Viewing Archive ~ August, 2012

August 31st, 2012

The Sartorialist Dinner.

Monday, obsession sessions & inspiration are all minutes away from your grasp. Meet the ever talented Lebanese visual artist Maria Kassab. I met Maria through Facebook a couple years ago through a mutual friend of ours and was really inspired by her Art and talent, we even collaborated on a joint art series together last year. Maria graduated from the Lebanese American University with a major in graphic design and a minor in fine arts. Over the years she has participated in several collective exhibitions from Beirut to NewYork and it wasn’t long before she had her first solo show in May 2011 at the Joanna Seikaly Gallery in Beirut. Her artworks have been published in several local and international online and print magazines. Recently Maria opened an atelier/office in the heart of Beirut, Gemmayze and currently working on personal and commercial projects as a freelance Graphic Designer and collaborating with many artists on several local and international projects.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

M: The earliest creative activity happened when I was very young during the war late 80’s in Lebanon. We use to shelter underground, and there I would find a corner and start drawing, it was a blissful escape.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

M: I would have been an astronomer I guess, studying celestial bodies, and planets. I just love the mystery behind it, and yet I don’t find it scary but on the contrary I feel it’s a safer place. This immense blanket of flickering lights, as if sitting under a giant Christmas tree makes my imagination wonder and expand in many different dimensions. In a lot of my work I use space imagery. I sometimes feel our own body is a galaxy, it works by itself, it functions by itself, it’s a whole system of its own, if only I could get myself an enormous telescope and put it on my roof top and just gaze into space.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

M:  Who:  A lot of people inspire me, many great artists such as Man Ray, Max Ernst, Bill Brandt, Vladimir Tatlin, animators such as Jan Svankmajer, Berthold Bartosch, graphic designers such as Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Amin Hofmann, Emile Ruder and also a lot of architects are a source of inspiration such as Richard Buckminster, Rem Koolhaas, Oscar Niemeyer and many others. I’m also inspired by people I encounter everyday, from the guy who works in the barber shop next door filling me up with his stories, to friends, family, politicians and scientists.

What: Mostly music, music delivers a great deal of inspiration when I create. It’s like creating my own compositions but through images, all at once interacting together that makes a whole orchestra of objects and characters becomea symphony, a message, a state and escape. But also mainly everything is an inspiration from movies, to books, a condition, a situation, a city, a culture, a belief.

Where: Everywhere.

I: Share any of piece your work, recent or old and talk about it.

M: This piece is called Celeste. A photomontage I created in 2011. There is no personal description.

Overall my artwork is mainly a series of photomontages and hand made collages, I collect old photographs and images. I also sometimes use my own photography and illustrations to create certain compositions. My art is a collection; an amassing of mute and superimposed objects of undefined figures and shapes that give rise to a forgotten story.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

The Guardian

Thursday. objects. Designer artist Mohamed Fahmy (aka, mo fa or Ganzeer) explains the story behind his chosen object.

“Although its such a normal object, I wouldn’t be able to get anything done without my whiteboard. I usually have a million and one thoughts going around in my head at any given time. Having my whiteboard set up across my desk in front of me, keeps me in check. It helps me focus on what I have to do now, while with a minor glance quantifying how much I have to do next. No iCalendar, or digital to-do list can ever replace my whiteboard. Because my whiteboard is always there, looking over me and never tucked away.

The downside though… its not always easy to work outside my studio.”

Today is Monday. It’s time for you to be inspired. This weeks’ star of the obsession sessions is no other than Egyptian Director Ali Ali. Ali is a freelance film director that lives in Cairo and works all over the world. Three years ago he founded a boutique advertising agency named Elephant in Cairo along with his creative partner Maged Nassar. It quickly became the most awarded agency in the middle east, not to mention being named by Cannes lions as one of three most exciting agencies in the world today. Together Maged and Ali have won over 6 Cannes Lions, something they would never have dreamed of achieving a couple of years ago.

