What Victoria Beckham Can Teach Us about Reinventing Ourselves as Women | Illustrations For Women About Women (E. 3)

What Victoria Beckham Can Teach Us about Reinventing Ourselves as Women | Illustrations For Women About Women (E. 3) | By Yaansoon IllustrationVictoria Beckham does not get a lot of respect when interviewed by “veteran” media personalities or design gurus. This is evident in the YouTube videos I had the chance to watch the past few days, where she’s treated like a 15-year-old, at best. Even when she gets praise, there is always that underhanded message about how she might be just another flash in the pan. And there’s also that quick reminder about how she has “surprisingly” outlived the many short-lived brands that were started by pop celebrities like herself.

Victoria Beckham is probably the fashion industry’s top underdog! I don’t know why YouTube decided to put her in my path via their Recommended Videos section, but I’m grateful for this serendipitous coincidence that made me see that even “rich” and “famous” women get to be treated badly, even in an industry that is primarily created for women – i.e the fashion industry.

What Victoria Beckham Can Teach Us about Reinventing Ourselves as Women | Illustrations For Women About Women (E. 3) | By Yaansoon IllustrationVictoria Beckham is no flash in the pan. She is a hard-working woman who has learned from her past experiences, and who deserves to be acknowledged as an inspiring and entrepreneurial fashion designer with a great taste and a piercing vision!

This 40-something mother of four, and husband to former British football player David Beckham, has paid every effort to reinvent herself – and I believe she did it with real grace, determination, and style. What’s most important to me in her journey is that she has reached the heights of success “despite” the way she has been treated by fellow fashion designers (who seem to feel like they were too important to be in the same boat with her) as well as other design personalities and fashion magazines.

What Victoria Beckham Can Teach Us about Reinventing Ourselves as Women | Illustrations For Women About Women (E. 3) | By Yaansoon IllustrationA Fashion Industry Dominated by Males

Although in each of her interviews there is great emphasis on how she couldn’t have done it without “the team” that surrounds her (another way to say she couldn’t stand on her own feet), I believe this hardworking fashion designer is so smart and strategic that it can elude the most experienced of fashion gurus in her field.

Simply put, Victoria Beckham is the first-of-her-kind in the fashion scene and there is no blue print to compare her to.

When I told my husband I was thinking of creating a series of illustrations about Victoria for my “Illustrations for Women about Women” blog series, he made an interesting comment about how she was a woman who was being super successful in an industry that is mostly dominated by men.

Any driven and hardworking woman is probably too familiar with the way egotistical men undermine women in their field, and may also treat them like an easy target. The sad thing is when women treat women that way out of jealousy and insecurity, and other maladies of the heart. To see a young woman like Victoria start a brand, lead it from a 10-peice collection in 2008 into an international brand in a matter of years, and be able to successfully wear two hats (as a designer and as a businesswoman) is probably too much for fashion-industry egos to handle!

What Victoria Beckham Can Teach Us about Reinventing Ourselves as Women | Illustrations For Women About Women (E. 3) | By Yaansoon IllustrationPeople Grow and Change, They Don’t Stay the Same

Asked by Chief Editor of British Vogue about whether she finds any similarities between her mindset as a former Spice Girls performer and her current vocation as a fashion designer/businesswoman, Victoria answered with an emphatic, yet polite, “No.”

She does reiterate this in other interviews, as she obviously is struggling against an industry that can’t move beyond first impressions and has no ability to acknowledge people’s growth and evolution.

Today, Victoria Beckham is a responsible, serious, and very inspiring woman, who is looking to create something real. And for this reason, I have great respect for her and wish her more success in all her future endeavours. I also hope that the media and the fashion industry would re-set their judgmental glances at her, and follow The Guardian‘s lead by starting to appreciate her journey and her evolution as a woman.

NOTE: Although my blog series, “Illustrations for Women about Women” was initially about female heroines I have met in real life, I now feel this series can grow to include other inspiring women I haven’t met.

