Workshop at La Galleria Nazionale, Rome

Demonstrating Islamic art drawing and paining techniques at La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome

Last month, I spent a week in Rome delivering workshops with Una Moschea Per Roma, and my friend and colleague Shaheen Kasmani. The workshops took place at La Galleria Nazionale, who also invited me to exhibit some artwork for the duration of the month-long series of events. This was a really interesting project, intended to appeal to people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds in Rome, opening up a space for discussion about sacred spaces in the city. As well as the exhibition and workshop, events included three public forums where visitors discussed their views on sacred spaces for religious minorities in Rome, a photography exhibition, plus several poetry / spoken word sessions. For more information about the project, take a look at Una Moschea’s Per Roma’s page.

Here are some images from the workshop and exhibition:

Students learn about Islamic pattern by linking traditional floral motifs to their origins in the natural world.

Drawing from nature in the gallery gardens.

Back in the classroom, students paint their designs.

Happy artists!

I’ll update with pictures from my exhibition in a separate post… keep an eye on the blog for more stories about my travels these past few months! It’s been busy! In 3 months, I’ve worked in Cairo, Rome, and Istanbul, very exciting! But it’s also nice to be back home and settled in my studio, doing what I love most – painting!

Posted in Exhibitions, Islamic Art Courses, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Miniature painting, News, Teaching, Tezhib, Travels, fine art, tezhip | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘One Song’ – a Poem by Jalaluddin Rumi

'One Song' (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2017. Inspired by a poem by Jalaluddin Rumi. Gold leaf, pigments, and gouache on paper.

“What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured

into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing,
one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different

on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but

it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
time-and-space personalities,

from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in”

From ‘One Song’ by Jalaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

My latest artwork is inspired by these beautiful lines from Rumi. Scroll down to see a couple of details from the main painting. This was originally meant as a commission for a client, but unfortunately, their budget did not stretch to new artwork. Inspired by Rumi’s poetry, I decided to paint the piece, anyway. I’ve been longing to illustrate Rumi’s verses for some time now, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

‘One Song’ detail (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2017. Inspired by a poem by Jalaluddin Rumi. Gold leaf, pigments, and gouache on paper.
‘One Song’ detail (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2017. Inspired by a poem by Jalaluddin Rumi. Gold leaf, pigments, and gouache on paper.

Posted in Gilding, Illustration, Miniature painting, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Poetry, Rumi, commissions, fine art, painting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feature in Norwegian daily newspaper: Vårt Land

Close up of my artwork, published in the Norwegian daily, Vårt Land

Many thanks to Heidi Marie Lindekleiv of Norwegian daily Vårt Land for this beautiful and insightful article on the revival of Islamic arts in Europe. Last month, Heidi interviewed Khaled Azzam from the The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, and myself. I was teaching one of my Islamic art courses in London at the time. Heidi spoke to me and the students about our interest in Islamic art – why do we practice it, and what does it bring to our lives? She also explored the role of social media in popularising this art.

Here’s a link to the article:…/upl…/2017/03/Vårt-Land-article.pdf

If you’re not a Norwegian speaker, try copying and pasting a few paragraphs into google translate, like I did. Or at least enjoy the photos of our classes and the artwork, which are wonderful.

Do I have any Norwegian speaking followers who might be able to give us a short summary, or a translation of the article? If so, send me an email, or leave a note in the comments below.

And speaking of Islamic art courses, there are still a few spaces left on my illumination and geometric design Saturday course starting in April:

Hope to see you there!

#islamicart #ayeshagamiet #princesartschool #islamicpattern#islamicgeometry #islamicartcourses #tezhib #tezhip#islamicmanuscriptillumination

Posted in Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Islamic geoemtry, Media, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Student's Work, Teaching, Uncategorized, articles | Leave a comment

Islamic Art Spring / Summer Saturday Courses in Windsor

I am very pleased to announce my new Islamic art courses for Spring / Summer 2017!
All courses below will be held at my studio in Windsor: Prime Studios, 1-6 Ward Royal Parade, Alma Road, Windsor SL4 3HR. You can find our exact location on google maps.
A list of all my upcoming courses at prime Studios can be found on my Eventbrite Page.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Beautiful 16th Century Maghrebi illuminated Qur'an employing 8-fold geometry

Beautiful 16th Century Maghrebi illuminated Qur'an employing 8-fold geometry

1) Islamic Manuscript Illumination: Geometric Patterns

29th April – 20th May 2017, 4 Saturday sessions, 10am – 4pm

For centuries, Muslim artists have used gold, ink, and brightly coloured paints to illuminate and beautify sacred manuscripts. Focusing on the fundamental role of geometry in manuscript illumination, students will construct and analyse several geometric manuscript patterns, choosing one to recreate as an illuminated page. This course will give students the opportunity to learn about traditional painting and gilding techniques used in Islamic manuscript illumination, including usage of shell gold and handmade watercolour paints. We will also look at the the artistic and historical context within which this art developed. Through learning about geometric patterns and using traditional skills and techniques from the Islamic world, each student will create a beautiful illuminated frontispiece.

