x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Portrait of a Nation: Emirati painter turns coffee accident into artistic enterprise

After a late night accident with a cup of coffee, Ahmed Al Dosary now paints using coffee beans but says Emirati artists need more support

Ahmed Al Dosari discovered he had a talent for painting using coffee beans by happy accident. He hopes to display his artwork in a gallery some day. Anna Nielsen for The National
Ahmed Al Dosari discovered he had a talent for painting using coffee beans by happy accident. He hopes to display his artwork in a gallery some day. Anna Nielsen for The National

The biog

Favourite colour: Brown

Favourite Movie: Resident Evil

Hobbies: Painting, Cooking, Imitating Voices

Favourite food: Pizza

Trivia: Was the voice of three characters in the Emirati animation, Shaabiyat Al Cartoon

Ahmed Al Dosary huddled in a small room in his house in Dubai and settled in for a long night of painting.

He was determined to paint through the night to finish his portrait of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

The artist often stayed up to paint, sleeping but a few hours before putting away his brushes and attending his government job at Dubai’s public prosecution.

Armed with a coffee in hand, a vigorous stir and a tap of the spoon later, a drop of coffee spilt onto his canvas.

While most artists would throw away the coffee stained canvas and start over, Al Dosary thought, “why not paint with coffee?

“I love the shades of brown and the coffee stain had a beautiful colour,” he says.

Thus he became the first Emirati artist to paint using coffee beans.

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“I mix different types of coffee with different levels of water to make shades of brown. The shades I produce with the coffee beans, I’ve never been able to create with oil paints,” he says.

But the depth in tone come at a prince, his perishable coffee paintings must be immediately framed and covered in glass to be preserved.

“It will only get damaged if a drop of water falls on it,” he says, pointing to a two-year-old coffee painting still in pristine condition

Al Dosary, 31, began creating coffee artwork two years ago and only recently moved to oil painting. He says he discovered his talent almost ten years ago.

“I started really young and used to steal my brother’s note books and scribble on them when I was four years old then I started with the usual childhood drawings — a tree and the sun with a bird on the side. It was always just a hobby,” he says

His first major piece of art was a blooming rose he painted in 2008.

“That is when I realised that I might have talent. After I drew the rose, I got a lot of requests from friends and family.”

Sadly, by the time Al Dosary discovered he had talent, he had a steady government job and had studied law, not art.

“It was a passion of mine; a hobby. I never thought of studying it or being a professional artist at the time.”

Al Dosary is yet to exhibit his artwork but plans to display his work in future on social media, rather than in an art gallery where he says Emirati artists are not given enough support.

Ahmed Al Dosari draws portraits of the rulers using coffee beans in his home in Mirdif. Anna Nielsen for The National.
Ahmed Al Dosari draws portraits of the rulers using coffee beans in his home in Mirdif. Anna Nielsen for The National.

“I want to but unfortunately there is no support for Emirati artists. Everywhere I want to exhibit, asks for large sums of money for rent and charges for each painting I want to exhibit.”

The price also differs according to the size of the painting.

“I wish art would be taken as a serious subject like medicine and law and that there would be more support for Emirati’s. There are many talented Emirati artists who are never given the opportunity or have the resources to showcase their work,” he says.

He hopes that Emirati’s could have a dedicated space to exhibit their art work for free.

“These exhibits can then maybe take a small percentage from the sales instead of asking artists for huge amounts of money before they have even sold anything. What if no paintings are sold?” he asks “then the artist would have lost money that he doesn’t have by paying the exhibition.”

Today Al Dosari has over two dozen oil and coffee paintings in his room which he calls his personal studio.

His studio is draped with paintings of nature, President Sheikh Khalifa, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, a remake of Da Vinci’s self-portrait and many others.

“I love Da Vinci. Every painting of his is a mystery. I love the last supper and his self-portrait and most of his artwork.

“But drawing the rulers are my favourite,” he says while working on a coffee painting of the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.

Al Dosary dreams of having his own art gallery one day and dedicating his life to art.

“There is no support for painters. I need my government job.” Until then he will continue to paint throughout his evenings only to wake up at 6.30am to attend his government job.

“One day, I want to produce classical paintings just like Da Vinci’s in my own atelier.”