Posts Tagged ‘painting’

By Mike V. Derderian

A passionate embrace is flooded by streams of light. Gold yellow waves interspersed with darker shades the color of violet, red, orange and white engulf a man and a woman in a state of love.

Stand still, keep quite and watch the enamored couple; the only two who managed to find each other unlike the other men and women who roam the dream-like illuminated pieces of Hammoud Chantout, that are now hanging at Dar Al-Anda Art Gallery in Lweibdeh.

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State of Life, that measures 145 x 120 cm, is but one of the many impressive canvases that Chantout’s hands created. It  conjures up Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. Chantout’s two lovers are caught in a vortex of colors that embody the enlightenment that their love brought fourth.

Unlike the two in State of Life, a title that Chantout used with other pieces, the others appear to be aloof and detached. Viewers will find them standing next to objects that Chantout’s brush brilliantly produced.

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Why is that male artist standing a few meters away from a red chair, while another, a female artist, is leaning on a rail amidst a haze of earthly tones?

Some of Chantout’s colorful personages, and I say colorful because uneven patches of color formulate their construct, are standing next to bright colored pieces of furniture while others are standing under trees that give away echoes of Africa.

Viewers crossing the entrance hall will find a set of six exquisite miniature tableaux to their right. Chantout cleverly created a landscape broken down to six pieces. Each pieces tells part of a story that could have happened anywhere around the world. The architectural edifices that Chantout relies on to create his sceneries give out the feel of Syrian rural mud houses.

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Born in 1956 Chantout graduated from the Suhail Al-Ahdab Art Center in Hama, Syria in 1975. In 1976 he was admitted to the Faculty of Fine Art with a 1st rank. He has been holding solo and collective exhibitions in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Canada, and Turkey since 1972.

At Dar Al-Anda one will also come across a book entitled Chantout and that allows viewers to take a glance at his impressive volume of  work.

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Copies of this book that holds haunting images that found their way out of Chantout’s beautiful mind are most probably on sale.

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The female figure dominates a lot of Chantout’s pieces.

The Bride with the White Mask (70 x 100 cm), Paradise (70 x 100 cm), Hope (80 x 100 cm), Angel (60 x 70 cm) and A Princess from One Thousand Nights (60 x 70 cm) are a celebration of the femme and her role in the building of humanity and the birth of mythology’; a legacy that some are trying to bury.

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Thanks to such poignant pieces by Chantout the celebration continues, and another memory is added to humanity’s collective memory, to remind us of the  femme that haunted the minds of artists throughout the ages.

With Adam’s Apple (60 x 70 cm), and that Dar Al Anda used for the cover of their beautifully designed brochure, a must have, Chantout offers us an interpretation of the ultimate illumination: Knowledge.

Illumination springs from darkness and as one goes through the details of Chantout’s pieces a balance is found. Where there is darkness there are also corners that are illuminated; corners where artists like Chantout, and the likes of him over the centuries, have found themselves standing to illuminate the path for the rest of us.

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Don’t search for clear answers in a painting, enjoy the emotions it yields within you. The above piece Oriental Princess (122 x 100 cm) is but one of many of Chantout’s pieces that will generate discourse in the minds of viewers.

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Anyone entering Dar Al Anda, before Chantout’s Illuminations exhibition wraps on April 25, will come across a torrent of colors and lines that carry within their folds a lot of passion and interpretations that will stir ones’ imagination.

For more information about Dar Al-Anda go to http://www.daralanda.com

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A footnote:

1 … 2 …  3 … 4 …

The text pointer flashed a couple of times before he started typing.

Two years passed since he last wrote a professional art review, a review that used to be published in The Star on a weekly basis; a review that used to be edited. He was edited by three individuals. The one he loved most passed away a few months ago. Rest in peace Abu Hassan.

