Denise Elnajjar

Denise Elnajjar, a graduate of Rutgers University, is a successful and self-taught artist of Middle Eastern and Armenian heritage. Her early artistic influences include Fragonard, Gesmar, Toulouse-Lautrec, Edmund Dulac, and Japanese woodblock prints. Fashion illustrators who have shaped her own career include Rene Gruau, Georges Barbier, Jordi Labanda, and Izak Zenou. She is continuously inspired by cultural and architectural themes, as well as literature, satire, travel and human connections. Denise has worked with numerous luxury beauty, fashion, hospitality and lifestyle brands worldwide. Her artworks have been featured on the social media channels of Moschino, L’Oréal, Roberto Cavalli, Kate Spade, Giambattista Valli, Charlotte Olympia, Vogue Japan and others. She has illustrated at live fashion shows during New York Fashion Week and Fashion Forward Dubai and her illustrations have even appeared on billboards in Times Square. In 2019, Denise licensed an exclusive wall art print collection for Oliver Gal and she was featured in the book Hello Gorgeous by Lola Sanchez, published in 2020. Her original works are the part of many private collections in the United States.

Denise uses a variety of media, including gouache, acrylic, ink, pastels, and brush pens. Her loose, illustrative style has been described as “charming" and “playful,” and she is known for her ability to "capture a moment." Her works incorporate elements from urban cityscapes and the beauty of nature. She loves to explore the psychology of color and experiment with various color pigments to provide an atmospheric mood to her art.

In this series of works, I continue weaving together themes of architecture and nature across cultural elements - both abstract and personal. In "Sunset in Marrakech," I wanted to capture a simple scene containing design elements of Moroccan interiors, with a readily-available sunset in view, resulting in a scene with color tones that are both rosy and golden from the glow, but also muted due to the time of day. The figure is arranging a vase of damask roses. These roses are widely used in not only Morocco but in other eastern Mediterranean regions, where my family originates from. The women in my family have passed down their recipe of rose petal jam made from this same bright pink variety. Potently fragrant, this jam is as evocative of a certain moment as any sunset we hope to remember. A few years ago, I was able to finally visit Morocco, and much of my artistic inspiration is indebted to the unique culture of this beautiful country. 

"Beirut View" is a simple tribute to the unique architecture of some of Beirut’s oldest neighborhoods, as well as other structures in Lebanon that employ these triple arcade windows, readily identifiable and distinct. The balconies of Beirut will always remind me of when I visited Lebanon during my childhood and later on, revisiting what my mom used to see. In the foreground, I’ve included a jasmine bush, with the same flowers that my mother used to place in her hair as a young woman in Beirut. 

"Into the Night" is a leap into feline, nocturnal energy with our subject viewing us in its wild habitat in which we are not initially welcome. 

"In the Lost Alleyway of Aleppo,” is a work in which I wanted to evoke a simple element of this ancient city - the labyrinthine walkways of its residential neighborhoods. Prior to the civil war, I had visited Aleppo a number of times, and my grandmother used to live there for several years. This past decade has changed this city in unrecognizable ways, but I wanted to memorialize one of these spaces in between buildings, where we see a formally dressed young woman heading to an event in the night, while a neighbor watches. 

In the "Gate of Tunis,” I imagined a place I wanted to be. As a result of travel restrictions during the pandemic, I like many others, thought about what it would be like to be someplace else. I learned that Tunisia has blue and white architecture—so lusciously Mediterranean—so I imagined myself by its seashore. 

-Denise Elnajjar