For a time, despite her devotion to it and training at the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris, Raya Salman “couldn’t afford to live on art.”
Still, Salman, who was born in Lebanon and later relocated to England with her three children before landing in Montgomery County in 1991 and remarrying, wasn’t ready to give up on a professional art career.
Now that her children are 35, 32, and 28 – she also has two grandchildren – she is making up for lost time.
“I paint religiously two times a week,” she said. “One day a week I devote to marketing and social media.”
Her efforts have been recognized. Salman is one of seven Montgomery County artists selected by a jury to participate in A-RTS, a free annual outdoor arts festival at Rockville Town Square, which took place earlier this month on May 5 and 6.
This is the second time in a few years she has been a juried artist in an A-RTS festival.
Salman has sold her paintings widely in the D.C. area. Then, a few years ago, she took a leap of faith, by writing and self-publishing her first book, “Joey the Leopard.”
Each of the book’s illustrations comes from one of her paintings.
“I got a lot of inspiration from Mediterranean colors – blues, greens, oranges,” said Salman. “My background stayed with me.”
Salman, who has always loved telling stories to children, also draws inspiration from psychedelic art.
The bright colors also draw in kids, she added.
Salman named her book for her son, Joe, who helped edit the text of his mother’s book.
“Joey the Leopard” reflects themes of diversity and acceptance. The leopard of the title is impatient to find his spots – leopard cubs aren’t born with them. During his search, he meets many animals who seem happy without spots, such as the turtle. They become his friends, and teach him that patience yields rewards.
“I hope the message comes across in a subtle and direct way,” Salman said.
Aside from lessons learned, the artist also hopes to “bring joy” to young children like her grandchildren just through telling the story.
Salman sold many copies of “Joey” at the festival.
The 6th annual A-RTS festival showcased the work of 150 “nationally recognized artist from around the United States in a s spectacular outdoor gallery,” said Robin Markowitz, festival director. “The jury selected the artists based on creativity, innovation, and exquisite execution of their original work.”
The festival, which Markowitz called one of the region’s premiere events, encompassed a wide variety of media. These included ceramics, drawings, fiber, glass, graphics, jewelry, metalwork, paintings, photography, printmaking, sculpture, wood, and mixed media.
The festival featured art “of interest and appeal to everyone – from the budding collector to the art aficionado,” Markowitz added.
Despite a rigorous schedule centered on her art, Salman pursues other activities just as religiously. All the members of her family have black belts in karate – as does she –and, at age 64, she is still training.
Salman and her husband often spend weekends biking, walking, swimming, and hiking.
The artist also has a growing passion for authorship.
“I don’t have it all on the storyboard yet, but I’m thinking of calling the next book “Nounou, the Butterfly.”
Nounou is the name of her elder daughter.
The hero of the book is a butterfly in search of her identity, as butterflies do flit.
“She keeps searching for home,” Salman said. “Finally, she meets another butterfly and realizes he is her home.”
One of her favorite authors is Eric Carle, who wrote “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” among other colorful children’s books.
Salman expresses gratitude to Robin Markowitz, A-RTS director.
“She advised me what to put in the show and supports me a lot,” the artist said.
Raya Salman’s bio is at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/raya-salman-heibein-3060545. For more information about A-RTS, visit: http://a-rts.org.