Painting on seashells

IMG_0057By Mai Al Abria — While shells are beautiful in their own right, a little decorating can personalize special shells and make them suitable for adorning a craft or art project. Maryam al Toukli, from Sur, has a special fondness for attractive shells. But it is what she does to them that has made her popular among art enthusiasts. She shared that she has been collecting them and make it her medium for painting. “I love to gather all the beauty in one piece. I find seashells really attractive and I like to combine splendid nature of Sur with them. The scenes I paint on them reflect my passion for my homeland,” Maryam said.
Explaining her process, Maryam shared, “I start by selecting an object or scene that had relevance to me. Once I have the scene in mind, I head out to Sur beach and select shells that were abandoned by their owners.”
She added, “I then use graphite pencil to turn the shell into art: filling the seashell with messy lines, and then weaving the curves of the shell into the land and sea. The land, shell and sea all amalgamated into this art piece. It is difficult to tell where one stops and another begins.”
Maryam said she gets her inspiration from the physical form of the shell itself paying clear attention to the intricacies of each possible medium.
IMG_1543“I’m particular about what each artwork is expressing. I always say this — Oman and Sur in particular are a source of inspiration for a lot of artists in the country even the expatriates. Inspiration can be anything — the waves, the sunset, the sunrise — I consider almost all elements of nature as a source of inspiration.
For Maryam, her art is a combination of semi-abstract and realism.
“All artists start with realism. It’s easier for them to convey the surrounding as how they observed it. As their their skills grow, that’s when they usually begin to venture to abstract and surrealism etc.,” Maryam said.
“Paintings represents an artist’s feelings, thoughts and is usually an expression of what goes on in their lives. A nice painting could comfort you when you are feeling down. Paintings arouse feelings and thoughts, and some evoke memories,” she said.
Maryam started painting when she was just five years old and she continued developing her skills until the age of 18 where she had to stop to focus on her studies.
In 2016, she resumed painting and directed her focus into seashells, leaves, toothpicks, even tree trunks.
As she gains more confidence with her art, Maryam then ventured on participating in the art scen in Sur.
IMG_8837“I joined Sur Art Team since it was first founded around five months ago. Although it is a short period of time, the team has already organized many important events. We have organized two big exhibitions: The Mona Lisa Exhibition and the Phoenicians Exhibit,” she said.
“My artwork for the Mona Lisa Exhibition went viral due to the relatable nature of the piece. I’ve made the Mona Lisa relatable for Omani women especially that I dressed her in a traditional Sur woman outfit,” Maryam said.
Asked what she can advise to young artist trying to find their own voice and inspiration, Maryam said, “Even though working with computers is convenient, to be a good painter, it is still required to have solid foundations.”
She also recommended for them to practice their skills and put great efforts into their passion.
She added that although in the beginning, one may find it easy to copy other’s work, one must also learn from other’s experience.
“Don’t just follow. You need to have your own style. Only then can you create your own things,” she said.