Exquisite 17th Century Mughal Shamsa

Exquisite 17th Century Mughal Shamsa

2) Islamic Manuscript Illumination: Floral Design (Islimi)

8th – 29th July 2017: 4 Saturday sessions, 10am – 4pm

Focusing on the beautiful “shamsa” (“sun-burst”) composition, and intricate floral designs, students will explore the rich and varied forms that exist in Islamic manuscript illumination. They will learn how to paint illuminated plant and floral motifs. This course will allow students the opportunity to learn about traditional painting and gilding techniques used in Islamic manuscript illumination, including usage of shell gold and handmade watercolour paints. We will also look at the the artistic and historical context within which this art developed. By the end of the course, each student will have created at least one illuminated shamsa.

Posted in Gilding, Islamic Art Courses, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Islamic geoemtry, Miniature painting, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Teaching, Tezhib, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Artist Feature on the Islamic Fashion and Design Council Website

'Dome of the Rock' (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2017, Gold leaf, shell gold, and gouache on hot-pressed watercolour paper

Great news! I have just been featured on the Islamic Fashion and Design Council‘s website! The article discusses the inspiration and background to my art, as well as the influence of my travels and teaching. Click here to read the full article.

Posted in Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Media, Miniature painting, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Travels, Writing | Leave a comment

Exhibition at the Firestation Arts Centre, Windsor, Berkshire

'Dancing Princess' Shell gold, gouache, watercolour, and inks on watercolour paper (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2017

If you would like to take a closer look at my little ‘Dancing Princess’ please come and visit Prime Studios‘ first ever group show! Prime Studios is an initiative set up by The Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture, providing affordable studio space for local artists. It is where I have been running my studio and art workshops for the past 18 months, and it has been a wonderful place to work and create.

The Arts Centre has a lovely, cosy cafe / bar, and is located just a stones throw from Windsor Castle and the beautiful River Thames, the historic High Street and shops! So why not make a day of it?

And if you let me know when you’re coming in advance, I can try to be available to give you a little tour!

I will be showing Islamic geometric patterns, and illustrations inspired by Persian / Indian miniatures. There is work for sale, and commissions are welcome.

Dates: 13th Jan – 24th Feb 2017

Times: Mon-Sat 10am-midnight, Sun 10am-10.30pm

Venue: The Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture, The Old Court, St Leonards Rd, Windsor, SL4 3BL

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New Course in Ottoman Design and Illumination

Student's work in Ottman Design and Illumination from the Fustat Ceramic Centre in Cairo

If you would like to learn how to make an illuminated tile design like this, come join us on my Ottoman Design and Illumination Course with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.

Dates: 13th-17th Feb 2017

Times: 10.30am-5.30pm

Venue: Al Manaar, the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, 244 Acklam Rd, London W10 5YG.

Course description: In this course, students will explore the rich and beautiful tradition of Ottoman design. We will learn about the wide variety of floral motifs adorning the ceramics, textiles, manuscripts, and monuments of Ottoman Turkey. Students will be introduced to traditional painting techniques and design principles from Ottoman art, including: staining and burnishing their own paper, making paints from natural pigments, and learning how to make and use shell gold. By the end of the course, each student will have painted an Ottoman-inspired design.

Please follow the link for bookings and full course details.

Posted in Gilding, Islamic Art Courses, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Student's Work, Teaching | Leave a comment

Windsor Fringe Festival: Artists’ Open Studio, 24th-25th Sept 2016

Artists’ Open Studio

Date and time: 24th-25th Sept 2016, 12pm-6pm

Venue: Prime Studios, 1-6 Ward Royal Parade, Alma Road, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 3HR

This weekend, my studio will be opening its doors to the public for the very first time! Come meet the artists, chat to us about our work, watch live art demos, and enjoy some tea and cake.  Several of the works featured on my website will be on display, plus many more works in progress. We are a diverse bunch, representing work in oils, watercolour, gouache, pastel, photography, music, performance, and 3D printing. We are located in beautiful Windsor, just a stones’ throw from Windsor Castle, the River Thames, and the very pretty high street – so why not make a day of it? Looking forward to seeing you there!

