A Touch of Colour: Interview with Bahrain-based artist Yasmin Al Mostehy

Did you study art formally? Tell us about your education and training.

I never studied art formally. I started painting as a hobby a few years ago, when I had a wooden cabinet that seemed dull and drab. I started experimenting with different designs and colours, and then added mixed media elements to the cabinet, such as brass knobs, wooden artifacts, and fabric, and the result was a piece that received a lot of praise. I continued this stream of art on different pieces until I developed the kind of art that I do now.

Can you describe your painting process; how do you know when your artwork is finished? How long does it take to finish a piece?

The first step is to pick a theme, such as African designs, or Tibetan motifs. Then, I take a furniture piece or canvas, divide it into segments; squares or rectangles that are arranged haphazardly. That acts as my overall grid. 

Once the piece is segmented, I begin sketching the first design in the first section with a pencil, and then painting that same section in acrylic paint. Only when one section is finished completely, do I design and sketch the adjacent one. I just repeat this process until all of the piece is painted.

After the paint dries, I outline every design in black. I find that it gives boldness to the piece and the contrast of the colours and the black lines make the designs pop out more. 

It is a process that builds on itself. When I first start a piece, I don’t know what the end result will look like. That unravels itself to me while I am working on it. 

A piece is finished when it is completely covered in paint and outlined. 

What is your favourite colour and why?

The most characteristic thing about my pieces are the colours. I use very vibrant and bright colours in each piece, and balance the overall look with some dark colours to contrast. I can’t say I have one favorite colour. It’s the combination of bright and vivid colours that gives me the effect I want.

What inspires you as an artist?

I am most inspired by places I have been to around the world. I spent a big part of my life visiting and living in different countries, and over the years, have accumulated my inspiration based on those places.

Some of my pieces are inspired by the time I spent in Africa, which was my strongest inspiration. Places like Nepal and Sri Lanka also inspire me. It wasn’t only things like scenery, food, or culture. It’s a feeling that I use to have when I was there. I was inspired by the happiness and peace I felt when I was in those countries. I like to think that my choice of vibrant designs reflects the colours of my soul when I am those places. 

Which part of Bahrain is your favourite and why?

Bahrain is one of the places that inspires me, because it is a country where I am at my best. I love the fact that you have a view of the sea almost anywhere you go. The kindness of the locals fills me with a general feeling of love. And the culture of generosity and acceptance makes this the only place I would want to be now. I have actually produced more pieces in the time I was in Bahrain than I have in the past 3 years. Even though I am a foreigner here, this is the place I feel most at home. 

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