About this blog series by Yaansoon

Early May 2016, Yaansoon launched her new series, “Illustrations For Women About Women,” featuring portraits of ordinary and extra-ordinary women from the 20+ countries she has been to, including matriarchs from her own family. Although the series was originally about real women she actually had the chance to meet, the series will now start to include stories about inspiring women who can teach us something about inner strength, their searing vision and tireless dedication, despite of adversity and/or hardship.

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Hand-Lettering Illustration: Real Beauty, Makeup, and the Soul

Hand-Lettering Illustration: Real Beauty, Makeup, and the Soul | By Yaansoon IllustrationI grew up in a family where one person only had tonnes of foundation on, and she did not represent the family’s norm. I personally was deeply influenced by my late grandmother’s kind of thinking – and that is: Real Beauty is Beauty of the Soul. So, I created these hand-lettering illustrations to put this kind of logic out in the world – especially that we seem to be going through a “heavy foundation era” (that acts more like a “mask” to our inner insecurities than anything else).

The other day I was on YouTube watching video after video about ways to apply foundation, contouring, highlights, and the latest fad, strobing. These videos all seemed like elaborate tutorials to help you look like someone you’re not (and to entice you to buy more and more beauty products).

I hated those videos and started to look for something that looked more natural, toned down and earthy, and I found it. It’s called “French Girl Makeup,” which is the complete opposite of what some like to term as “American Girl Makeup” (which probably excludes New York, San Fran, and Portland).

Hand-Lettering Illustration: Real Beauty, Makeup, and the Soul | By Yaansoon IllustrationI also came across this article on Brit + Co., which sheds some light on how our attitude towards makeup is pretty much a representation of our attitude towards life in general, and towards ourselves. I like this particular intro:

“No one lives the ‘less is more’ lifestyle better than French girls, especially when it comes to beauty. Appearing in what seems like constant #wokeuplikethis state, they basically wrote the book on lazy girl hair and makeup — fingers through bedhead, a wash of foundation (if any) and maybe mascara + lip gloss to get out-the-door ready. So it comes as no surprise that the one makeup trend they swear off is one of the most heavy-handed techniques around, and one for which *we* American girls have become globally notorious: contouring.”

The article goes on to quote a known French makeup artist in saying: “The main beauty philosophy in France is to accept who you are.”

Hand-Lettering Illustration: Real Beauty, Makeup, and the Soul | By Yaansoon IllustrationHow we use makeup is in deed a sign of a certain “mentality” that we need to be aware of, to be able to address the issues beneath.

The “French Girl” school of thought (and makeup) does teach us a lot about how to approach our skin: If we have bad skin, why make it worse by suffocating it under loads of makeup? Maybe we need to try and see if there is something internal going on that is causing all the inflammation or the uncontrollable zits. Maybe we need a drastic change in our diet or lifestyle, or maybe we need to be more mindful of our stress levels and mental health.

That’s one layer of the argument. The deeper layer is our soul.

As young teenagers it is pretty normal to live on the “surface” of things, to be shallow, and maybe easily taken by the glitz and glitter around us. But as we grow older, we might need to try and figure out the deeper meaning of life, who we are, and things as they truthfully are.

Our definition of beauty is probably one of the surest signs of our ability to mature and grow, both spiritually and mentally. It’s not easy, especially if we live in a culture that is heavily invested in outer beauty. But we can always make the choice to break out of these molds, and chart a more truthful and healthier path!

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Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationMaking stuffed grape vine leaves is probably one of the most time-consuming dishes in the Middle Eastern cuisine, but it also is one of the most delicious! Served hot with a dab of chilled yogurt on the side, many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern households cook this delicious dish on special occasions, or from time to time, as it most certainly is not your quick, every-day, go-to dish.

Although I am a serious foodie and cooking aficionado, I am quite impatient in the kitchen, a vice I am trying so hard to let go of. That’s why, creating an oil painting with my impressions of one of my most favourite dishes is more like the thing I would spend my afternoon doing. I guess I’d rather create art than spend the time creating this mouth-watering dish on a hot summer day!

