Anisa Makhoul is an American illustrator, living in Portland, Oregon.  She is the daughter of a ‘Lebanese beekeeper’, although she says that there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about this fact since “everyone is an immigrant in some way shape or form.”

Anisa has a background in fashion design and even ran her own shop in Portland, but she packed it all in to try life in Amsterdam.  She still tries to make her way back to Europe at least once a year as she finds it invigorates her work.

Amsterdam Map by Anisa Makhoul

“There is something about traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language and don’t know what to expect that somehow connects into your creativity.”

While living in Amsterdam, Anisa had a chance encounter with a book that sparked her passion for illustration.  Having the newly-found freedom to explore this interest, Anisa took an illustration course with Lilla Rogers, and soon found herself steeped in a successful career working for international brands such as Anthroplogie, Harrods of London, and Hallmark to name a few.

Taking yourself out of your comfort zone and into a foreign land increases your vulnerability, but it also inspires a sort of alertness as you are forced to creatively problem-solve your way around.

Anisa was surprised at how much of a challenge it was for her to communicate in Holland, considering that nearly everyone spoke English.  She started to feel like she could better express herself through images than with words, because, as she puts it, sometimes two people might be speaking the same language but saying two  completely different things.

 “Visual communication is my mother tongue.”

So, arming herself with her inks and her paints, Anisa began to tell her journey through imagery.  She documented everyday things like the array of bicycles found throughout the city- each showing not only their variety of unique functions, but also the personalities of their owners.  This series of work resulted in her first solo show.  She also documents the architecture, food and patterns of the different cities she has immersed herself in.  Her work tells a story of the places she’s been and the journey her life has taken.

Windmill and Grapefruit by Anisa Makhoul

Espresso illustration by Anisa Makhoul

French Food by Anisa Makhoul

illustration by Anisa Makhoul

See more of Anisa’s work: 

Hear my interview with Anisa in podcast episode 15: “Landing in Portlandia.”