In 2003 I joined The Star weekly as an intern. My dear father went with me. I managed to get a shot at writing an art review of a botanical exhibition at The Instituto Cervantes in Amman. It was a successful piece even though the exhibition and the description of the pieces were in Spanish. They were impressed and I started getting paid on a freelance basis. After a few weeks I managed to convince the editor that I would be able to write cinema reviews. I was given a column and was asked to come up with a name. Cinerama was born. After a year I got the job and I was a staff writer. Why a year? That’s another story for another blog post.

The above few lines demonstrate how I felt as I wrote this review after three years of not writing any. It only took me a moment to decide. I was outside Dar Al-Anda running an errand.

“It has been so long. Don’t you miss immersing yourself  in art? Go in!” I thought to myself. It was quite an emotional experience that reminded me of the eight years I’ve spent visiting art galleries in my Amman part of my work as a journalist; an experience I loved.

Hopefully I will get back to doing this more often ;-})

 

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Last night, December 15, 2012, was the final day of the Karama Film Festival. I did not attend any of the film screenings. I stopped attending cultural activities around Amman a year and a half ago. I guess not wanting to see anyone is one reason; the other reason is work related: I’d rather work on a t-shirt design, an illustration for a comic book character or write a piece of literature.

Some people are just a waste of time and sincere emotions!

So this is what I have been doing lately: I would go to an exhibition hall prior to opening and enjoy going through the exhibited works piece by piece as I did with the exhibition Karama, Where To? that was held part of the festival’s week long activities.

If I was still writing for The Star Weekly I wouldn’t have dared write about this impressive exhibition as I am part of it. However, since this is a blog post I am afraid to say that I forgot my journalistic objectivity in the pocket of my other coat.

What I find most fascinating is how many bloggers haven’t written or mentioned the holding of this exhibition. I guess writing about the amazing works of young Arab artists, graphic designers and comic artists is not as self-gratifying as writing a piece about boycotting Israel and having it spread through the very same self absorbed social grapevine.

This exhibition, that held the works of artists like  Amer Amin / Amer Shomali / Ammar Abo Bakr / Amr Fahed / Abd Alraheem Arjan / Asma Ghanem / Diala Brisly / Fares Cachoux / Hilda Hiary / Jawad Hamdan / Khaled Jarrar / Majd Abdelhamid / Maya Terro / Marwan Shahin / Mohammed Abu Elnaga / Mohammed Abu Afefa / Mohammed Joha / Mohammad Omran / Monther Jawabreh / Mostafa Jarrad / Nidaa Badwan / Rima Al Mozayen / Shadi Al Zaqzouq / Tarzan & Arab / Wisam Al Jaziri/ Yara Al Najim and myself, was about voicing our visual thoughts about Arab Spring and where we think the Middle East is heading.

For me personally I see this period more of an Arab winter and summer is still far ahead. The call for this exhibition was a way of standing up to bullshit through our work, be it written, drawn or performed!

This is what many of the participating artists did; they called bullshit by its name and I am quite proud to have my works, the four pieces that I contributed, Nippon Vol. 1 & Vol. 2, Gaza Dolls and Propaganda, hanging next to the works of such amazing artists.

This was the message that I discussed with Rashid Abdelhamid, Alhoush founder, and Jasmine Melvin-Koushki, a curator at Alhoush, who co-organized this exhibition with Miss Sawsan Darwazeh (The Karama Film Festival).

Anyway I hope you enjoy the snippets that I took of the exhibited works that you can find in full by clicking on Alhoush’s Karama, Where To? Facebook folder.

Please note: Each piece is followed by the name of its artist.

