, JRR Tolkien, Ibn Arabi, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, CG Jung, David Cranswick (I hope he never finds this!), Bruno Gazzotti, Alan Moore...
asked: What do you do if have no ideas left in your head?
That happens very seldom, usually I have too many ideas so I freeze
But it depends. If I don't have to finish something urgently, I take a break and do something completely different. Shopping, socializing, cooking, baking, cleaning up my files or work space... It's actually a good opportunity to do things I don't do when I'm swept away by inspiration.
If I'm stuck on a job that can't wait, I look at sources of inspiration. I read comics if I'm working on a comic, I browse calligraphy galleries if it's that kind of job... Sooner or later it causes a spark that gets me back to work.
asked: What is your favourite type of art you like to do?
At the moment, calligraphy, clearly
Closely followed by illustrating food.
asked: How do you work so huge? I've thought about how nice it would be to work large, but then scanning becomes a problem. Do you hire a photographer?
First I'd say that if I want to work large, reproduction is not a consideration, as solutions can always be found eventually. As a matter of fact, I have not been able to take good photos of the enormous pieces you saw in my last journal, simply because I can't step back enough for it where I am, but that'll be remedied once they're up at the client's.
Some work around A3 size can be scanned and reassembled. I did this for the entirety of my comic Malaak because I inked on A3 paper. I scanned in 3 parts to accommodate for the distortion that happens at the edges of the scanner, knocked out the white background and put them back together. It's lineart so it's quite easy to do it seamlessly. I've done this also for some watercolours, which requires a bit more work but still works, just remember to scan in 3 or 4 parts even if it looks like they can fit in 2.
Now for the calligraphy, you're correct, photography is needed. Not only because of the size but because gold leaf simply can't be scanned. I do my own photography. It's not as perfectly sharp as hiring a professional, but let's be realistic, those guys charge the moon, and with a bit of post-processing I get results that are just fine for my needs. When I get real famous (ha) I can worry about getting the best possible photos. Shooting objects and artwork is something we've always done in the house because my mom's a photographer, so here are tips from me to get good photos of a piece of work:
1. The higher-definition the camera and its settings, the higher-resolution image you can get. I can get equally good images from my pocket canon and my DSLR, but the former will only look good on relatively small sizes.
2. You don't want direct sunlight on the work, EVER, unless it's filtered through a light haze (or you have something semitransparent you can use as a screen). My ideal shooting conditions are putting the work in the brightest part of the house that's not a direct sunlight, and overexposing by two clicks. NO artificial light (unless it's studio lights), NO flash.
3. The side of the work that's closer to the light will always look brighter in the shot. To compensate for this, use a large piece of white card on the opposite (darker) side to reflect light onto it.
4. It's critical to shoot the piece perfectly flat, and for this, it MUST be placed flat on the floor until you have enough experience to do otherwise. Then you can position yourself so the lens looks straight down (make sure you're not casting a shadow on it). The crosshairs should be centered and the other guidelines should be as parallel to the edges of the paper as possible. I never use a tripod but of course that's an option.
5. If your camera is too close to the target, there will be a distortion. If you're too far (standing on a stool for instance) and zooming in too much, the definition will suffer. So you have to find an even ground.
6. Shoot many versions. I can take as much as 30 pics of a tricky piece to find one I can work with.
7. Photoshop retouching will be inevitable, adjusting balance, restoring perspective, stamping out small things, etc, but I don't think I need to go into that
also asked: How are you able to travel so much?
I don't anymore, so I don't know how I can answer that accurately! When I did, living in Lebanon which is neatly at the centre of the Old World was helpful. When you're as isolated as America is, I guess travel is hard. Also, rents used to be very low and I live very simply (hardly any outings or shopping) so I saved a lot and that went towards traveling. Finally, I simply picked destinations based on my budget. There are countries where you can stay on $10 a day and that includes accommodation (when you're willing to live rough); I took full advantage of that! Flights to some places in low season can also be ridiculous. Hostels/ guest houses, and eating locally, are much cheaper than hotels and looking for the kind of food you're used to. Ditto public transport rather than taxis. The fact I don't need visa for most of the planet also cuts down on my expenses. I never used couchsurfing, but that's free accommodation anywhere. The fancy trips I've been on are usually family trips, where pooling our resources and renting an apartment rather than hotel rooms, and taking group tours, makes it reasonable where it would be completely unaffordable for a lone traveler (case in point, this trip!) There are ways! There's a series of books called "... on a Shoestring" that are full of good advice.