This year Ali decided to quit advertising and focus on directing full time, meanwhile his partner Maged moved to Berlin to join DDB. Ali is represented by Doppleganger (His agent in Berlin) and Big Mama (His agent in Milan). Currently, all Ali does is travel round the world shooting ads for different agencies in different markets, which can be fun, if you don’t mind living out of bag. His next job is in Bucharest, Romania. He leaves tomorrow.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

A: My earliest memory of creative activity would have to be drawing. Drawing and lying. I did a lot of both when I was a kid. And I think they’re both great for building an imagination. I would lie and make up stories continually. I forged most of my report cards as well. Not telling the truth meant you always had to fill in with other stories, with fiction. so I guess I did a lot of fiction as a child. when I got older I started painting, first acrylics then oils. I had a very inspiring Art Teacher called Paul Rinaldi, and for the longest time, I wanted to be a painter.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

A: I think I would love to have been a surgeon. I love how a surgeons job is done the minute he walks out of the operating room. Surgery is brilliant, because it’s all science, yet it still involves craft. You work with your hands, and if you mess up you can kill someone. That’s a crazy thing to do day in day out I think.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

A:  Who? : It’s funny, but the two people who inspired me the most in life were both called Nabil. Nabil El Solamy, my deceased uncle who was an illustrator and cartoonist living and working in the former GDR. I would spend days on end in the summer, drawing with my uncle, and inking up his old pencil drawings. I think he was responsible for getting me interested in art, and everything happened from there. Then theres my old man, Nabil Ali, a computer scientist, and a linguist. He got me interested in science, math, engineering, classical music, structured thinking, reading, logic, everything and anything I still use in my work today.

What? : I think everything can be inspiring. if you look hard enough. I like to seek inspiration from outside my field. I don’t look at ads for inspiration, or graphic design. I think real inspiration comes from other areas, away from your own, and the further the better. I mostly go to art shows for inspiration. I’m obsessive about seeing all the art shows in every city I visit. I also keep and collect all my art ticket stubs. For example, I’ve been to every major art show at the Tate Modern or Royal Academy for the last ten years. I just went to London to see Damien Hirst and his shark, that was incredibly moving and inspiring. Theater and reading are also great sources of inspiration. I read fiction mostly, Tom Robbins is my favorite living author. Nikos Kazantazakis, is my favorite dead one. And finally, people. Just being outside and talking to people I think is the best way to think. When I’m struggling with ideas or a difficult brief, I like to go outside and talk to cab drivers, or just sit in a nearby ahwa (Egyptian slang for dive coffee shop) and talk to the person sitting next to me.

Where? : Curzon soho. My favorite movie theater. I love to go there and watch three films back to back, or just sit in the coffee shop and read. have a good cup of coffee.

I: Share any of piece your work, recent or old and talk about it.

A: I think I’ll talk about two pieces of work here. One is a print ad I did for Sony Microvault (the usb memory stick) back in 2008. And the other is a TV campaign for an obscure Egyptian brand of Halawa (Halva) called Bawadi.

Sony is very close to my heart. For one, because it got me my first Cannes Lion. I remember saying I would quit advertising the minute I get my first Lion. little did i know : ) When i thought of this print campaign, I wasn’t crazy about it because it felt so obvious and so easy. I remember Maged, my partner at the time, told me, “someone must have done it, it feels too easy” and i think we both learned something that day. That the best ideas always feel too easy, and too simple, they make you think “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before”.

“Bawadi Prisoners” is also a piece of work I am very fond of. This campaign was done by Maged and myself in 2011. And it has won us every award in the region including the Dubai Lynx Grand Prix and best of show. Again, the thought was very outrageous, and we both immediately dismissed it, but then we thought, “Why hasn’t anyone used prisoners in a halawa ad before?!”. We all know prisoners eat halawa, and we always see them in films eating halawa, and the first thing you get an inmate when you pay them a visit is a box of Halawa. Initially the client wanted to use celebrities for this campaign, when we asked why he said “Because people trust celebrities” and I remember we said “But that’s not true, when it comes to halawa, they should trust the prisoners” and thats how these films were born.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