This is the second canvas art I make after “discovering” my oil painting style. In a previous post, I spoke about how I finally found my oil painting style after taking a mini social-media and life-in-general break to really free myself from any distractions that may have been affecting my illustration style. I also got the chance to experiment with new materials, including a Cobalt Siccative medium that quickens the drying time of paint – by French manufacturer, Pébéo.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationThe Many Names of ‘Stuffed Grape Leaves’

There’s a bit of a confusion over the internet with regards to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern name variations of the stuffed grape leaves dish, or shall I say, dishes.

There are actually two main dishes that use grape leaves with some kind of stuffing in both the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Cuisines:

One is served hot and comes with a minced meat and rice stuffing (and is usually cooked with fat or Middle Eastern ghee, aka Samneh). And the other is usually served at room temperature or even cold, and comes with a rice and vegetarian stuffing, and is generally cooked in olive oil.

  • Where I come from, we call the hot dish Warak Enab, and that is the dish depicted in today’s painting. Other people call it Mehshi Warak Enab or Warak Enab Mehshi – Mehshi being the word for “stuffed.” In Syria for instance, they call it Yabrak.
  • We also call the oil-based dish Yalanji, which is the Turkish word for this savoury dish originating in this beautiful Euro-Asian country. Now, if you stuff other vegetables (like aubergine or eggplants) with the vegetarian oil-based stuffing the whole dish becomes Dolma, in Turkish.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationRecipes for Warak Enab, Yalanji… and Dolmathakia

Here is an excellent post by a blog I discovered recently, Orange Blossom Water, on Warak Enab and Yalanji.

And here is another lovely blog by a Lebanese lady, dubbed “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms,” where you can find authentic ways to clean and store fresh grape leaves, learn the technique to roll grape leaves, make Lebanese Warak Enab and Yalanji-style vegetarian grape leaf rolls. The last recipe uses chickpeas in the stuffing, which is also common in Turkey, but the recipe my grandmother and family uses has no chickpeas. This is how versatile and truly vast the Middle Eastern cuisine is!

I also found several other Greek and Armenian variations over the internet for the oil-based stuffed leaves dish. The Greek have a different recipe for Yalanji, which they like to call Dolmathakia. Instead of diced vegetables and rice, they keep it simple with rice, onions and herbs including dill, which is a Greek cuisine staple. Quick note… Dill isn’t used at all in the Lebanese and Syrian cuisines. I think it’s a new comer, and we may have the Egyptians to thank for bringing the Dill herb into the Middle Eastern pantry, thanks to their proximity to other Mediterranean nations.

So… do you have a stuffed grape leaves dish from your culture that you would like to share with us today? Please feel free to share your recipes, thoughts, and links in the comments box below!

Meanwhile, take care and I look forward to seeing you in my next post!

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Hand-Lettering Illustration: A New Way of Seeing Beauty

Hand-Lettering Illustration: Beauty is not in the face... | By Yaansoon Illustration

I grew up in between two worlds. At school, at home, and everywhere else, standards of beauty were pretty much external – placing much emphasis on certain body types, certain nose shapes, and a certain type of hair. But when I spent time with my grandmother, her standards of beauty were always about inner beauty, the heart, and character.

Although my grandma’s voice was the only voice emphasizing such qualities, time and time again life has taught me that the kind of beauty that really matters is that of the heart.

I created this hand-lettering illustration as a reminder to keep my focus on what really matters.

No More Fashion Magazines

Everywhere you turn, you find companies, brands, YouTubers, and people trying to cage us within certain definitions for what is beautiful. And most of these definitions are about looks, style, and image – and not about character, heart, or real inner beauty.

That’s why I stopped buying fashion and beauty magazines. They mostly fill our heads with such false notions about beauty, and they mostly make young women feel inadequate. And when they want to jump on the inner beauty bandwagon, they end up sending mixed messages, because a few pages later you are still faced with the same airbrushed beauty that the magazine is really all about.

