Arabian Culture on Canvas

FACT Abu Dhabi talks to Emirati artist Budour Al Ali about her passion for painting, ahead of her year-long exhibition at the prestigious Jannah Burj al Sarab Hotel…

Budour Al Ali with one of her works

Budour Al Ali , an Emirati artist who is known for her portraits of the Abu Dhabi royal family, is to have her work on display at Jannah Burj Al Sarab. The artist’s year-long exhibition will be based in the lobby of the hotel located in the Al Zahiya/Mina area. The exclusive art display will showcase the spirit of the UAE through four collections, updated in each quarter over the year.

This is a rare opportunity for guests, residents and tourists to discover the rich culture, heritage and folklore of the UAE through her artwork. The collection includes different elements of desert life, including falcons, Oryx and gazelles. The works will also give visitors a glimpse of cultural buildings and local handicraft. Additionally, three sketches of the Abu Dhabi royal family, which have been specially commissioned by Jannah Burj Al Sarab management, will be housed permanently in the hotel’s lobby. Here, Budour tells us more about her artistic tools, techniques and inspirations…


Tell us about your journey into art…

Before this path with canvas, colours and brushes began, I had jumbo crayons and scrap sheets of newspaper that my grandmother would collect for me to release my creative expression. My grandmother is a big influence behind my artistic journey; she always supported and nurtured the creative force that lived inside me from a young age.
It was later on that my family and friends mentioned that I viewed the world around me with a different perspective – that of an artist. Being creative and painting came natural to me.

It was my grandmother’s love that motivated and challenged me to continue improving; I always wanted to impress her with new paintings. She noticed how my interpretations of the world would trickle in every aspect of my life – from my bedroom to schoolbooks. From there, I continued to experiment with different mediums and forms of art.

Describe your artistic style for someone who views your work for the first time…

I develop my style throughout my journey as an artist; it is ever-evolving. In addition to realist movements, I fell in love with the idea of naturalism and realism as a depiction of ordinary, everyday subjects. I have an identifiable and unique style which distinguishes my paintings from those of others, regardless of the subject of the painting. I’ve been told that this distinctive factor is the positive energy that my paintings exude. This can be immediately sensed in the colours I use, as well as the simplicity in my work.

Tell us about some of the tools and techniques that you use in your work and why?

I work with different mediums; I’ve even tried sculpting! Although I love it, I found it a bit difficult to continuously work on sculptures in the long term. I’m more comfortable with canvas, brushes and paint, preferably oil and watercolours. I can also work with other mediums like acrylic, ink and pencil.

What are some of your favourite pieces that you’ve produced and why are they particularly special to you?

Every painting has a piece of me, a part of my soul, whether it has a sweet thought, feeling or memory behind it. My all-time favourites are the polo paintings as I admire the sport and horses. As one of the only artists in the UAE to have specialised in painting oryx and gazelles, those paintings are quite important to me as well. I particularly cherish every painting I have worked on with the public as part of the art initiative, Be an Artist for a Minute, which I started in 2014.

What’s the best and worst thing about being an artist?

I think the best and worst are the same in my case. As an established artist in the region, people always want to talk to me about my works, which takes up a lot of time. The best thing about being an artist is how I get to make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve helped people bring a trail of optimism in the way they think. Influencing people in a positive way has to be my favourite part of being who I am.

What’s your advice for young budding artists?

Practice, practice, practice! Get out of your comfort zones and trust your intuition. Take every opportunity that comes your way; make the best out of it. Your hard work will pay off, even if it may be after several years. Don’t be shy to ask questions. To develop your skill and to grow as an artist, you need to explore, experiment and experience.

camel race