Acrylic paintings: The Andalusia Arches Hope and Rewards

A poet once wrote about Andalusia:

“A sun dwells in this place and even its shadow is blessed.
In this palace a multitude of pleasures capture the eye and suspend the intellect.
Here a crystal world teaches marvels.
Everywhere Beauty is carved, opulence is manifest.”

In Spain, the Andalusian or Islamic architecture is elaborate; it is highly decorative and ornate with intricate designs. Materials that were once favoured include stone, stucco, and plaster for coating exterior walls. Later on, the stone was replaced with brick – a great example of this is the fortress palace of Alhambra constructed in the 14th century in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. The word “Alhambra” literally translates as “the red one”, referring to the red bricks used to make this incredible palace.

The  palace of Alhambra has dazzled viewers and inspired artists from all over the world, with its breathtaking architecture, gorgeous gardens and intricate design work on the walls and arches of the palace.

Notable artists inspired by this “pearl set in emeralds” include M.C. Escher; indeed, the Alhambra provided him with the very foundation for his work and signature style. First visiting in 1963, Escher was drawn to and inspired specifically by the tile patterns of the palace: the repetitions of geometrical shapes and floral patterns would be famously represented and experimented with in his work.

And, as s the opening quotation from a poet shows us, authors were also inspired by this incredible place. Washington Irving resided at the Alhambra for some time, and from this stay produced Tales of the Alhambra.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alhambra, created in the Andalusian or Islamic tradition, continues to amaze and inspire – a testament to the power of art.  I myself, as an artist, am incredibly influenced by and drawn to the artwork of this palace and the Andalusian period – the patterns and designs are so beautiful that I can’t help but want to represent them. However, I am drawn in and attracted to this era not just due to the visual beauty of these patterns but also because of just how rich an era the Andalusian period was.

During this period, the progress and creation didn’t stop with the erection of incredible monuments such as the Alhambra – indeed, the era witnessed a commitment to the building and growth of community.  Education boomed: math, architecture, literature, discussion … in doing so, discourse and relations between different sects  and religions was encouraged. There was a laying down of difference in the interest of peaceful coexistence, in the interest of culture, community and creation.  To me,  community governed by peace, and art, is the epitome of beauty, and it is revealed in the intricate designs and art work at Alhambra and other architecture in the Andalusian style.

My paintings, Andalusia Arches, have all of this within them – I was striving to not just represent the physical beauty of this architecture, but to recall and infuse the paintings with the spirit of peace and community of the era.  To me, the architecture of this time period,  like these arches, is a physical representation of what can be created when there is community.  These arches represent both the hope that the human race can have when all live together without fear of persecution and the reward that we receive after hard work as a community.  Gazing at artwork such as these arches provides us with a sense of calm and happiness; I hope that when you look at these pieces of mine, you can imagine relaxing in a place of great beauty, under the hot Spanish sun.

Beneath the Paint: Body Building Paintings

The body of a body builder is one which can provoke many reactions: we are in awe;  we marvel at the dedication and decision it takes to achieve it;  we think of beauty, of desire, of narcissism;  we wonder at the obsession with a certain body type and ideal – we might even question or disprove of the body type and the motives behind wanting to look that way.

However, no matter what other thoughts might come to mind, the bodybuilder’s body is a living testament, indicating an intense drive, determination and focus. Through diet, sleep, life choices and regulated work outs, the bodybuilder dedicates his or her life to achieving the ultimate goal, the perfection of their body.

I paint the bodybuilding form because of what it represents to me: dedication, commitment, and the wondrous ability of the human being to change and enhance our appearance.

Bodybuilding presented to me the ultimate ideal of what I always wanted. Growing up, I was the baby of the family: not only was I the youngest, I was a thin, frail boy. I was very unhappy with my appearance, and did not like the softer look I had. I was almost ashamed to look in the mirror at my small body; I wanted to raise my body to the level of fitness and health that I saw in bodybuilding. As such, I began to work towards my goal of having the bodybuilder’s body.

The ancient Egyptian pharaohs built temples to the gods, and further adorned the temple walls with iconography, with rich art depicting the gods – all as part of their own deification process, as pharaohs themselves conducted their lives with the belief and desire to become gods in the afterlife.  Like these pharaohs, I began to build my own temple – my body.  Like the pharaohs, I surrounded myself with art work, with representations of the ideal figure. I drew and painted out what I wanted to be like, capturing my ideal figure on canvas. Art allowed me to express my hopes and desires; it was a visual representation of the ideal I had in my mind.