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By Mohammad Omran

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By Marwan Shahin

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By Amer K Amin

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By Amer Shomali

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By Jawad Hamdan

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By Maya Terro

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By Shadi Al Zaqzouq

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By Mohammad Abu Afefa

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By Yara Al Nejem

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By Diala Brisly

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By Majed Abdelhamid

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By Mohammed Abu Elnaga

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By Amro Fahed

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By Ammer Abo Bakr

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By Monther Jawabreh

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By Wissam Al Jazairy

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By Rima Al Mozayen

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By Nida Badwan

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By Tarazan and Arab

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By Moahmmad Haja

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By Yara Al Najem

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By Asma Ghanem

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On a final note thank you Al Housh and The Karama Film Festival for using my illustration for the exhibition poster ;-})

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All photographs were taken by Mike V. Derderian save for the in which he is shown and that one was taken by Nesrin Mousa Derderian :-})


By Mike V. Derderian

Last night, May 7th, 2012, I attended the opening of Yazan Khalifeh’s Humorous Portraits solo exhibition at Zara Gallery. Below is an interview I conducted with Yazan for the November/December Vol. 5 2012 issue of REVIEW Amman.  

A man wearing horn rimmed black shades can be seen smiling a Cheshire smile. The eyes are a little smaller. The nose is quite enlarged. The cheeks bloated yet human and shelter lips that are of a prize fighter: Swollen like a blimp.

In spite of the disproportioned yet proportioned measurements of the face one can easily tell it is Foad Al Mohandes.

This humorous portrait of the late Egyptian actor, thespian and comedian is one of dozens illustrated and digitally painted by Jordanian Cartoonist Yazan Khalifeh.

“The secret is not just in expanding the proportions of the face. It is about capturing the spirit of the drawn subject and for viewers to be able to immediately tell who its owner is,” explains Khalifeh with whom I met (in person) a few weeks ago.

Thanks to Facebook the life of freelance writers and journalists like yours truly is made easier. You can now contact anyone. However, in Yazan’s case there was only an e-mail and it didn’t go through so I had to contact a friend asking for his number.

So I called Yazan and a few days later we met at books@café where an hour and half was spent on talking about cartoons, comics, illustration, the lack of art education in Jordan (Middle East) and his beginnings as a cartoonist that took us back to the 1990s.

The Art Director at Jeeran Khalifeh showed up wearing black training trousers and a black t-shirt that reflected an affinity to graphic design—he graduated from the Applied Science University with a BA in graphic design in 2001.

On how he picks the faces that he wants to turn into humorous caricatures Khalifeh said it is all about feeling the presence of the person he is about to illustrate.

“I always choose individuals who have a strong presence and charisma. Some are good people and some are villains,” Said Khalifeh whose gallery of portraits also includes the faces of dictators, presidents, politicians, actors and musicians.

Khalifeh, whose specialty is humorist caricature portraits, is quite passionate about his work and subjects.

“I’ve been drawing all my life. I started out with drawing superheroes until the start of the 1st Gulf War, when I switched to drawing caricatures and political drawings. I started publishing in Addustour’s cartoons supplement,” Khalifeh says, adding, “I discovered painting (and its different styles) at university when I studied graphic design. I simply fell in love with painting.”

Here are some of Khalifeh’s achievements since 1998: He won the 2nd place award in a local universities cartoon contest. In 2000 he won a Traffic Day poster award and Philadelphia University cartoon award in 2000. He held his first solo exhibition in Blue Fig Amman in 2006. In 2008 his work was featured in Ballistic Publishing’s book Expose’ 6: the finest digital art in the known universe- 2008.

“After holding my exhibition at Blue Fig the cartooning bug bit me again and I found myself gravitating back to caricatures. I started drawing caricatures for 3ala Rasi.com that was launched by my friend Cartoonist Omar Al Abdalat, where I have an extensive archive. I later on returned to drawing humorist portraits with emphasis on faces. With Facebook and social media growing big I gained a lot of exposure and gained a lot of following; both locally and internationally.”

Looking at his lines, colors, texturing and details one would think the moment his pencil/digital pen hits the surface of the paper/digital pad Khalifeh almost immediately comes up with a humorist portrait. Well that is not that case as Khalifeh explains!

“Some faces are easier to draw than others. There are faces however that I struggle with. One example of such a face is that of Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s president. He has distinct features that give the impression he is easy to draw but he is not. The style that I am working with at the moment is almost realistic, however, when I see the work of others I am tempted to switch styles,” Khalifeh states.

