Interview and Foreword by: The Al Rawiya team
Edited by: Hani Daou
Yasmine Darwiche is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator based in Beirut. We came to appreciate Yasmine’s illustrations during the early days of the Lebanese Revolution in 2019 and have since fallen in love with her visual illustrative style. Her Arabian style is, to use her own words, “a way to document and preserve our culture and heritage […]. Our environment is incredibly rich and gives us lots of material to work with.” To that effect, Al Rawiya is delighted to promote an artist who shares our vision and provides yet another beautiful platform for the rich mosaic that is Lebanese culture.
What is your professional background? Do you consider graphic design your calling, and if so, when did you realize this?
I am a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. I graduated in 2016 from the American University of Beirut (AUB) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design. I then joined a professional branding studio and later became a full-time freelancer. I’ve always considered myself to be creative and took up illustration at quite a young age. It’s my creative outlet and gives me immense satisfaction. So, to have the chance to integrate that medium into my professional life is quite amazing!
Is creating your art your full-time profession or is it more of a hobby?
How would you describe your style?
I would say that my style is quite detailed and illustrative. It is a reflection of the culture that we live in. It is traditional, in terms of the subject matter, yet contemporary, in terms of style, and is mainly inspired by all things local.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration mainly comes from my environment and surroundings. Beirut will always remain my primary source of inspiration and will always push me to create. I also encourage myself to incorporate design elements from different cultures into my work in order to keep things exciting and interesting.
In your art, we pick up on a lot of Arab inspiration (Islamic patterns, Arab architecture, traditional clothing, etc.), what does that mean for you? Is it a way of preserving our culture?
I’ve always used design as a way to document and preserve our culture and heritage in my own personal style. Our environment is incredibly rich and gives us plenty of material to build around.
Technically speaking, my illustrations are quite detailed and intricate and require a certain degree of patience. The process of working on all the details and ornaments is quite meditative and therapeutic. It allows me to immerse myself completely into the artwork and really focus on the present, so the result, in the end, is always gratifying.
What do you intend to express through your art? What is it that you want to share with others?
My primary goal is to document and preserve our experiences, culture, and heritage in my own personal style. I personally believe that your work becomes successful when it becomes relatable. It is important to create things that resonate with people around you. It gives your work meaning and purpose.
What project are you most proud of? What’s your favorite creation? Can you tell us why and what inspired you to bring it to life?
I have a unique relationship with each project that I take on. I am quite proud of the latest series that I worked on, The Heritage Series. The love and support that I received was overwhelming! I look forward to producing similar works in the future.
I also love working on collaborations. One example I could give is Wata, the local cider brand. The process from start to finish was incredibly smooth and the owners allowed me to use my illustration work in a different context/environment. The brand as a whole complimented my work perfectly.
Another project that will always remain close to my heart is Wander Beirut. It started off as a Final Year Project at AUB and was published a few years after I graduated. The process as a whole was really enjoyable, and it pushed me to discover the city and meet plenty of personalities from different backgrounds who taught me a lot about Beirut. I also know for a fact that this is an ongoing project, one that I would eventually like to expand to the rest of Lebanon.
Credits: Yasmine Darwhiche – Wander Beirut guide illustrations
If there was anything you could experiment with, what would it be?
I would love to experiment with interior design and would like to see my work incorporated into a living space, be it through tiles, wallpaper, or even furniture.
What type of art do you love working the most on?
Illustrations for sure.
Do you feel that it’s easy to live on the income you receive for your art in Lebanon?
It has definitely become much harder. When I first started freelancing, my projects were all based in Lebanon. After the revolution began and as soon as the Lira started collapsing, I was forced to take on projects from abroad for work. Income in Lebanon was no longer sustainable, but the transition was smooth thankfully. We have a huge expat community, so it was easy to make connections and establish a network overseas.
We saw a lot of new artists emerge after the October 17 revolution, what effect do you think it had on the art scene in Lebanon?
I think it gave artists and designers like myself a platform. Not only did we see lots of new artists emerge, we also saw plenty of new mediums. It was a major turning point, and everyone felt the need and urge to create something, be it through illustrations, murals, interventions, songs, short films, news coverage, etc.
Can you elaborate on the challenges that artists in Lebanon are currently facing?
The living conditions and uncertainty make it a lot harder for us to feel inspired and create. You need to have a certain level of patience to sustain your work in this country. Production is also becoming more and more expensive, so you always feel pressured to compromise on a few things in order to achieve the quality that you want in your work.
How do you think the art scene will evolve in Lebanon?
One thing that I noticed recently and that makes me hopeful is that our craftsmanship is being exported. We truly have the brightest people in the business and it’s hard to compete with our level of expertise. Global exposure will definitely give us the visibility that we need and deserve and will give the art scene in Lebanon more hope.