From this process came three acrylic paintings of body builders, now called Blue Night , Red  Night  and White North, respectively. Yet before I renamed them, these paintings went by other titles, titles that were more indicative of my thought process, of the impulse behind the art. I would like to share them with you now, so that you might be able to step into my mind a bit, to step into the process.

Originally, White North was called “The Birth of an Idea”, representing the blank canvas state from which ideas spring. I was unsatisfied with this title, however, as I was also unsure of the state of the painting: was it finished? Was this the final product, or was there more to create with it? It became “The Incomplete Picture” – I could not decide where to take the painting from the white state it was in. Indeed, it remained unsigned for two whole years before I came to the realization that this was the final state – rather than the beginning or birth of an idea, it is the final stage of an idea. It thus became The White North, to indicate the final frontier, the very ends of the earth, the culmination of a journey.

Blue Night was originally titled “The Resurrection”: it represents the body type that I, having shed my former body which I was unhappy with, was able to rise to. It is a celebration of reaching that ideal, of finally being able to achieve happiness and delight in one’s self. This painting represents what hard work can achieve: the ultimate look. The background signifies a perfect summer day, the kind of day where you rejoice in being alive, in being happy and healthy. The vibrant blue is the cloudless blue sky of such a day, a sky with no threat of bad weather – no worries, only celebration.

The red acrylic painting, Red Night, was painted with the same joyful thoughts in mind. It was originally titled “The Reincarnation”: a celebration of rebirth, of lifeblood pulsing, surging through. With the right attitude, you can allow what you dislike in yourself to die – you can find a new body, a new being in which to wake. The longer you work, the longer you do the right things (diet, fitness), the closer you can get to your ideal form or goal, constantly improving, moving forward, leaving what disappoints you far behind in the dust of a former life.

All of these body building paintings were not just a delight in the human body; rather, they were at once my message of hope, of the possibility for change, and my celebration in this fulfillment, in finding an ultimate new state of happiness and self-hood, of finally finding a home for my identity.

Acrylic Paintings : Painting from Memory

My home county, Lebanon, used to be known as the “Switzerland of the Middle East” due to its civility, peace and democracy. This was especially true of the city I grew up in – it was a city of love, understanding and tolerance, where people of different faiths and cultures could peacefully coexist together. Moving about in the happy hustle and bustle of the city, I would encounter people of all sorts of different faiths living, eating, laughing, and enjoying life together in harmony. At this time, differences were a cause for celebration, not violence.

As children, we used to go to the villages and valleys surrounding the city for fun and adventure, as well as serenity. There were endless gardens and valleys stretching out with the abundance of nature for us to play in. I remember waking up at 4:30 in the morning with the other kids to walk for hours in the valley, to reach the orchards and the gardens. We would gather all sorts of fruit – peaches, cherries, pears, grapes – anything that we didn’t have, we would simply wander into the neighbouring gardens to pick, like blackberries and figs. We would spend the whole day picking, and lug home baskets spilling over with fruit. We would arrive home exhausted but entirely happy, rejuvenated by the outdoors. Upon arrival, we’d wash and eat even more fruit, even though our little tummies were full with all the fruit we had stuffed down our throats while picking!

I evoke these happy times in the bright paintings Escape to Affection and Escape to Happiness. However, the time in which they were painted was the complete opposite of this idyllic childhood. Instead, it was a time of great darkness. I had suffered three tremendous blows: the loss of my dear mother, the loss of a great job, and an alarming health scare. I felt completely alone and broken,  as if I was lying shattered on a cold and dark floor after experiencing a long, terrifying free fall. There was no exit, and hope was difficult to find – my thoughts turned morbid, and it seemed that the only escape was death.

But I managed to find another escape: art.  It was painting that helped me escape this period of darkness and that helped me heal – in particular, it was painting images and scenes inspired by my childhood, diving into these happy memories, vividly recalling a time things were easier, brighter, bursting with possibility just as our baskets had burst with fruit. I realized that the happiness of this time could be found once again through painting; art gave me the healing power to collect the pieces, stand up, and move forward to build a better future.

I put my memories to the brush, and translated them into the bright colours, the beaming sun, and the enchanting gardens. These paintings have an air to whimsy to them, particularly in the buildings and shapes; I want the observer to feel, looking at it, as if they are in a wonderful dream from which they almost don’t want to wake up, happily escaping into the colours of memory and imagination.


Canadian Landscapes – Vibrant Colours

Since moving to Canada, autumn has become my absolute favourite time of year:  the vibrant colours that abound leave me breathless, and I am often overcome with the beauty of season.  The air is electric with inspiration, ringing out in tones of deep reds, brilliant oranges, and stunning yellows…a chorus of colours.

