Raya al Maskeri: An artist who makes cartoon speak your thoughts

The Show is Oman Daily Observer’s digital programme that put into the spotlight some of Oman’s talented citizens, residents and the movers and shakers of the society. Happening every Wednesday at 4 pm via Facebook LIVE, make sure to follow our social media accounts to get the latest updates.

One eagerly waits to see what her cartoon characters are up to because they have an interesting outlook on events happening around them. Of course, they all came from the thoughts of Raya al Maskeri. While she has gained a momentum for her serious art, she also continues to pursue being a cartoonist.
One of her popular characters is Um Kesha who has quite challenging situations to deal with. It is pure joy to read what Um Kesh has to say about other’s extravagance or comments on her clothes, weight or looks.
Sometimes people ask Raya if the cartoon was hinting at them but she usually replies, “No. It is just a general reflection,”
Artistic skills aside, Raya is a lead auditor professionally. But her art is taking her places. She was recently at Al Shumookh 2 & Al Sareea 3 because of her expertise in e-media but noting her talent on canvas, she was soon urged to pick up the brush as well. The painting that depicts men and women in uniform holding Oman in their hands up above their heads stirred patriotic feelings among her social media followers.
Looking at her artwork which she brought on the set of The O Show inspired many questions to understand the mind of the artist who is loved for her wit and sense of humour often traced with a tinge of sarcasm. She has a series of cartoon with traffic solutions.
She is indeed the artist in tune with the digital era, “The traffic solutions are digital. I get inspired by challenges. I consider traffic as a daily challenge as we try to reach on time. The drawings take a different perspective of the situation. Instead of just complaining about it and ruin my whole day, I just draw these funny cartoons.”
Recently Raya was in the news for her coffee art.
“I was at a stage where I was going through a major art block. And I was surfing through the internet and I came across coffee artwork and I thought to myself, why not? Incidentally, we had some stale coffee and was wondering what to do with it. I thought why not coffee art?”
“At first, when I posted it, no one took any notice of it. Probably because people are not too familiar with the concept or maybe they were expecting cartoons. And then came the international day for coffee. I posted it again. I got lucky with the timing. It went viral and I was surprised at the way people received it,” explained Raya.
Just before she gave us a live demonstration, she pulled out a small bottle of concentrated coffee. There in seconds, from the same little bottle, she produced strokes of various shades of brown.
She strongly feels children should be encouraged if they show interest in art.
“Many parents brush aside these interests to make children concentrate on studies and they feel art is a waste of time. But I was lucky I was supported by my parents thoroughly so I had tuition in art at a very young age. Even if the children take up medicine or engineering, having the artistic skills can help them see situations differently,” she said
Enjoying her coffee art leaves you enchanted with the smell of the bean awakening the senses.
“It is sensual because every time you look at the painting you can smell and feel too. There are several senses activated while looking at the artwork,” pointed out Raya.
She did try Omani Kahwa but it was too light. “I need the darkness to outline certain areas of the painting.’
A funny incident was when she was at a café and had the urge to paint with coffee. “I ordered a triple shot espresso and the waiter kept staring at me curiously and wondering why anyone would need a triple shot espresso. He was relieved when he saw I was going to paint. He admitted it was the strangest orders they have ever had,” recollected the artist.
She explained that watercolour is a difficult medium because the transparency has to be maintained and least number of layers possible unless you know what you are doing.
“There are of course artists breaking the barriers having many more layers but then that is their art style and they know what they are doing. But as a beginner it is one of the hardest techniques in art,” explained the artist who would make a wonderful art teacher too.
I couldn’t wait to see Um Kesha to make her next appearance on digital media reflecting Raya’s new thoughts and reflections. It is the power of Raya’s talent. Whether she is holding a pen to audit or a brush to leave a stroke on canvas or a digital pen to draw and write the thoughts of Um Kesha and other characters, she makes them all come to life and to be honest, makes you smirk a little because they are tinge with reality.