In the past few years Khalifeh, and very distinctly, drew the following people: Duraid Laham (Syrian actor), Haifa Wahbeh (Lebanese singer), Abd Al Halim Hafez (Egyptian singer), Um Kulthom (Egyptian singer), Moamar Al Qaddafi (Libyan president—now dead), Zein Al Abdeen (deposed Tunisian presiden), Pablo Picasso (Spanish painter), Fairuz (Lebanese singer), Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian president), Ali Abdalah Saleh (Yemini president), Mohammad Sobhi (Egyptian actor), Hosni Mobarak (Egyptian president), Adel Imam (Egyptian actor) and Elissa (Lebanese singer).

“I first come up with a sketch that reflects the likeness of the person I am drawing. It is a balance. I am talking about exaggeration and not distortion. Humorist caricaturing is all about capturing the realness of a feature and exaggerating it,” Khalifeh, who spends three hours on drawing every day, elaborates on the process with which he works.

If the illustration is funny but there is no likeness to the drawn person than the humorist portrait/caricature Khalifeh believes failed. “People should be able to say, ‘yep that’s him/her alright!’ I don’t just draw anyone. I have to be emotionally affected by the individual I am drawing, however, it is doesn’t matter if I hate or like the person I am drawing,” he reveals.

Khalifeh acknowledges that his father—a humorist portrait of whom is found in one of his many Facebook albums—was very supportive. “He used to take my work to Addustour to show them to Caricaturist Jalal Al Rifai, who used to tell them ‘your son is imitating my work.’ However, when Al Rifai saw my other work he was impressed and had me on board the Addustour cartoons supplement,” Khalifeh says.

The young artist sights Iraqi Caricaturist Moyad Ne’meh, who passed away in 2005, and American Caricaturist Jason Seiler, as two of the important caricaturist who influenced his work.

“Ne’meh used to draw caricatures and faces. He was amazing. Jason is the teacher with whom I took a humorist caricatures course online. Of course there are other artists who influenced my work but it is hard to name them all,” Khalifeh says, adding that Mad Magazine also had a deep impact on the way he draws.

Being on Facebook and in contact with a lot of artists from all over the world pushed him to work harder and produce more.

“You have a lot of artists out there who are fast and up to date. It takes a lot of practice and discipline to produce on a daily basis and that’s why I like being on Facebook. It helps me connect with a lot of artists and at the same time find more motivation,” he adds.

Moments before we concluded our get together at Books Khalifeh, who is a skilled traditional and digital artist, told me that a solo exhibition at Zara, that will comprise all his humorist portraits, is in the works.

“I am working on a very special humorist portrait. I won’t reveal who it is. It is a surprise and you will find out at the day of the opening. At the moment I am trying to maintain the humorist portraits style to make sure that the exhibition reflects a unified style. I will God willing switch to a different style in the future,” Khalifeh said with a smile that you can only see on the face of a kid holding a pencil he is mischievously passing over a piece of paper.

Interested in learning more about Yazan Khalifeh and his art than visit his following links: http://www.yazankhalifeh.com & http://yazankhalifeh.blogspot.com/

By Mike V. Derderian

“Follow me,” Raghda Butros, the creator and organizer of Hamzet Wasel, said no sooner we met at one of Al Qala’a alleys. After handing me a roll of white paper sheets and around 12 crayon cases I found myself going down a rock staircase leading to a stone terrace facing the Roman Amphitheatre.

I was there to teach children from Al Qala’a area how to create a comic strip. I thought I would have the time to shoot some videos for Ikbis but I soon found myself in over my head and surrounded by anxious kids, who were waiting to hear what this stranger has to say to them.

“Hi! My name is Mike. So who knows what a comic strip is?” I asked after they all introduced themselves to me.

None answered.

“Ok, who reads comics? Anyone here ever read a comic magazine?” I asked again, and again no one answered.

“Who watches cartoons on television?” I asked; they all raised their hands.