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Dome of the Rock / Al Aqsa Mosque

Dome of the Rock / Al Aqsa Mosque by Ayesha Gamiet (c) 2016

My most recent commission, completed last month. I loved exploring each intricate little pattern, interpreting the design into a miniature / illuminated painting. Very challenging at times, but definitely worth the effort. I loved combining my knowledge of manuscript illumination with my (limited) studies in miniature painting to create this illustration, and it has inspired me to learn more.

Close up of Dome of the Rock / Al Aqsa painting (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The dome was created by gilding 22 carat gold leaf on the surface of the paper. You can view a clip of the gold on the dome catching the light here. The architectural patterns and foliage were painted using coloured gouache, often applied in layers to give the impression of patterns on a mosaic tile. The plants and flowers were intended to represent abundance, growth, life, and hope. I painted very stylised palm leaves and bougainvillea framing the edge of the illustration, as these plants are prevalent in the region. Plus, I think the organic shapes of foliage contrast well against the crystalline architectural patterns.

My client is Palestinian, unable to visit the Dome of the Rock for 23 years. He asked me to make this painting as a reminder of his homeland. It was an honour to be entrusted with such a task, and I hope this artwork brings some peace and joy to him and his family.

#ayeshagamiet #domeoftherock #alaqsa #islamicart #islamicpattern #islimi #islamicdesign #gilding #shellgold #illumination #tezhib #tezhip #illustration

Posted in Gilding, Illustration, Islamic Architecture, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Miniature painting, Pattern in Islamic art, commissions, fine art, painting | 1 Comment


Me, working on my hilye

For just over a year now, I have been working on my first illuminated hilye.

A hilye is a traditional Ottoman calligraphic composition that includes Qur’anic verses and a description of the physical and moral characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). After a month of designing, correcting, redesigning and finalising sketches for the illuminated borders, I began illuminating my hilye last February. I always try to keep a record of my artworks in progress. Usually, my progress shots sit in the hard drive of my laptop, purely for my reference purposes. However, and since beginning this project, it struck me that very few people have the opportunity to witness the practice of a living traditional art. Unless we’re artists, craftspeople, art educators, or directly involved in some regular creative practice, we don’t often encounter traditional arts and crafts in our everyday lives.

A few years ago, I delivered a workshop at a local primary school, where a teacher remarked that “a generation or two ago, children might have had hand painted china at home”, but now our encounter with hand-crafted everyday objects is becoming increasingly rare. I have thought about this in the intervening years, and was reminded when I came to paint my hilye. For that reason, I decided to keep an online visual diary of my hilye progress in a Facebook album. Now that the painting of my first hilye is slowly drawing to a close, I decided to share my thoughts, as well as images of the process here too.

Preliminary sketches for a hilye border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

A hilye is the most challenging piece of work for any calligrapher or illuminator to make, and it is an honour to be deemed ready to make one. In the practice of Turkish illumination, students are often asked to make a hilye at the completion of their apprenticeship. The complexity of the design, with its roundels, and rectangular calligraphic panels gives plenty of opportunity to showcase an illuminator’s skills. Several different styles of illumination are used on one piece. The key is to execute each style proficiently, and ensure that each section harmonises with the other parts.

For a detailed and insightful article on the significance of the hilye, I recommend the following read by acclaimed American calligrapher, Mohamed Zakariya.

Many people do not realise that the calligrapher and the illuminator are usually two different people. It is rare for one artist to be skilled in both crafts, but not impossible. An exception is my teacher, Ayten Tiryaki, a masterful calligrapher and illuminator, who wrote my hilye. Once the calligraphy is written, it may be pasted onto a board, or handmade paper, then given to the illuminator, who will create a bespoke design according to the style, meaning, size, and character of the calligraphy.

The hilye before illumination is added (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The image above shows the calligraphy with margins ruled, ready for illumination. The main body of the hilye text translates as:

“Transmitted from Ali [son-in-law of the Prophet], may God be pleased with him, who, when asked to describe the Prophet, peace be upon him, would say, “He was not too tall nor too short. He was medium sized. His hair was not short and curly, nor was it lank but in between. His face was not narrow, nor was it fully round, but there was a roundness to it. His skin was white. His eyes were black. He had long eyelashes. He was big-boned and had wide shoulders. He had no body hair except in the middle of his chest. He had thick hands and feet. When he walked, he walked inclined, as if descending a slope. When he looked at someone, he looked at them in full face. “Between his shoulders was the seal of prophecy, the sign that he was the last of the prophets. He was the most generous-hearted of men, the most truthful of them in speech, the most mild-tempered of them, and the noblest of them in lineage. Whoever saw him unexpectedly was in awe of him. And whoever associated with him familiarly loved him. Anyone who would describe him would say, ‘I never saw, before him or after him, the like of him.’ Peace be upon him.”

