Inspired Interviews

Leena Al Ayoobi on Producing Trailblazing Arab Art

Feminine face, Arab aesthetics, and anime eyes: Bahraini artist Leena Al Ayoobi has skyrocketed to international acclaim in the Arab art world over a span of 7 years. Today, we discuss the lessons she has learned, how her style has evolved and what she aims to do in the future.

Leena, you have been influenced by anime from a young age as it was the go-to entertainment for Arab children and youth in the 80s and 90s. How are collectors from different age groups responding to your unique take on media that has worldwide influence?

My first public exhibition or show of art was in 2014, and I was a bit hesitant to show my art style as I was not sure how will the public react to Manga-influenced folklore art, which was a first of a kind. I had wonderful feedback and sales from just the time I spent setting up my exhibition space (two magazine interviews and six sold paintings), but unfortunately, the exhibition was canceled, and I did not live to see the potential of it, but it gave me an insight of what my art meant and its impact which gave me such a boost to pursue my passion and leave the corporate world after 12 years of working in Banking and financial consultancy to being a full-time artist and designer.


Now I can see my art style influencing many artists from all ages, whether almost copying my artwork or creating their own manga folk art, or being taught in schools by teachers who are followers to their young students and even university students, which makes me very happy and proud

Leena Al Ayoobi

From Starbucks to Home Centre, you’ve worked with thriving brands while building a resume of solo shows, esteemed patronage, and exclusive commissions. What are three tips you would give to an emerging artist?

My first collaboration with a brand was Starbucks. It gave me so much joy working with them and pursuing other brands, but given the way the market works, it’s not easy reaching out to international brands; all of my commissioned artwork came to me through the brands themselves finding me on social media
my most important tips for emerging artists:

  • Make sure you are on the right track and what your offering is within the quality you want to reach; social media made it easy to see what is out there in the art world it’s easy to take advice and see how other artists are doing, it will give you an idea where do you stand, do you need more practice, or you need just more exposure, it all depends on your artistic ambitions and plans.
  • Social media is like an open gallery for artists; you need to be active and present on the main platforms; it makes it easier for galleries and collectors to find you
  • The most important point is loving your work and confidence in what you produce and never be demotivated by external comments
Leena Al Ayoobi in her studio

Aside from being a prolific artist in your space, you’re also an owner of an art gallery. How is being a gallerist different from being an artist for you?

I started my artistic career in 2014 and opened my first shop in 2015, which provided paintings and design of products that I have worked on; I started with five different products today my products line has reached more than 600 SKUs, today Dar Alfann (English: House of Art) is a gallery with six signed artists (more to come) and two locations, one in the capital of Bahrain and another is in the international Airport of Bahrain, shipping products and artwork worldwide.

I operate my gallery in a different way, especially that I am an artist myself, it’s more focused on local and Arabian art and the exposure of middle eastern art and providing gifts and affordable art prints to spread our message to the widest range of people, I’m trying to build a platform for artists to get the most exposure they can, I had a long and hard journey, and I know it’s not easy to reach some places, my aim is to pave the way to the new and old artist.

You do not seem to be interested in the NFT boom, at least for now. Tell us more about your choice of media and why you prefer it.

Actually, a few months back, I have been reading and researching NFTs a lot; I’m currently working on my digital art skills and adding animation factors in my art (the last Instagram post was a short animation that I’m practicing)
Hopefully, soon I’ll be going into that market.

Without disclosing anything that needs to be confidential, can you tell us what your followers can expect in the next five years?

The art world, as you see it, is shifting fast towards digital art and mixed media (traditional + digital). With the new easy to use programs, many people are discovering their artistic skills; there will be a huge jump in my art style and presentation in the coming few months, I’m also preparing art tutorials as I’ve been getting many requests for art classes, but given the current pandemic situation I’m thinking of producing a digital class
so in the coming five years, things will change dramatically

Leena’s website: https://leenaalayoobi.com/
Leena’s Instagram: https://instagram.com/leenz_art

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