Taking out the clipboard that I always use for drawing I started showing them how they can bring a cartoon character to life. Nothing fascinates children more than ink lines that intersect to create a character on a blank piece of paper—or so I like to think.

With a few simple lines I drew a character that has been living in my head for the past three years: An amphibian shark with crooked blunt teeth called Mako.

“Does anyone know what I am drawing?”

After a few hmms and mmms someone finally said “Fish” followed by a quick “Shark.”

“Now I will show you how to draw different eyes for different emotions like happiness, puzzlement, anger, boredom and sadness,” I told them.

However, I didn’t want to just spoon feed them what I learned over the years; I wanted them to use their own imagination. “I want you now to start drawing something from inside your head. By the way you can draw anything that you want!”

I was dismayed to find out that they all had imagination but failed to properly incorporate it on paper. One started copying the image on the crayon case while another sat with a crayon in his mouth contemplating the page. Another boy scribbled away while another tried to squeeze out something meaningful out of his young mind and pour it over the blank sheet of paper.

Every few minutes I gave them tips on improving their character lines, adjust a nose here and an arm there. Trying to bring out their unbound creativity wasn’t as easy as I have imagined it would be but it brought to my attention how careless their art teachers are.

“Let us see what you have drawn?” A pencil with a mouth; a fat looking cat; a square; a cubic-looking car that would have made Pablo Picasso proud; and a lot of colored doodles were my A4 findings.

A young and bearded man with a pony tail and gentle mannerisms by the name of Joseph, who kept popping out every now and then to check on the children’s work, made me look at what I was doing in a different way.

“You have to make sure that your lines are clean. Your coloring should be dark in certain areas and light in other,” Joseph told the children.

Now the technical aspect is important but what was more important for me was how to free their imagination from the rusted fetters that their unimaginative teachers have restrained them with.

Before teaching them how to scribble and draw an art teacher should teach children how to appreciate their own imagination and art. I am positive that none of these kids had a proper art education. Mind you the situation at private schools isn’t any better!

At that very moment I remembered how my art teacher never took the effort to actually help our imagination grow. My memory took me to a classroom filled with boys and girls, who wanted to do anything but draw or create an art piece.

Sitting in that sunny class room where very few of my colleagues actually cared about drawing I saw how my teacher patted the back of a friend, whose sister helped in creating his project.  “He told us that his sister helped him you idiot! He didn’t do it!” I begrudgingly thought, “Wasn’t he supposed to do it! Look at the pieces that I have created. I’ve made them on my own.”

In the years that followed nothing changed: Favoritism and ignorance prevailed. There were no exciting trips to art museums, no slide shows about world art, famous paintings, art theories and techniques, no interest in my drawings or Rembrandt for that matter.

Luckily, I got to know the Dutch Master through a picture of a painting entitled The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp in one of my mother’s dictionaries.

I remember going through a French dictionary, Le Petit Larousse, without understanding a single word of French. I went through the miniature paintings that existed in it and that caught my imagination like a child eating his way through cotton candy or fresh clouds using his imagination. I learned more about art from these small paintings than I learned from 12 years of inane art classes.

What you will read in the following paragraphs will reveal to you that you don’t actually have to study art and attain a degree to appreciate it or draw or paint for that matter. Still it helps if art teachers bothered to get a projector to bring the world of art into the classroom.

After surviving Tawjihi back in 1997 I found myself in a car heading to Damascus with my sketchbook and drawings in my backpack. I was going to become a Fine Arts student in Syria, and at the same time fulfill a lifelong dream, and which is to live with my Grandmother Georgette and amazing Aunt Sona, or so I thought.

Well at least I fulfilled the former!

Again what was I doing in an old American Dodge travel car heading to Syria? Well, I earlier found out that in order to study animation in Jordan you had to be a Scientific Branch graduate—some clever person at the Ministry of Education believed that in order for me to draw cartoons and animate them I had to know that 1 + 1 equals 11.