A few days ago, I started a huge YouTube purge and unfollowed most of the beauty brands I have ever subscribed to. I felt a sense of true liberation, because now I will stop being bombarded with how-to’s and tutorials that require me to break the bank just to get my hands on the latest lip liner or luminous foundation.

I did keep a few YouTubers who shared their Natural Beauty secrets, but made sure to let go of all the brands that advertised heavy contouring, layers of foundation, and a specific standard of beauty.

Inner Beauty & Self-Esteem

From personal experience, my self-esteem and the way I feel about myself have improved in leaps and bounds when I took every fashion magazine (online and offline) out of my life.

Over the years, I have met many women who truly believed they were unattractive, when I knew for a fact they were very pretty both outwardly and inwardly. The problem they’ve faced all of their lives was that their kind of beauty was rarely represented in fashion magazines, therefore making them believe they were far from being on a par with the Photoshop-doctored images they see on magazine covers and advertisement billboards.

Flaws, What Flaws?

There is something seriously wrong with the world, and that is the fashion and beauty industries. They leech off people’s insecurities and make it their business to amplify them in a way that makes you want to “cover up your flaws” by using their products. The word “flaw” is closely associated with feelings of shame and inadequacy, and that is exactly what the fashion and beauty industries have been fueling the past few decades.

I say, don’t listen to them. Focus on what is within and your whole life will change to the better!

I hope you liked today’s hand-lettering artwork and post. Looking forward to seeing you in my next one!

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Container Gardening and My New Oil Painting Style

Container Gardening Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationThis is the first time that I share with you all one of my oil paintings. The truth is I have been creating artwork using oil paints on and off for a while now. But non of my earlier paintings really reflected my vision as an illustrator and artist… until I created this container gardening oil painting – which I think reflects what I truly love, in terms of subject matter and style.

The last time I posted anything on my blog was almost a month ago, and I have also been minimally active on social media. The reason for this mini social media cleanse is that I have been busy attending a self-initiated summer “art bootcamp,” where I made it a point to keep my interactions with the outer world as minimal as possible. I have been in search for my true voice in both illustration and fine art, and to achieve this I had to bring the noise and the distractions to a bare minimum.

Container Gardening Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationAs a result of this mini social media (and real life) break, I was able to regroup, and be very mindful and thoughtful of the art I created. I freed my mind from obligations and worries – like social media posts – along with it the need to impress, express, or talk when all I needed was silence and peace of mind. I needed to know who I really was as an artist without any of the external factors that could sway my judgment or affect my behaviour.

Solitude, Container Gardening, and Artistic Style

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that solitude is a powerful thing. It helps us tap into who we really are and frees us from a lot of mental, emotional and even physical clutter.

When I wasn’t illustrating or learning something new about art and illustration, I spent my time container gardening. I got so much into it that it helped me phase out from art itself, and also helped take my mind off my little quest to hone my style. I got so busy looking for pantry seeds to grow, watering techniques and ways to keep a healthy homemade tiny garden. And in the simple act of container gardening came my most powerful inspiration.

Container Gardening Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationOne day I got out my canvases, brushes and oil paints and started sketching and painting away. It was so effortless, honest and direct. It felt like the time was ripe for my style to come to fruition and become a reality. Something inside of me became more “flow-y,” less controlling, and more at ease.

I can’t help but feel like gardening had a lot to do with my growth as an artist. When we first plant a seed in the little bit of soil we have, we need to give the seed the “solitude” it needs in order to grow. It needs to “hide” inside the soil for a while, meanwhile receiving the water and the kind of nurturing it needs before it “appears” in the world. A seed sprouts in its own time. I grew a handful of legumes the other day and noticed how each grew in their own time. The little green stems appeared in varying times above the ground, which I think is a powerful metaphor for our growth as people. No two artists are alike, and no two people are the same. We all bloom to our own rhythm, and there are no rules to when we will find our “voice” or “style” or even the kind of career we want to follow.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s post, and I do look forward to seeing you again in my next one!

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