Vegi Patch is a compost of thoughts on graphic design, life and knitting from an american graphic design teacher in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I've enabled comments for everyone or you can Email me kate at kcarlyle dot com.

Friday, March 24, 2006


It's all in how you look at it. In Hawaii gekkos are good luck, in Jeddah my students have vacated class rooms and refused to come back because a gekko had wandered in from the garden. Desert gekkos are brown and tan.
These are the gekko children that inhabit my house and only come down from the ceiling to hide small items. Like cell phones.

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Tea 4 2

Again with the working backwards:-) Tea was the first illustration that my students where required to do -- they think I should catch up...

This is a reference to Erik, it's kind of sweet but so is he.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006


I have to admit this was a stretch as a topic. OK it was horrible. I was afraid to check any one else’s ideas. Because I was so stuck I figured I would freeze up. I finally got the idea of doing the kids who run bare foot in marauding packs around the old town.

So Photoshop challenge for motivation… I’ve been working in illustrator because I teach it and I like it. But I’m not a real fan of the flat vector look. So I started exporting the layers into Photoshop – then creating custom “paper” textures. At first I was making small repeating fills based on building textures for 3D. But I’ve been working at A2 [23 x 16 give or take] and the repeat was too obvious. So for this piece I worked at 5x7 @ 300ppi and built all of the “paper” to size using only the filters in Photoshop and elements exported from Illustrator.

Best, kate.

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Monday, March 13, 2006


Working backwards ~ this is my insect for Illustration Friday. It's a camel cricket, or cave cricket. They lived under my house in Raleigh, NC; and would make their way inside through holes behind the cupboards where the baseboard didn't go. They are truly horrific looking, plus they jump. My cat Fiona would eat them, leaving little legs scattered around like abandoned chicken bones.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006


This blog is supposed to be about teaching in Saudi Arabia, and this is my first post about teaching...

Promise not to tell my mother? I have a tattoo. Honestly they are frowned on by a lot of people, my mother can get in line. How and why I got it is kind of complicated. The short version is basically I wanted something that couldn’t be lost, borrowed or stolen; and it’s a reference to my daughter. I also wasn’t interested in someone else’s doodle on my arm for eternity so it’s my art and yes it goes all the way around, what do you take me for?

Tattoos are frowned on in Islam, they are in fact Haram. I was under the false impression that none of my students knew I had an indelible daisy chain inked around my arm until one of them told me how much she liked my arm band. Apparently it shows pretty clearly through all of my white shirtsleeves. Blush.

Oh right, teaching. I have a class in Illustration this semester. The class meets once a week for 3.5 half hours, which is hard to manage in regards to studio time. Once a week is not enough. I needed a method for getting my students to work independently and on a variety of topics. What I came up with was , which is sponsored by Penelope Dullaghan. Free plug below:


The site puts up a new topic every Friday and you can post a link to your personal solution. All of them are interesting and the ages are from 8 to pretty darned antique, with experienced illustrators and artists along with housewives, hacks and students.

This week’s topic was Tattoo. At the top is my solution and to the right is a picture of the one on my arm. (Note the photo shows off my pretty brown eyes per my sister’s request.)

Ciao, ciao.

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Friday, March 10, 2006


my front door.
my garden path.


Cover Up

Third week of class in the Spring Semester. I’ve been in Jeddah for six months. Well, I was in the states over Ramadan and for three weeks during Hajj, so in fact I was home as much as I was away. In this case Jeddah is home and the US has become away. Not because I have renounced my citizenship—but home is where you live and work. Or where your stuff is. Most of my stuff is in a storage locker in Raleigh.

There have been requests that I write about all the interesting things I am doing and all the cool stuff I am seeing… and explain why I do not have my hair covered in any of the pictures I send folks back in the states.