In Lebanon, fall is completely different. When the season comes, the leaves change to pale yellow (nothing like the depth and shades of yellow here), even beige. It wasn’t until I came to the feast of colour that is the Canadian autumn that I realized how starved for colour the Lebanese autumn was.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve watched the seasons come and go: each fall I am still captivated. I will drop anything to go out and wander among the leaves. A few years back, I took a drive from Toronto to Montreal in the height of the season. It was one of those idyllic, perfect days, where every moment seems charged with significance, one of those days where you are acutely aware of the beauty of the world, and you realize, with a start, that you are truly happy in the moment.

The scenery was truly awe-inspiring: I couldn’t get enough! I was drunk on colour, dizzy with the beauty that surrounded me. We pulled over in Kingston, ON, for an hour so that we could truly take it in, and not just through the car window. I took countless photos, over and over, trying to capture the perfection.

It is experiences like this that inspire me to paint works such as Warm Canadian Day. I recall that day with much fondness: painting is a way for me to return to that day, to those feelings of happiness and joy, to the fiesta of autumn. Though I do take pictures, as I mentioned, I cannot paint from photographs. I prefer to draw from memories and mental images: I find the works are then infused with a genuine feeling, tinted and shaded with the authenticity of my own experience.  I find I am more able to make the piece my own.

Geometrics Acrylic Paintings – East vs West

When I was a child growing up in Lebanon,  I was entranced by the beauty that surrounded me.  It was an intoxicating whirlwind of both natural and manmade wonders, from the forests to the architecture and artwork of my town.  In my paintings, I often refer to scenes, images and memories from this rich and evocative childhood home, as evident in my 5-piece Geometric Series.

I can remember  going to church and being mesmerized by the colourful patterns adorning the walls and windows – I was drawn in by the  intricacy of the artwork, and the bright colours that lit up the space. When I walked into rooms or buildings decorated in the traditional Arabic style, I was  struck with similar sensations: the patterns and shapes were like those I saw in church, but still with a style all their own, laden with their own unique mystery and power.  The realization that these shapes and images were used within both cultures, Christian and Muslim,  moved me profoundly – in art, there was a unity, there was cohesion, there was, just as the intricate patterns suggested, a harmony that could be found.

These encounters had a lasting impression on me; they  shaped me as an artist and as a person.  When I came to Canada,  I called these memories up from the depths of my being, and began to paint. What came from this is my Geometric Series. In many ways, what I have attempted to produce in this series are pieces that reflect a merge of the two cultures I experienced. I have engaged with iconography of both cultures, such as the cross and the octagon. While these paintings can be hung separately,  they were designed as a series to reflect a unification of two cultures within the artistic realm.

The shapes that I have engaged with are further shaded by memories of the natural beauty that was my playground, my backyard! In the Middle-East, there is a popular flower  that  I knew as a marguerite – in the English speaking world, you would know it as a daisy. These yellow daisies grew very high –as a child, they were almost taller than me!  Around Easter, we used to gather up these flowers and cook our eggs with them; the daisies turned the eggs a bright, yellow hue, and infused them with a unique and delicious flavour. My nod to this experience can be seen in both the use of the bright yellow colour and of the petal shapes within this series.

For me, art and the process of creation come from a very genuine place within me;  always behind my paintings is the desire to share a story. The pieces in my Geometric Series came from recalling scenes from my childhood; they are an attempt to evoke some of the same feelings of wonder and joy I had when surrounded by such powerful images and scenery.


Related Paintings :

Don’t Brush It Off: Taking Care of Your Paint Brushes Tips

clean brushes

Accomplished and novice painters alike know the importance of proper cleaning and maintenance of paint brushes. Taking the little extra time to properly clean your brushes after you paint will extend how long you can use them, saving you from continually having to buy new brushes. All it takes is a little lukewarm water, some mild soap, and a bit of patience.

Finished painting for the day? Follow these do’s and don’ts so that your next painting session will be just as enjoyable as the first!

  1. Wear gloves if you worry about the toxicity of your paint or the sensitivity of your skin. Pay attention: if the paint is staining your skin causing your skin to crack, use gloves!
  2. Use a clean, soft cloth or tissue, wipe off any excess paint. The best way to do this is to gently squeeze the bristles from the ferrule edge outwards to the tip with your fingers or a cloth.
  3. Rinse the brush. Oil paints require rinsing in turpentine or oil. Water-based mediums can be rinsed in lukewarm water.
  4. Wipe the brush on a cloth to remove the last of any paint.
  5. Wash the brush gently with a bit of mild soap or gentle dish soap. If your paints aren’t toxic, work up a small lather of soap and gently scrub the brush in your hands. Otherwise, dab the brush in soap (Gently, gently!) and make a lather in a container.
  6. Rinse, repeating until the water runs clean and there is no trace of any colour still coming out. Make sure there is no paint left within the bristles. Certain paints may permanently stain the bristles over time, but the brush will be perfectly fine to use – as long as you make sure to remove any lingering paint.
  7. Remove any leftover soap by doing a final rinse in clean, lukewarm water.
  8. Gently shape the head of your brush into its original shape with your fingers.
  9. If your brush is too misshapen to be shaped by your fingers, wrap a piece of toilet paper around the bristles while they are still wet. As the paper dries, it will pull the bristles into shape by contracting around them.


