A few months ago, Pamela Mansour was approached by renowned local winery Ixsir to collaborate on their latest project: designing one of three bottles for their Altitudes Limited Edition collection.
“For me, it was important to stay away from the narrative we’re familiar with and focus on the human experience; how we, as humans, deal with feeling nostalgic, and how to turn this feeling of incomprehensible longing to something valuable and of use,” she told Beirut Today.
The final product culminated in a bottle representing what she describes as “a compilation of Proustian moments, in an intimate, post-dinner setting.”
Welcoming you into a world of “sense and sensibility,” the bottle takes you into a post-dinner setting with a group of friends. As Mansour puts it, “dinner is over but the wine keeps pouring.”
As these friends all gather around one another drinking, they find themselves enchanted by the beauty of everyday life: sharing a seat with the cat on the carpet, listening to music, indulging in private side-conversations.
“For a brief moment, you feel whole,” she said.
Mansour believes we often forget what being alive feels like. Instead of cherishing where we are right now, we are drawn to thinking life is happening somewhere or someplace else. “I wanted to highlight the healing power of our five senses when they play an active role, and how they can help us recover from the past and appreciate the present with greater intensity—which is very similar in practice to the art of wine-tasting.”
You might be familiar with Mansour’s work. For years, she has collaborated with local artists, brands, and creatives under her brand, lustrations. Through her work, she explores the human condition, language, and sensitivity.
“I am a visual artist trying to do what I love and am good at for a living—I don’t mean capital—which happens to be illustrations and design at the moment,” she said.
Currently based between Beirut and her hometown in the Bekaa valley, Mansour graduated with a degree in graphic design. For a while after that, she worked within the field, moving from a design studio to a fashion brand.
While the work itself remained within her scope, she found that she was slowly “losing her mind and creative touch.” The nature of the work entailed sitting behind a screen all day, draining Mansour of her creative capacity.
She had been an artist her entire life, but had never really considered doing it for a living. In Lebanon, artists are often discouraged from pursuing creative endeavours due to the widespread belief that these fields do not generate much income and enable someone to lead “a productive and fruitful life.”
“I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, so it really is an extension of myself. Putting it into professional practice has allowed me to find my style and determine my preferences in terms of subjects, methods and mediums,” said Mansour, who started experimenting with illustrations that she would put up on Instagram.
“Back then, I didn’t really know what I was doing and I wasn’t very confident with my work, so I wanted to stay anonymous,” she added.
And so lustrations was born: a fun, colourful, thoughtful, whimsical collection of drawings that immerse you into a graceful world.
“I don’t think I put a lot of thought into it, I just broke down the world “illustrations” of which I liked lust. It was smooth, simple and it stuck. There wasn’t really any poetic meaning behind it,” she said.
Her work, among many other things, is distinctly encapsulated with the feminine. Mansour says her style and personality was heavily inspired by the women around her.
“I think my representation of the female figure stems from my fascination with how these strong women of my past assumed and expressed their femininity and sometimes even sexuality, when for a long time, I myself rejected that, for reasons sponsored by the patriarchy,” she said.
“That’s what makes it a recurring theme in my drawings.”
Yet that is not the only pot that Mansour draws her inspiration from. To her, inspiration can come from anything and everything—even the things we normally consider part of the mundane. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what she turns to as long as it instills inspiration within her.
“I enjoy making observations and finding connections between contrasting elements, such as the living and the inanimate,” she said. “And I’m particularly curious about the writing culture, history and the stories and mysteries that last long after their protagonists.”
Over the years, she’s witnessed her personal growth through her work—which always reflects the mental and physical states that she finds herself in at varying points of her life.
Today, Mansour is one of many artists suffering under the crushing weight of the economic and social collapse. Little, everyday tasks have become difficult to manage along the way.
“It’s challenging to say the least. I haven’t been able to find the drive or inspiration to create as intuitively. I believe it’s the case for anyone who’s in the creative field at the moment,” she said.
Most of her clients put their projects on hold, while others have had to cancel and leave the country altogether. Budgets have also shrunk in size, making it much more difficult for Mansour and other artists to make ends meet without taking on multiple projects at a time.
“Whenever I feel that it’s become unbearably stressful, I take refuge in my hometown, where I have access to the outdoors. It’s how I’ve been able to mentally sustain,” she said.
In spite of this, she has still managed to work with multiple clients and creatives over the years. She worked on website illustrations for Mauj, designed the Yasmine EP artwork for local artist Etyen, and a postcard series for 100%Ferdinand.
Her latest endeavour culminated in a playing cards deck inspired by women from her community, which gained lots of positive feedback online.
In the future, she hopes to collaborate with anyone “whom I feel aligned with in terms of style, vision and values.” Mansour loves patterns and would like to collaborate with product designers to see her work go beyond the digital and print realms into tangible materials, like rugs or tiles. The artist would also like to work on book covers, a new realm for her to explore.
“I’m working on exciting projects and new collaborations, but at the same time, taking things slow and following my instincts. I’m constantly looking for a change, whether in my approach, style or medium, so maybe one could expect to see new things taking shape.”