A few days later after settling in at my grandparent’s house I was shocked to learn that I won’t be able to apply for arts school even if I passed the admission art test: Wasta I was told.

Not that here is any different or is it! Nepotism and favoritism happen to be forms of Wasta so stop kidding yourselves! How else would you explain an artist/writer reviewing his own work in a newspaper or a magazine article with no one to actually criticize him/her for doing some personal PR!

So I folded my sketchbook and decided to study my second passion in life: English Literature.

Life went on. On the third year at the University of Damascus I stumbled upon a poster asking students to submit artwork inspired from our literary studies. I got excited for this was an opportunity to combine two of my favorite things: Drawing and English Literature, and yeah, impress some girls.

A week passed and a good deal of time was spent on Anthony and Cleopatra, Heart of Darkness, Faust and The Ancient Mariner. The sketches that I produced weren’t masterpieces but I felt proud for being able to capture the themes of these amazing works; I also enjoyed drawing them.

Here now is the punch-line? The exhibition never materialized and I was told that the faculty decided to cancel it. My artistic dreams once again eluded me.

Upon returning to Jordan I worked as a journalist and a writer for The Star Weekly. After a few months, and just as the United States of America decided to spread democracy in Iraq, and capture Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, my artistic dreams revisited me. I found myself drawing one panel black and white caricatures, one of which was about Iraq.

It got published in The Star but I wasn’t asked to draw another one; guess they wanted my words more than my lines to which I am grateful as there, and in that office, I honed my writing; or in simple they just hated my style and didn’t want to tell me.

After the passing of six years another opportunity presented itself when an online company heard of an Arabian themed cartoon that I have been working on. I took everything related to my project and went for an interview. I had everything ready: The synopsis and character description, a number of episodes (including the pilot episode) and the initial character pencils.

I pitched the idea and the company executive loved it. He told me that they were thinking of bringing a renowned Jordanian artist and animator to work on the project. It was very exciting. I was later told that the artist and animator liked the story but had another vision for the character design. A few days later I found myself staring at my own characters through the eyes of another artist. It was an amazing experience. I decided to go ahead but unfortunately the company reneged.

Back to square one! More writing ensued and my dream of becoming a full time cartoonist waned.

In 2007 I decided to stop drawing indefinitely. I placed everything I drew in my life in a plastic bag that I hid in my desk drawer, however, the yearning for graphite lines on paper did not go away.

I resisted until 2008 when I joined a start-up company, where I worked as a writer and voice over artist for a cartoon series. I was very excited and loved working on the series and everything else but wasn’t comfortable with the attitudes of the company owners—Too many cooks spoil the broth.

A few months later I resigned. After hearing the patronizing remarks of a cartoonist, who said that my way of thinking and writing are Yankee Western, I decided to finish my comic strip and never look back in anger.

I still insist though, and adamantly, that Godzilla is Japanese! Some just can’t handle the fact that they are not always right!

In the meantime things at the newspaper were going fine for me: A front page story, a movie column, an art review piece in addition to another piece that were all written and submitted on a weekly basis.

I decided to leave not just because I was offered the job of managing editor for a mini cultural magazine but because after six years you just begin to doubt everything.

A few months later and after a successful launch and four issues I resigned. In simple: Major creative differences. Resigning jobs was becoming a hideous pattern and I was beginning to feel like a nomad heading to nowhere.

All the while, before my resignation, and during many sleepless nights I kept on drawing and drawing and drawing. I knew they were out there.

Eventually a gluttonous shark with crooked and uneven teeth and surgically attached arms and feet that lives in Down Town Amman’s sewers with a one eyed cat with complex psychological issues talked back to me.

Mako and Me-ouch came to life and I am more and more becoming accustomed not only to their ugly faces but to their bizarre mannerisms.

After writing a few of their stories and a number of preliminary sketches that I did to learn more about their anatomy and motion on paper I asked a friend and a fellow artist with whom I worked and liked very much, Waleed Qutteineh, to help me color them.

