“Art is a universal language”

says Simar Halwany, a Lebanese visual artist in conversation with All About Book Publishing.

Simar Halwany, Lebanese Visual Artist
Simar Halwany, Lebanese Visual Artist

Simar Halwany is a Lebanese visual artist, specialized in painting with oil, acrylic, pastel and water colors and paper cut. She uses various techniques such as mixed media, allowing the viewer to experiment her vision of joyful and beautiful surroundings. Simar tends to convert reality to a colourful imagery, taking us to mythical places, adding charm and joy to life.

Simar has a Masters Degree in Illustration at Mimaster Illustrazione, Milano, Italy and a B.A from the Fine Arts Department (Beaux Arts) in 2000,specializing in Painting and Etching.

In 2008, she became a member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, participating in the annual Arts Exhibition at The House of Arts in Sharjah, UAE. Since then, she has been working as a freelancer illustrator for children’s books with many well-known publishers and authors from Lebanon,Middle Eastand Gulf region.

Life as an artist…

Simar is a visionary artist who creates a wide variety of images and enjoys experimenting with different materials and styles. “Art is the personality of one’s innerself. Without that understanding,one cannot create. My art reveals how I think,see, feel, understand and experience life.To me, art is manifestation of love…loving the nature around us and the people we share our word with. Art is a powerful and silent international language that convey messages to the word reflecting culture,history and civilisation,” she says.

Role of illustrations in a book

“Picture books create meaning by blending art and text. Illustrations enhance visual representation and help make the text more understandable. They add a richness and depth to an author’s words by creating the setting and heightening the mood,” shares Simar.

What makes a good illustration for kids…

“For me, as far as what makes a good illustrations for kids, the first things comes to my mind is simplicity and being authentic. I’m always trying to embrace my inner child and to express more about my childhood.Children often respond well to simplistic work or even primitive style. The first key attribute is an active imagination. I always create original,inspired artwork to capture a child’s imagination, keeping in mind that children’s imagination is very vivid,” she says.

Abstract painting…

“To enjoy more freedom and to be able to express my true soul, I always allow myself to explore new visions.I sometimes paint abstract because I discovered that there is infinitely more to art that just painting reality. Painting in this manner gives me the freedom to break all the rules. Abstraction allows me to tap into my feelings,intuition and innovation,and work in a more spontaneous manner,” she says.

So what is more interesting – abstract painting or book illustrations? “I enjoy working on my picture book and painting at the same level of passion and enthusiasm,” replies Simar.

A writer too…

Simar’s love for children led her to compassionately write and illustrate BOO. It was her first adventure as author–cum-illustrator.This book was published in 2017. “The love for the mediterranean sea and the attachment for my childhood,make the book ‘BOO’ effective in several levels. It is an enjoyable story with gentle adventure in the sea. It is about enjoying life,getting along with others and having fun and sharing,” Simar explains about the book.

So how has been the experience? “Often, I work collaboratively with authors and publishers to bring existing stories to life,rather than illustrating on my own.But with this book I was the author,illustrator and designer as well,” she replies.

An award-winning illustrator…

A number of her books are award winners like the book Al Feel Al Rassam for the Best Book of the Year 2017. She was also shortlisted for the best illustrator for Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature 2017 for the book Shajarat Al Zaytoun.

Her illustrations of the book A Fish I Dreamt Of was on the international honor list for the best illustrator 2016 for IBBY Awards at Bologna Book Fair in Italy. Other award-winning books include Samakatiand Al Fikr Al Arabi 21.

What next?

“My upcoming project is a silent picture book, which will be published soon with a Lebanese publishing house.Silent books are unique because of the power they give to readers. They free the imaginations of readers to create, adapt and tell their own stories through the pictures on the page,” tells Simar.

“Silent books are universal. Readers of all ages, reading levels and nationalities can enjoy the same book at the same time. Art is a universal language and the illustrations in wordless picture books unite readers in a way that language-based books just can’t. Wordless picture books are especially important for children because it requires them to engage and think about the story the illustrations are conveying. Having children then put this story in their own words carries on the art of storytelling and can promote literacy and improve comprehension skills.I’m very excited working on my first silent book and I can’t wait to see the final results,” concludes Simar.

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