Flying Carpet

Harmal (Peganum harmala) is a little shrub growing in the middle east. From its seeds a red dye is produced, used to dye the wool in Persian carpets. But these Harmal seeds also have a psychedelic effect, and so the carpet-makers would have the experience of riding on a flying carpet. 

My father, Dr Ephraim Lansky, together with Helena Maaria Paavilainen, have recently finished writing a book about this mysterious plant. It deals with the botanical background, the chemistry, and the amazing medicinal properties of Peganum harmala.

(a link to the book:

My father then came up with the idea for this painting, which I readily undertook to paint. 

I sat with paper and pencil, and began the initial sketch. This is a flying carpet, so I wanted to create a sense of flow and movement. I let my pencil “fly” in curvy lines. I drew the carpet, and made it fly over dessert hills with harmal shrubs growing on them. I drew inspiration from trips to southern Israel, where this plant grows richly in the dessert soil.

I then transferred the sketch to water color paper, and used masking fluid to cover the shrubs, some details on the carpet, and the edge of the girl’s back. I hoped by this to give the painting better definition. I then mixed some watery washes, and covered the paper in the first layer of paint.

I added another few layers of paint, waiting for each layer to dry before applying the next.

Here after this layer I rubbed away the masking fluid, revealing the white (on the shrubs and the carpet). Then I just added details and color, and the painting was done! 






Modest Cyclamens

Cyclamens, 27X17 cm
Cyclamens, 27X17 cm


Last week I was sick with a flu, and I lay in bed and looked out the window. I have there a pot of pink cyclamens, and I just lay back and looked at them.

Cyclamens are modest flowers. They bend their heads down to the earth, never looking up. Unlike most other flowers, their reproductive parts are hidden, and not garishly displayed. When the weather is bad and stormy, they don’t try to resist and fight, they just get battered down to the earth, but then easily spring back up once the storm is over. They are hardy little beings, and have modest needs – growing out of the crevices of rocks and weathering stormy weather. They have a gentle appearance, but when examined closely, they turn out to be strong and tough, with well made dark leaves and thick stems.

I looked at them, it was just after the rain, and the sun shown through the pink petals. They look soft and translucent, like dashes of color casually placed one above the other. There was something very beautiful about them, gentle yet strong…

The sun went down and night came, hiding them from view. My sister came and started practicing her violin. I like listening to her, her music is very inspiring and takes me onward to other worlds. I crept out of bed and sat a my desk. I felt like picking up the brush. I didn’t really think, I didn’t have the strength to think. I picked up some red paint, and boldly lay strokes onto the paper before me.  Before I knew it, I had cyclamens on paper, painted from the impressions of memory.

Gateway to Paradise

Gateway to paradise 29.5X39.5 cm
Gateway to paradise
29.5X39.5 cm


It is Friday, I sit at my desk after being bedridden for a week because of a flu. I have the Requiem of Faure playing on my computer, and I put in the yellow of the rainbow. I sit calmly waiting for the paint to dry, and listen to this heavenly notes. I put in the red of the rainbow and wait. Next comes the green, and finally the purple. I have a white page with only a bright rainbow in it. I pick up my big brush for Chinese calligraphy, it can hold a lot of water, and I wet the whole sky, careful to stay clear of the rainbow. I add yellow here and there, then wait for it to dry.

I sit cross legged at my desk listening to the doleful sounds of Faure’s Requiem, something about the lord of the Sabbath. It is Friday the world is preparing for the Sabbath. I look out the window and admire the raindrops on the plants, it is after a big rain. The sky on my painting has finally dried, and I wet it again, and add a luminous red wash. I want this sky to glow. When the red is dry I cover it in a layer of ultramarine blue. I wait for that to dry too. Hopefully these colorful washes will shine through the final painting and give the sky some of that glowering majesty.

Gateway to heaven 1

I remember when I had seen this rainbow. Even though it hadn’t been a full arch, it had such a commanding presence. It had been thick, and had glowed with such a light, it  had been like a glimpse of another world. I had jumped into the street, fascinated, and had taken a quick photo. I had taken another deep look and another deep breath, soaking in the majesty of the scene, trying to imprint as much as possible on my memory.