  1. Pull on the bristles to get excess paint out – pulling on bristles will tear some of them out.
  2. Use hot water. Hot water can damage the ferrule by expanding or loosening it, which can then cause the bristles to drop out.
  3. Leave your brushes to dry bristles down. If your brush dries head down, the bristles will splay our and dry misshapen. Put it handle-end first in an old yogurt container or jar.
  4. Let acrylic paint dry on a brush. Acrylic pain is water-resistant when dry – if you let it dry, it’s not coming off!
  5. Leave brushes standing in water. This is not proper care and can ruin them.
  6. Force paint out of brush using high water pressure. This will weaken the bristles, and can cause them to loosen and fall out. Rinse gently several times as opposed to blasting the brushes once.


  • Use separate brushes for your oil paints and for water-based mediums. It’s also important to use separate brushes for masking fluid and varnish.
  • Natural bristle brushes can stiffen and lose flexibility. If you desire, you can soften your brush: after cleaning it, dip it in a bit of the oil you use as a medium.
  • Are your brushes out of shape? Sometimes you can reshape synthetic brushes by soaking them in hot (not boiling, but hot) water.

Escape to Affection

Escape to Happiness

Escape to Happiness

Bruce Garner’s Joy Sculpture

Nestled in Sparks Street Pedestrian Mall , Ottawa’s pedestrian street, there is a copper sculpture : 4 figures, 3 adults and one child, hold hands in a circle. Their entire bodies are thrown back, their heads are up and the child and a female figure each have one leg off the ground, pointing up. Their bodies are smooth and unadorned; the only material is copper. One does not need to read the title of the piece to feel the tone of it at once: Joy.

Bruce Garner’s Joy is a beautiful, evocative sculpture. Looking at it, your heart is immediately swept up in the gestures of their hands, in the arches of their backs which push their chests out as if they were singing, in the dancing movements suggested by their bodies, right down to the toes pointing upward. To me, the piece is even more poignant for its location: though Sparks Street has many delights including boutiques, greenery, and benches, it is surrounded by old banks and buildings of commerce. To have this sculpture among all that is refreshing and inspiring; these figures do not celebrate because of possessions or purchases, but because of the community they have within each other.

Though using a heavy form, Garner has somehow achieved movement so real it leaves you with a sense of breathlessness. The smooth, unbreaking lines in the bodies help realize this – consider how the line found in the lifted foot of the little boy continues with the up stretched , up thrown hand and body of the figure facing him. The whole piece has a fluidity to it that creates a sense of exuberance, of celebration. I have walked by this piece many times, and on each occasion, no matter my mood, I have found myself smiling, and have met the smiles of other on-lookers passing by, as we share a bit of joy.

Sculpture is a fascinating art form. What are some of your favourite pieces out there? What sorts of emotions are evoked? What appeals to you most about sculpture?

Andalusian look from a Terrace

Andalusian  look from a Terrace

Andalusian look from a Terrace

Andalusian look from a window

Andalusian   look from a window

Andalusian look from a window

Flowers and Triangles a Celebration of Canadian Summer

Flowers and Triangles

Flowers and Triangles a Celebration of Canadian Summer

Happy Warm Canadian Day

Happy Warm Canadian Days

Happy Warm Canadian Day

The Big Red Two Months in the Making

The Big Read Two Months in the Making

The Big Red Two Months in the Making

Medieval Stars and Crosses

Medieval  Stars and Crosses

Medieval Stars and Crosses

Octagon The Stars of the Desert

octagone Stars of desert

octagon the star of desert


Green Flower of the Cross

Green Flower Of the Cross

Green Flower Of the Cross

Geometrics Arabic Stars

Arabic Stars Dancing

Arabic Stars Dancing

Bodybuilder in Pursuit of Perfection the Red Night

Bodybuilder in Pursuit of Perfection the Red Night

Bodybuilder in Pursuit of Perfection the Red Night

Bodybuilder in Pursuit of Perfection – The Blue Night

Bodybuilder in Pursuit of Perfection - The Blue Night

Bodybuilder in Pursuit of Perfection - The Blue Night