And time-wise, I've been self-employed for a decade. When I worked remotely for a game company, it was agreed that I could take off anytime I wanted provided I gave warning and made sure everything was in order for my absence.
asked: What is your favorite dish that you like to cook?
That's real tricky, I can't single out one thing I particularly like to cook, but I can say I love working with batter, melting chocolate on a bain-marie, and mixing or kneading dough with my hands
So that makes cake, tart and bread recipes my favorites, even if they're not my favorite to eat!
asked: I love how clean your lines are in your recipe images. How do you get them so perfect and smooth?
I normally ink on paper, but as I've had to do it digitally for the past 8 months and that's what you've been seeing, I'll focus on that. Below is a screencap of inking in progress. There's no magic trick, really, but you do need a graphic tablet. I just zoom in a lot on the sketch, because you get smoother lines when you do that, than if you try to ink at 100% scale. I use a basic round brush but make sure that the spacing is set to 0% (even though it's 1% on my screenshot, bah) for an extra smooth line. Beyond that, I just make my strokes as long as possible (as opposed to hatching mini-strokes all the way), and if necessary I use the eraser to smoothen big kinks! This all takes place on a new layer, naturally, not the sketch layer itself.
asked: Do you ever get burnout on long professional projects (or simply when working for a long time without a break), and if you do, how do you handle it?
Yes, that happens cyclically. I get a burst of energy and then inevitably after a couple of weeks I get a serious energy dip that is basically a burnout. I treat it with the same respect I give my body when recovering from illness: I give it time and space. I stop working until the energy replenishes itself. Sometimes it means doing nothing but reading or playing game son my iPad for two solid days; that's fine. I don't beat myself up over "time wasted" because that's silly, recharging batteries isn't wasting time. If clients are involved, I communicate, but also I never promise too tight a deadline. Clients, particularly agencies, often behave like the world will END if a job isn't finished in two hours. I don't play into that nonsense. Everything can wait but your (physical and psychic) health.
asked: Who is your all time favorite artist and what makes this person your favorite?
Man, that's so hard. That's just not possible to answer, so I'll have to answer with the artist I have the closest relationship with: my calligraphy teacher. He is, to me, the archetype of the Artist. His work is his life and he's gone so deep into it it's awe-inspiring; he has no interest at all in what the public may want, all that matters is the integrity of the work and going ever deeper into its deeper meaning, into new techniques, into the places where it communicates with the work of other cultures. Despite his being a recognized master and scholar (everyone calls him Master, even the grocer), he's really humble, welcoming anyone sincere into his workshop for a cup of tea and a philosophical discussion or calligraphic advice (most of the world's better-known Arabic typographers of today owe him everything). At the same time, he never allows the work to be disrespected (he refuses, for instance, short and shallow interviews that wouldn't leave any room to really explain what the work is about). He never wonders if a piece will sell because his work is his prayer and his only religion, and he spares no expense or time to bring an inspiration into form (I would know, how we toiled on some of those!)
Also, very simply, I love his work to pieces, it has that energy coming through that betrays the real artist, the one who just brings through something from beyond his ego ^^
asked: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Have you always wanted to be an artist, or is it just something that happened along the way?
I wanted to be a naturalist! I was seriously engaged in that direction; Gerald Durrell is still one of my greatest heroes and I haven't read any books as many times as his. I loved to draw and create, of course, but it was only during my penultimate school year, during an orientation session, that it occurred to me to have a creative career. I heard of graphic design for the first time and decided that was it. Living in Lebanon and not willing to relocate at the time, there was really no scope to be a naturalist or work with animals as I would have wanted to, and I was getting increasingly aware of that, so I took the opportunity that was presenting itself when I saw it. I don't regret it, art is my real vocation (I've ditched design in the meanwhile) but I never lost this longing for the animal kingdom. You can tell from my tutorials, right??