Translation by Mohamed Zakaria.

The four circular panels contain the names of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) four closest companions: Abu Bakr, Omar, Ali and Uthman (may God be pleased with them all).

There is also a Qur’anic verse which reads:

“And we did not send you (Muhammad) except as a mercy unto the universe”

The illuminator’s sketches are made on tracing paper, where they are drafted and re-drafted until the design is coherent and harmonious. Once finalised, the first stage involves transferring the tracing onto the calligraphic piece. I tend to use a very fine 0.3 2H mechanical pencil for this job, but I do know of illuminators who burnish the back of the tracing paper with a smooth stone or shell. The pressure created by burnishing causes graphite from the pencil to transfer the design on to the piece.

Border designs are traced on to the calligraphy using a fine pencil. (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

With the design traced onto the calligraphic piece, the next stage is to apply gold. The art of illumination is called tezhip in Turkish, and tezhib in Arabic, literally meaning “to gild”, or “to apply gold”. This signifies the importance of gilding, which is at the heart of illumination. Without gold, a painting is not an illumination. Furthermore, correct application of gold is key. Traditionally, illuminators work with a handmade paint called shell gold. Shell gold is hand ground gold leaf, mixed with a solution of water and gum Arabic, or water and gelatine, to create a paint. When made and applied correctly, the gold will shine brightly after burnishing.

Gold is applied to the margins, stems, and leaves of the design (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The crescent surrounding the main hilye text is called hilal in Arabic, which literally refers to the crescent moon. The circular illuminated space surrounding the main text is called shamsa, meaning “little sun”, indicating this area should appear as a stylised sun. The small illuminated rectangular panels at the bottom of the piece are called koltuk, and they are usually similar in style to the shamsa. This particular style employs tiny coloured flowers against a contrasting coloured background. Each flower has three shades of colour. The image below shows the first layer of colour applied to each flower.

First layer of colour applied to each flower (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The next stage is one that beginners find the most difficult, and most daunting, though I admit I have come to love it: outlining. Yes, this is done with a paintbrush, not a pen or a pencil. Outlining sharpens and focuses each shape, adding clarity to the design.

Outlining each shape (c) Ayesha Gamiet

Once the outline has been added, it’s time to paint the blue background. The illuminator carefully “floods” blue into the spaces between the gold and coloured flowers. This instantly offsets the gold, creating a striking contrast between the gilding and blue background. Illumination is a meditative art form, intended to invite the viewer and the practitioner into a contemplative state. I have always felt that the blue and gold floral patterns are reminiscent of Gardens of Paradise, as well as the starry Heavens. I love witnessing this part of the design take shape.

Close up of the central hilye text with blue background added (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

Just as the shamsa (stylised sun) and koltuk are stylistically related, so too are the hilal (crescent) and the slim golden border. I chose to illuminate these sections with motifs known as rûmî. These were painted as delicate black silhouettes upon the gold. In the image below, you can see that some areas were burnished, giving a bright shine, while others were left matte. I love the contrast and depth this technique brings to the gold.

Burnishing the gold border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The next stage was to add details to each of the coloured flowers. Shading gives each flower life and vibrancy.

Detail of the shamsa section, showing shading in each flower (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

With the interior sections of the hilye more or less complete, it was time to move on to the large outer border, which would be painted in a completely different style. I applied more shell gold to the illuminated areas of the design, then washed pale pink and green watercolour over each leaf and flower.

Gold and watercolour applied to large flowers on the outer border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

Using very fine brushstrokes, I carefully applied two shades of shell gold to illuminate each leaf and flower.

Gilding the outer border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

I used handmade red ochre pigment paint to outline the large flowers on the outer border.

Outlining with red ocher pigment paint (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

Very close to completion, and just missing a few final details, my hilye is now looking something like this:

Near complete hilye (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

I hope to add the final finishing touches over the coming months, insh’Allah, God willing. Wish me luck in completing this process!

Posted in Gilding, Islamic Manuscript Illumination | 2 Comments