Interview With Yasmeen: On Being a Visual Artist, Living a Healthy Lifestyle & People As Her Inspiration
Yasmeen invited me over to her beautiful loft, situated in the Marais. Her home, which doubles as her and her husband’s production studio, overlooks the streets of Paris’ most unique neighborhood. Filled to the brim with light and color, Yasmeen shines as she sits on the couch across from me. You can tell that her apartment is a space for inspiration, vibrance and self expression.
Born in Kuwait, growing up in Syria, studying in London and now living in Paris since 2011 - Yasmeen’s life as a visual artist - illustration and animation - is full of creativity, travel and exploration. Not only is she a talented creative, she is a forward thinker, kind-hearted woman and strong spirit living with MS.
I was truly inspired by Yasmeen’s journey and the life she has created for herself in France. Here is our conversation.
Why Did You Move To Paris?
It was a bit of a coincidence. I moved with my husband, who back then was my boyfriend. We met in Syria after a job interview where he was looking for animators. I had just came back from London to renew my visa and I got the job. We started dating and we traveled together to Morocco for the work. When we came back to Syria, things were very different with the political climate and uprising.
I got the visa to go back to London. But, back then it was difficult to go back to the network that I started building. So, I decided to go to France with my boyfriend because staying in Syria wasn’t an option anymore.
He had already been in Paris, he’s been here 20 years, and he had the safety and network I was looking for. So, we got married - that way I could come to France. And, I came here and we continued our work together like we had been in Syria.
We changed our company from just being just visual effects to integrating animation. And, we have been doing that ever since.
How Did You Start Your Career As An Illustrator?
I studied fine arts in Syria - visual communications. I worked in advertising and the commercial sector in Damascus. I didn’t really like what I was doing. Plus, I had always been drawn to the fine arts and drawing - like illustration. But, at the same time I loved animation.
So, I changed my path by studying animation. I applied for a few scholarships, tried for 2 years to become enrolled in a degree program and attempted to receive an offer from a university in London. Back then, I only spoke some English. My first language is Arabic and my second language is French. So, it was tricky - because I wasn’t feeling as confident in English. But, luckily I was able to pick it up fairly quickly.
I applied for Kingston and was accepted. I went to live in London to study illustration and animation.
Do You Work With French Clients?
We don’t have a lot of clients in France. They are a bit specific in their multimedia, visual work. Either you have an animation company or a visual effects company - it’s hard to find the combination of the two. And, we don’t have French clients mostly because it’s a tight circle.
We work a lot with the Middle East, sometimes with Ecuador, Italy - we’re always creating for small productions and independent films. I’m not really into the traditional animation. For me, it’s an extension of visual communications - animated graphics or the moving image. This is something you don’t see too much in Paris.
What Type Of Projects Are You Working On Right Now?
At the moment, I’m working on a personal project. A lot of our projects are on hold at the moment. We are producing something for the Emirates. We work in title design and the project is currently in the graphic research stages. Once they finish filming, we can start our work.
In the meantime, I’m developing a personal project for my website.
What Does The Future Look Like For Your Life In Paris & As A Creative?
Being in Paris, being elsewhere - it’s all relatively the same. Even if you went somewhere else in Europe, you wouldn’t feel that far from Paris. It’s all the same that I feel that I can live everywhere.
Everyone is becoming very unique, but close to each other at the same time. I don’t physically think about being in Paris - it’s not a restraint. But, I do have hopes and plans for the future.
In the last 2-3 years, things have changed dramatically for me. I was in Egypt working on a project and unfortunately I had a very severe MS relapse. That really crippled me, I wasn’t able to walk, see or do anything properly. Because traditional medicine kind of failed me, I decided to change my lifestyle.
I realized that stress was a very real trigger for me. As well as my nutrition and what food I was eating. I needed to change the way I lived.
I spent 8 months just reading and experimenting on myself. I started practicing yoga, meditating, changed my diet - became gluten free, eating no processed foods, paleo - it was very challenging. It was very radical. By the end of the 2015, I was aware of what was good and not good for me.
It really has changed not only what I eat, but how I buy things, how I dress and how I see the future of this planet. And, it changed my work.
I realized I didn’t want to spend most of my time doing things just to make money. I’m spending this life that I have, the time I have been given - to do what I want, what I like and what I believe in.
Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?
I love people and I think that’s a very human thing. We’re very social creatures. My inspiration not only comes from watching people, but from communicating with them. From constant learning and listening to them. And, their creativity. I think that everyone is creative - in his or her own way.
What inspires me the most is my jealously. If I see something really creative, it stimulates me and makes me want to do something as impressive as that. People’s progress, production and expression. It exists in books, art exhibitions, films - and in the movements of our every day actions. I’m inspired by my friends, family and life.
To view Yasmeen’s work, check out her website - https://www.yasmeenfanari.com/
For her and her husband’s production company, HeCat Studio - visit https://www.hecatstudio.com