I mix darker greys on my palate, and apply it to the sky, and to the land bellow. My idea was to darken the whole painting, so as to bring out the brilliance of the rainbow, and magnify its presence. I continue working on the land, a place I love, bringing out the street and the trees. At last I put down my brushes, prop the painting against the wall, and look at it.

Gateway to heaven 2


The Technion, where the scene of this painting is taken from, is a place full of dreams. And this rainbow to me looks like the physical gateway into dreamland. But after listening all the to the Requiem of Faure, I would say it looks like the gateway to paradise.



Violinist, 18X24 cm
Violinist, 18X24 cm

I tried in this painting to give a sense of the music, and the feelings it evokes. I wanted it to be colorful and full of emotion. I splashed thick colors onto the background first, not caring if it got into the main figure.

violinist 1

I went on to define the figure lightly with some washes…

violinist 2

And after a few more layers of stronger color, I thought it good enough.

Violinist, 18X24 cm

Ibex of the rocks

Ibex on rock 29.5X39.5 cm
Ibex on rock 29.5X39.5 cm


This Ibex was from the beautiful park surrounding the grave of David Ben Gurion, in southern Israel. The park is full of these young sprightly animals. This particular one was looking out at us, making sure we weren’t any threat. He stood there on the rock with all the grace of a young prince, examining his new kingdom, and proud to be alive.

I started the painting by lightly putting in shades for the Ibex and its surrounding trees, like this:

Ibex 1

I added detail, layer after layer, putting the details of its face, some yellow washes…

Ibex 2

Working on more detail, and putting over it some more light washes to bring the image together, it turned this way:

Ibex on rock

Lost boat on Mediterranean beach

Lonely boat on Mediterranean beach
Lonely boat on Mediterranean beach. 18X24 cm

It was a beautiful day, as I tried to find my way to the Haifa institute of marine biology. I walked along the beach, and gulped in the invigorating sea air. This beach had about it a Mediterranean beauty, untarnished by much human presence. I came across a boat sank in the sands, as if forgotten. Who left it there?

Sunset clouds

sunset clout
sunset clouds 29.5X39.5 cm

I went out into the porch one evening to find the sky a glorious display. I whipped out my phone and tried to capture some of it in photo. The air was crispy clear, and I could feel the large expanse of the universe hovering over the world.

This painting contains a very small fraction of that original beauty. It was not an easy attempt, but I just had to try. I started by laying in light washes, like this:

sunset clouds 1

I continued laying darker colors, and tried to create soft clouds by wiping out some of the paint with tissue paper.



There is a pond in the Technion that is full of waterlilies. I took a photo of this one some years ago, and recently decided to paint it. Of course it evoked memories, and I was transported to that hour I spent by the pond, admiring the sunlight and nature spread around me.

For this painting I wanted to evoke a kind of softness, so I worked in very wet washes. Every shape of leaf or petal was wetted individually, so the paint would not go past the borders, and I could maintain a clarity of the forms.

waterlily 1

I applied some light washes of yellow to the flower, then concentrated on the surrounding leaves, putting layer after layer of wet wash. I let the edges of the painting run into watery dilution, to softly bring a circle of the image into focus.


The trickiest part was getting the dark areas right. I realized that proper dark areas gives a sense of realism. Finally I went back to the flower and finished it off. I did not forget the little fly sitting on the left petal!

This is a 33X29 cm watercolor painting.

Alpaca farm

alpaca farm
alpaca farm

Alpaca is gentle animal, related to the camel, that originally comes from South America. Here I painted the alpaca farm in southern Israel. These animals adapt well to the Israeli desert. They eat hay, and their thick woolen coats are spun into soft and warm wool, out of which scarves and sweaters are made.

I tried to capture the serenity of a desert evening. The alpacas enjoying their evening hay, solemnly paying homage to the dying day. The wide expanse of desert, with its rolling hills fading out into distance, and the little farm bringing a sense of home and protection amidst the sweeping infinity.

This is an 18X24 cm watercolor painting.