What started with a habit of doodling on journals is now an artwork plastered on a Formula One car, racing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.
For the second year now, McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo are hitting the Yas Marina Circuit with a dramatic livery featuring lines, curves and colours by Lebanese artist Anna Maria Aoun, who is also known by her stage name Anna Tangles.
“I never imagined that I would one day have my artwork showcased at a Grand Prix,” Aoun tells The National at the unveiling of the F1 livery in Yas Marina on Wednesday.
Aoun, who described her creative process as a “peak form of meditation”, used her personal take on line art for the McLaren project, combining it with the company’s signature hues of papaya and blue.
A fine arts graduate in Dubai, Aoun has always had a penchant for drawing lines.
“Doodling with a black pen is something I've always been doing since I was a child. I used to draw on my wardrobe, I had journals all the time. It was really like a habit that I had — picking up a pen and doodling,” she says.
Although she worked in advertising for a while where she mainly produced digital work, Aoun says she “always had the tendency to scribble things all the time”.
“It's like second nature for me.”
More than a creative process, Aoun says she drew “obsessively” every time she faced difficulties.
“The pandemic was a time of a lot of uncertainties. Some people started baking sourdoughs, people got into yoga, and I started drawing a lot,” she says.
She channelled that energy to create the design for the McLaren livery, a process she says required her to “tap into a state of flow”.
“I really needed to focus and tune out the distractions. This is where you can see the duality between creating this kind of artwork and the mindset of a driver who is getting in a car, getting ready to race. They have to get into that state of focus, tune out the distractions and get going.”
As for her personal work, Aoun aims to inspire other people in unlocking art’s meditative potential, eventually hosting workshops, mostly for family and friends, to learn about her creative process.
“Every tangle I would create, every little illustration I would create would hold an emotion or a thought process. One would look very different from the other depending on what I was feeling when I was creating it,” she says.
“The best part is once I was done creating one, I always felt very grounded.”
Aoun is only the second regional creative tapped by McLaren, and its partner British American Tobacco, to design an F1 livery.
Last year, it was Egypt’s Rabab Tantawy, who says the opportunity brought massive benefits to her career as an artist.
“Having such a global platform gives you a lot of exposure,” says Tantawy.
“For a lot of artists, it’s really hard to be out there. Last year was incredible. My livery was seen by billions of people. Just simply by being put out there, I got a lot of opportunities. I had a mural on Yas Island, which you can see from the motorway. It’s been an amazing year.”
Tantawy is optimistic that it will be the same experience for Aoun, whom she helped pick to be this year’s featured artist.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of a community that supports the same ambition of empowering underrepresented artists in this way,” says a grateful Aoun.
The F1 project is part of the Driven by Change campaign of BAT and McLaren, through which they hope to recognise regional artists and give them a global platform to showcase their talent through motorsports events.
“Anna embodies the Driven by Change ethos, and it’s great to see an original piece of her artwork have its time to shine on one of the world’s fastest-moving canvasses," says John Beasley, group head of brand building at BAT. "We’re extremely excited to see what the future holds for Anna and to uncover future artists for her to pass the paintbrush to."
Scroll through the gallery below for pictures of F1 drivers arriving for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2022