We created four paneled three episodes that I started showing around to my friends and potential publishers. After a three months waiting period I received a phone call from Shireen Al Rifai, who loved them but wanted more panels. I told her that I will add two more panels and that was that.

The Dark Sid of the Spoon is now being published in U Men and 7iber.com. Well the journey continues until further notice!

Now and more than ever I realize that understanding art is more than going through textbook classes, sketching nude or fully dressed models and inanimate objects, or obtaining a B.A or an M.A, it is done by observing and absorbing.

Still 11 years is too much observing and absorbing, which is why if you feel that you have the talent to do it just go for it. The reason why I talked about my attempts at breaking into cartooning and comics is because I am hoping that someone who is 10 – 15 years younger than me will read this piece and decide to go with his or her talent not matter what.

In addition to actually doing it—cartooning and drawing comics—start experimenting with your imagination, writing, and drawing techniques as it will allow you to know what you are good at and what you are not. This will allow you to focus your work effort and know where you are heading. Why waste time trying to mimic the artworks of others when you can create your own.

If you want to be good at something you have to know about everything related to it. The same way I am spending time with Mako and Me-ouch Jordanian children should spend time with their own imagination.

Art teachers should offer those young artists-in-the-making inspiring tools and imaginative methods instead of boring classes in which they are asked to draw anything.

Schools should not only focus on upgrading their art courses and have art and comic book sections at their libraries but also help guide students according to their talents.

Guide them through during art classes, inspire them to dig deeper into their minds, show them how to see it on paper, and talk to them while they ink or color it, and most importantly if you see a spark in their lines nurture it and help them connect with artists, who can actually motivate them more.

I know! One day is not enough to instill the love of art, or the love of anything for that matter, but it is a start! I tried to make this short experience as enjoyable as possible for the children of Al Qala’a, which is why I just used the character of a cat that one of the children created. I simply asked them to give this cat a story.

“What is the cat doing? What do you usually do to a cat when you see it? Do you chase after it, feed it or ignore it? Where does a cat live? What would a cat want in life?” I asked hoping that one of these questions would prod them into drawing and making a story.

“He lives in a trash bin!” answered one of the boys.  Others joined in, “He eats garbage!”, “He is afraid of people, especially children like us”, and “We throw stones at them.”

They all got excited and tried to build on that. We ended up creating a six paneled comic about a cat, who orders food from a restaurant via mobile but is denied because the trash can has no building number on it.

We all, the children and I, found ourselves sitting on a straw mat leaning over a giant piece of paper drawing and coloring. Their hands excitedly went over the uncolored areas of the characters and landscapes within the oversized panels.

It all came to an end when the comic was complete and the children joined their friends, who just learned how to draw on t-shirts with another volunteer. They all were running free, shouting, playing and sliding down a grassy hill under the sunny sky.

Some of the children, who worked with me on the comic, asked me to draw them an airplane with Jordan’s flag on it before they left; I gladly did. Moments later I went down a staircase that led to Down Town Amman, where I bought an old painting of a ballerina before I headed home. It was an amazing experience and I am looking forward to doing it again.

On a realistic basis the kids at Jabal Al Qala’a or at any other part of Jordan need proper guidance and sincere attention through artistic and creativity building interactive scholastic programs like Hamzet Wasel, http://www.hamzetwasel.com, and START, http://www.startworld.org, which I learned about through Laila Demashqieh, an artist and START’s creator, who I met on Facebook.

School administrators and art teachers should organize meaningful school trips to art galleries and foreign cultural centers, where students and teachers alike can learn more about the art of other nations through observing and absorbing.

Internet made it easier for us to access everything from music to art, to comics and graphic novels. Researching is easier than ever, which is why now is the time for Jordan’s art teachers to start thinking beyond the white pages of their student’s Fabriano or Canson sketchbooks and gaze into their tireless souls and imaginative minds for a change.

– Poster by BRICK IN THE HEAD 2010 / Still photograph from Roman Polanski’s 2005 Oliver Twist –