How I Display Art: Oil Paintings and Food Illustrations Gallery Wall

How I Display Art: Oil Paintings and Food Illustrations Gallery Wall | By Yaansoon IllustrationI usually arrange my gallery walls a bit haphazardly, but this time my husband and I went for more of a symmetrical arrangement to display my new oil paintings, along with these other food illustrations that I created in 2014 way before I started calling myself an illustrator!

So, this is a “themed” gallery wall, and the theme as you can see is Middle Eastern food, with a hint of gardening.

How I Display Art: Oil Paintings and Food Illustrations Gallery Wall | By Yaansoon IllustrationI might post each artwork individually in the future, but I just wanted to share the idea of creating a gallery wall that carried one theme as well as a cohesive colour scheme.

What I like about this wall is that it looks like a magazine. You have your full-spread paintings, as well as other smaller ones zooming in on the ingredients. Moreover, the arrangement falls into a grid, which my husband created using thin stripes of twine and tape just so we could see where everything was before we committed to nailing them to the wall.

There is also a bit of a space in the middle, which helps draw the eye to two separate areas… as if the wall is two magazine pages, and the spaces between the frames are filled with text. We do intend to fill the spaces with little trinkets and paintings, but we’re not sure yet as to what exactly.

How I Display Art: Oil Paintings and Food Illustrations Gallery Wall | By Yaansoon IllustrationWe had other art as candidates for the gallery, but these did not quite fit into our story. We wanted to create something that looked both aesthetically cohesive, as well as belonged to the same story line. We even had to change one frame and its background to make it fit into our scheme. At one point I wanted to include a couple of pattern-y watercolour paintings that had no food in them. They totally looked out of place and we had to remove them.

To be honest, I love creating gallery walls because they shed a new light on my work and create sort of an expanded context for them. It’s like being part of an editorial project or a wall “book” of sorts!

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

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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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Watercolor Illustration: Rose Water for your Beauty, Culinary Adventures, and Home

Watercolor Illustration: Rose Water Bottle | By Yaansoon Illustration

With summer fast approaching, rose water with its lovely scent and endless beauty care and culinary uses is a must-have product to be placed strategically in both your pantry, and your makeup bag! I’ve been using rose water for years now, and I thought I’d create this watercolour illustration to celebrate one of my most favorite natural ingredients!

Rose water is the distilled essence of rose petals. There are different grades of rose water – and so it is important to buy a brand that is all natural and that is known for using the best of ingredients. Look for Lebanese brands as those are known for making some of the world’s best varieties. And make sure the bottle you are ordering is in a glass bottle or container, not a plastic one.

Rose Water and Natural Beauty

Let’s start with the marvelous natural beauty benefits of rose water.

I for one like to spritz a little rose water on a cotton pad and like to use it as an all natural makeup remover and toner. My grandmother once told me that rose water can add a nice warm glow to one’s skin if used for at least once a week. That’s because the antioxidant properties of rose water can actually help strengthen skin cells and regenerate skin tissues. It can also help heal a number of other skin conditions, such as scars, due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Rose water can also help hydrate, revitalise and moisturise your skin giving it an unmistakable refreshed look.

Watercolor Illustration: Rose Water Bottle | By Yaansoon IllustrationRose Water and Middle Eastern Cuisine

In Lebanese and other Middle Eastern cuisines, rose water has been used as a flavouring for centuries. Confectioneries have traditionally used it to scent sweet syrups, puddings, pastries, and ice creams. Lebanese Baklawa (aka Baklava) and the most delicious Turkish Delight (also called “Rahet el Halkoum” or “Raha” in Arabic), are two dishes that have rose water as an essential ingredient.

Watercolor Illustration: Rose Water Bottle | By Yaansoon IllustrationRose Water and Your Home

The aroma of rose water is said to be a powerful mood enhancer as it can rid you of feelings of anxiety and can also promote emotional balance and well-being. That’s why pouring rose water into a spray bottle and using it as a natural home freshener can not only add a beautiful scent to the air but also positively affect the mood of the people in the house.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post! Thanks for stopping by and looking forward to seeing you in my next illustrated story!

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Watercolor Illustration: Orange Blossom Water

Watercolor Illustration: Orange Blossom Water from Anjar, Lebanon | By Yaansoon Illustration

Orange Blossom Water reminds me a lot of my grandmother, who used to give us a small cup of this bitter-sweet liquid whenever we had an aching tummy. I have a bottle of this aromatic water in my pantry. Marveling at its vintage shape, today seemed the perfect day to create an illustration inspired by one of my childhood’s memories.

Orange Blossom Water (eau de fleur d’oranger in French, and Ma Zaher in Arabic) is one of Lebanon’s famous culinary creations. It is used to scent locally-made Baklawa (aka Baklava), sweet syrups, pastries, ice creams, and puddings.


Watercolor Illustration: Orange Blossom Water | By Yaansoon Illustration

This particular bottle is made in Anjar, a small town located in the Bekaa’ Valley in Lebanon. I once saw a documentary about the making of Ma Zaher and the location of the distillery was up in the mountain somewhere in Lebanon. So it seems Ma Zaher is distilled in more than one location in this beautiful Mediterranean country. But I have a nagging feeling that one particular town is famous for it; I’ll try to find out more about that and will fill you in!

Watercolor Illustration: Orange Blossom Water | By Yaansoon Illustration

Orange Blossom Water for Beauty

Ma Zaher is distilled from the petals of orange blossoms. It has so many uses including as a beauty toner for your skin. Just add a dab of this lovely aromatic liquid to a cotton ball to freshen up your face.

Just a quick note before I go; the colour palette in my illustration is quite different from the colours of the original bottle. I thought I’d add a summery twist to it.

Well, folks, thanks for stopping by and looking forward to seeing you in my next post!

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Illustration Friday – Wood

Illustration Friday - Wood | By Yaansoon Illustration

I’m submitting this illustration to a website called “Illustration Friday.” It’s the first time I take part in this weekly challenge, and I couldn’t be happier that this week’s topic is “wood.” The way I interpreted this topic is very much linked to the fact I once had a handcrafts line of wooden and organic jewelry. With this inspiration in mind, I decided to create an illustration that spoke about stylish and minimalist kitchen and tableware items made by skilled woodworkers.

This illustration celebrates the natural beauty and texture of wood, and the many types of timber used to create unique kitchenware that can add so much to any stylish and organic kitchen.

Hand-finished with mineral oil and beeswax, beautiful kitchen utensils – like trays, cutting boards, pepper shakers and coffee mills – can be handcrafted using birch, black walnut, Italian olive wood, maple wood, white oak, cherry birch, and beech wood.

I love kitchenware that balances classic details with contemporary forms and organic textures. Those don’t just add a stylish statement to your kitchen, but can also add a lot of intimacy and flavour to your dishes.

I have two boards on Pinterest dedicated to organic kitchens and minimalist decor ideas; please feel free to pay them a visit here:

Thank you for stopping by and looking forward to seeing you in my next post!

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