Arleb by Nabad interviews Lebanese artist/illustrator Lea Skaff. Skaff lived abroad most of her younger years and came back to Beirut in 2012. Having majored in interior design, she is a self-taught artist when it comes to learning digital art and watercolor illustrations. As she describes it, her style “varies from realistic inspired themes to whimsical setups, focusing on the presence of kindness which is the heart and soul of humanity”.
Arleb by Nabad – What is your background and what is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Lea Skaff – I am a Lebanese citizen who lived most of her childhood and adulthood abroad, in the Gulf region. Having a passion for arts and design, I decided to major in Interior Design, then I ventured in the world of marketing and branding as a freelancer. This has led me to further discover and focus on my digital and watercolor artistic skills and try different drawing styles.
There’s no specific experience that has influenced my work, although The Little Prince’s book and unique illustrations have inspired me since childhood. It’s mostly my personal life in general and all the difficulties that have crossed my path; these have molded my way of thinking and how I view my surroundings, which are subconsciously interpreted through my art.
Arleb by Nabad – Which subjects or themes are you working on?
Lea Skaff – Other than my usual whimsical and daily life themes, I am currently working on unique Lebanese themes and new character designs.
Arleb by Nabad – What is your creative process like?
Lea Skaff – My creative process starts with exploring and brainstorming new ideas through research. In addition, I sketch a few preliminary drawings for my initial concept, make some changes, then I transfer everything to a digital format to choose a color palette later on. In general, I prefer using minimal color palettes in my illustrations. I then focus on the main subject of the illustration and block out the different elements with color. I move on with shading and highlighting my art piece for some extra added depth.Finally I reach a point in my process where I focus on the overall refinements and details.
Arleb by Nabad – What was the impact of the Beirut port explosions (August 4, 2020) on your work as an artist/creative enterprise?
Lea Skaff – The Beirut port explosions have had a negative economic impact on most fields and unfortunately artists have also had their fair share in that matter. But this horrible event has moved me and other artists to reach out to one another and support each other’s art via several digital platforms. Moreover, it has inspired several artists, including myself, to create artworks representing a better Lebanon, full of hope and resilience — which positively affected the Lebanese audience.
Arleb by Nabad – What are, according to you, the roles of arts and culture in social, economic, environmental or political change?
Lea Skaff – We are all aware how art and culture has evolved through time and how it has impacted our communities globally, as a way of engaging with one another, improving people’s lives on various levels and helping with the economic growth. Change in general comes from empathy, which is initially created from meaningful and mindful art. And for these mentioned reasons, global leaders in business and politics are increasingly aware of this and are investing in art.
Arleb by Nabad – What are, according to you, the main challenges/obstacles facing artists/creative enterprises in Lebanon nowadays?
Lea Skaff – There are several main challenges/obstacles facing artists in Lebanon and selling art is a particularly complex business right now. One of them is due to the socio-economic challenges from Covid-19 and the Beirut Port explosions’ aftermath. On the other hand, sales are tougher to make than in previous years and the pricing needs to suit people who are carrying Lebanese pounds with a lower exchange rate. Hence, this has led some artists and creative enterprises to consider leaving Lebanon. Artists’ businesses who are most likely to survive now are those with an international client base.