Regarding the last question: Consider the following for a moment; crank up the heat to 110 F, the humidity to 100%, and then wrap heavy shoulder length hair twice with 2 yards of black fabric. NO. I only wear a headscarf to enter and exit the school and whenever there are men in the building, it’s part of our dress code and there is one stashed in my bag as a precautionary measure when in public.

(The presence of men is announced by a garbled overhead pa system that no one can understand in English or Arabic—except for the word abaya—and the usual result is that everyone ducks into their offices out of sight until the all clear).

Besides when I have worn it in public places, at first glance I look enough like a local (Black hair, brown eyes) that people speak in Arabic to me... which leads to hurt feelings and confusion when I fail to respond in kind

(I have exactly 11 words in Arabic and pronounce them pretty badly – languages are not my strong point and as almost every one in Saudi uses English as the universal second language I’m afraid this will remain constant).

Finally I can’t keep a tarha on for more than 15 minutes, unless I pin it—which is just not a hip presentation. Wrapping it so that it stays in place without assistance is a Muslim form of casual chic.

The debate on Muslim women's dress is endless; much is a matter of family/cultural custom. Some of my Saudi students do indeed wear a rather comprehensive form of concealment in public. Wearing scarves over their hair (tarha), double veils (hajib) over their faces, abayas covering their clothing, gloves and socks, all in black.

The number of expiates in Saudi is enormous, both Muslims and non-Muslims. I have the utmost respect for the simple elegance with which the Muslim women around me present themselves. The range and diversity of dress is a lesson in it’s self, as is the interpretation of the term “public”. Technically women are not required to wear any cover in the school because we have an all women faculty and staff

(well, with some specific exceptions, including the board of directors —and there is a “men’s” wing to accommodate them).

In the KSA “public” as regards the modesty of an abaya, tarha or hajib is defined as “in view of men who are not blood relatives” and most of the women wear western dress at school and underneath the black in public.

Frankly, a few of my students could pass for Brittney Spears in her teens—but they are a minority. Most of the women and students wear clothing that conforms to a reasonable standard of modesty in general; Wearing long sleeves, pants, skirts, modest necklines and nothing skin tight or sheer. And it should be pointed out that the requirement for modesty extends to Muslim men as well. Note the standard Saudi male garb: floor length white thobs (pull up loose pants underneath), with long sleeves and high closed necks, head scarf and camel hobbles. It’s the hottest place I’ve ever been and you rarely see short sleeves or male limbs in public, and when you do it’s some guy from Australia or Canada.

Sadly I didn’t have to adapt my wardrobe much to conform to the schools request that faculty dress conservatively; I have worked and taught school in mostly male dominated places. I’m not saying I was driving the guys to distraction if I wore revealing cloths or let my hair down—but it was considerably easier to accomplish actual work if I didn’t. Muhammad had something there, men being somewhat simple minded and all.

The black over robe–the abaya, is required dress for women in public in Saudi Arabia but, despite what CNN and other news services say about “women” being required to cover from head to foot, a tarha (head scarf) is not.

(All those non-Muslim women reporters doing live feeds from Jeddah with ridiculous looking scarves draped artistically over their heads? I want desperately to think is a concession to the government and the religious police for the privilege of being allowed to broadcast live from the most rundown disreputable part of the historical Old Town they (the news crews) could find, but I’m pretty sure is the typical reporters completely un-researched and inappropriate use of an exotic prop).

So to recap: non-Muslim women in Saudi Arabia are not (at this point in time) required to wear a headscarf. In less “liberal” parts of the country western friends report pretty intense stares at uncovered hair—but Jeddah is not Makkah or Riyadh—and I can go most places without raising an eyebrow (assuming it was uncovered so as to be able to see it—it is a learning curve talking to an unknown draped figure who is causally interpreting for you at some falafel stand).

I'm getting on with the photo taking, but taking photos requires some planning—and a letter of permission if out and about. And this may not be completely obvious—but taking pictures of uncovered Muslim women is not allowed.

So we’ll start with inside the compound.