The Guardian
Creativity Online
The Tate
Art in America

Monday. This week your dose of inspiration is provided courtesy of  Ghada Wali. I first met this talented young Graphic Designer two summers ago at the far eastern tip of the Sinai pennisula in the Egyptian coastal resort of Taba. We were both camping on the beach with a bunch of friends and her vibrant personality stood out right away. As I got to know her better, it was such a welcome to surprise to discover the sheer amount of talent she possesses. In her own words, Ghada is a Cairo based self-employed graphic designer/illustrator, specialized in branding. Her aim is simple, to produce local flavored work that meets a global taste and understanding how to produce new, original, meaningful, functional, emotional conceptual design solutions, she is also interested in recyclable & editorial design. Her dream is to actually add something to the world, inspire somebody, change a wrong idea/perception, try to fix a problem or simply enhance someone’s life. It’s through my work that I always seek some kind of greater meaning and sense of purpose towards the planet which she always feel responsible towards.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

G: My post-revolution premaster project was a social awareness poster design editorial campaign with the purpose to re-correct misleading egyptian/religious and social misconceptions. It was an initiative to reconsider or breakdown some of the corrupt egyptian cultural system which is just as critical & influential as the political one. Dealing with mis-conceptions such as stereotyping/labeling, generalization and racism in order to promote social acceptance, diversity and enhance human awareness. Unfortunately, these misconceptions have nothing to do with education/social class, instead, it has been shaped over the years by the way we were raised, surrounded by these misleading thoughts. Thus the target group should definitely cover most ages and social classes of the egyptian population. Complex enough to be appreciated by high class civilians yet simple enough to cope with lower il-literal target segments. The project is called “meen homa?” or in english “Who are they?”. To see the project, click here.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

G: I would have been a musician, specifically a drummer. Or maybe a doctor!!

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

G:  Everybody, Everything, Everywhere. I believe that inspiration has no distinctive specifications, it’s generated from absolute infinite and unpredictable sources. Inspiration can be extreme, complex or simply quite stupid.

I: Share any of piece your work, recent or old and talk about it.

G: This is one of a series of 9 poster campaign of the circus characters. The illustrative-hand crafted-customized poster represents an artistic yet kitschy feeling and plays homage to Egyptian street style.

Egyptian culture heavily involves humor, jokes, tricks and playfulness in the daily lives of Egyptians. This poster is an attempt for the Egyptian circus, which is a pure representation of those common Egyptian traits, with aim of shedding spotlight on them in the Egyptian community and to elevate those qualities to the status that they deserve, transforming them -and the circus in turn- to a trademark and a cultural/touristic spot. Proving that the circus life goes far beyond the physical entertainment world to a far deeper outlet for the symbolism of social, political, and economical matters.

In working on this poster, I explored examining the psychology of each the performers and audience in that special field that’s all based on entertainment, amusement and performance arts. Trying to translate that and point out the connection between graphic design and circus/performing arts – as this subject have not yet been tackled from that point of view in this country yet- was my source of motivation.

Through this journey, my research aimed at finding out the answers to the following questions: How can the Graphic Design of the Egyptian circus poster influence the perception of the brand (national circus) and attract a higher social class? What factors should be taken in to consideration when developing a customized design for a circus keeping in mind the special needs of a city like Cairo? Can a compromise of the equation between a local and global design be achieved? and How? What is the role of graphic design in recording circus arts, and their interrelation? In order to acquire a clear vision and build up a conceptual design, it was a must to get deeper into circus life, examining every detail, exploring this world of mystery, trying to find a true understanding of its genuine identity and constructing a bigger image.

The Egyptian national circus brand attempts to highlight and even magnify these ‘perceived’ weaknesses; the kitschy/over-rated, culture and turn them into strengths or even points of beauty. It aims to alter the perception -especially those of the higher target group- motivating them to take pride in such a culture, admire it and even aspire belong to this new identity. Unlike a lot of what is common in Egyptian media, Egyptians are not being portrayed as the ‘glorious’ pharaohs from million of years, nor there is reference to any historical touristic sights, Arabic calligraphy or famous Egyptian topics that are quite overrated. This represents a new way to showcase contemporary -not ancient Egyptian- Art. Celebrating the real modern day Cairo means celebrating the circus.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.


Hi, I'm Ibraheem Youssef
I'm a Creative,
currently based in Toronto.

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