WKR 191121 Mrinmay Sebastian at a plein air painting session-1574506076977
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DUBAI: At a time when artists are increasingly experimenting with digital art and new digital techniques, the UAE chapter of the International Watercolour Society (IWS) is focused on promoting one of the oldest forms of art. Mrinmay Sebastian, IWS UAE’s country head, speaks about the group’s efforts to popularise watercolour painting and its fourth anniversary celebrations:

How was IWS UAE formed?

I have always been interested in art, so when I took a break from my career in aviation and marketing in 2012, I started painting. I explored various media till I discovered watercolour and fell in love with it.

I was keen to meet other watercolourists and learn from them but could not find any such group here. Through online research, I learnt about the IWS, which has over 90 branches across the globe and got in touch with its founder Atanur Dogan, a renowned watercolourist. On his suggestion, I began by starting a Facebook group, UAE Watercolorist, which soon had over 500 members and in October 2015, IWS UAE was officially inaugurated by Dogan.

How does the group promote watercolour painting?

We conduct free workshops/demonstrations at schools and universities and invite local and international artists to lead master classes. We organise free watercolour painting sessions every Monday morning and plein air painting sessions (painting outdoors with the subject in full view) on weekends where everybody is welcome to paint, share tips and learn from each other.

We organise painting competitions and exhibitions to discover and showcase the talent of local artists, and also facilitate their participation in international exhibitions. We organise an annual National Watercolour Exhibition and also hosted the first Watercolour Festival of the UAE, which brought masters from around the globe to Dubai and provided an international platform for local artists to showcase their work.

The response has been great, and we have seen a huge growth in the popularity of this medium both with adults and children. People like it because the materials are so simple, inexpensive and portable, the process is meditative, and healing and the results, magical.

How are you celebrating the group’s fourth anniversary?

We are presenting a National Watercolour Exhibition at Cartoon Art Gallery. We issued an open call inviting all watercolour artists in the UAE to submit their work and over 100 selected paintings are displayed in two categories — featuring artists up to 17 years of age and those aged 18 and above.

The quality of work by artists of all ages is a testimony to the popularity of this medium and the abundance of talent in UAE.

National Watercolour Exhibition, Cartoon Art Gallery, Al Quoz. Until November 28.