There is something wonderful about a fresh, clean canvas. When I look at it, I can't wait to cover it in paint, says Dubai-based painter Carol Smith. Her words:

Art is the primary focus in my life at the moment. It enables me to express my personality, interests and sense
of colour and style.

After having lived and worked in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for four years, I developed a deep love of the Gulf's art and culture, but sadly returned to England in 1992. I was overjoyed when in 2002 my husband, Trevor, discovered a position available in the company he was already working for, GE (General Electric), that would enable us to live in Dubai.

My husband and I have been married for 28 years and we have three sons – Stacey, 27, Richard, 24, and Kyle, 15. Trevor is a field service engineer; his job is very demanding and often takes him away from home for weeks at a time. He has travelled the world with his job and like so many men here is almost married to his job. We have lots of quality time when he is home, though, as he is able to work from home when he is in the UAE.

Trevor is my biggest fan. He often tries to buy my art. I once sold a painting to a neighbour and Trevor kept seeing it on their wall when we visited them. He kept asking if he could buy back the painting, but they would not sell it. So while he was away, I painted him a copy. It turned out even better than the original one, needless to say he was thrilled and it's now in our lounge-room.

Home is Derby in the English Midlands …

… I was never truly happy there and always felt I should live in a sunnier climate. I believe I have what is termed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) syndrome, which is an illness brought about by a lack of light … causing slight depression. I am much happier in the sun. I love to wake up to the sunshine and am usually up at 6 am walking my dog.
I don't miss England, but I miss my sisters, my mum and, of course, my boys. I think about England at Christmas time, but not enough to want to go back to the cold weather.
I happily gave up a lucrative sales career [in industrial and medical cleaning chemicals] to come out here and become a lady of leisure, only to find that I was a little bored once
we had settled in.

I have always been very creative …

… my family has always admired things that I turned into beautiful pieces of furniture or an outfit I had designed and made myself. I even turned my hand to making garden furniture and laying patios in my spare time. It came in handy to be this way inclined, as I was not always well-off and what
I couldn't afford I would just make.

I never found the time to really express and develop my love of art and photography, having a husband who travelled a lot, which left me in the role of both mother and father.

As a child, I always chose pencils and crayons over sweets and toys.

I was quite artistic as a girl, I spent hours drawing cartoons and have fond memories of my first paintings. When my younger sister, Mandy, was studying for her GCSE exams, I would do her art homework while she babysat. I loved doing this for her and she reminded me about this when she first saw my newfound talent. I took home a painting for my mum and Mandy reminded me that she got an A grade because of the work I had done for her.

I had to get on with bringing up children as I had my first child at 20, so my art took second place. I never studied history of art, I was not in a privileged position to be able to do so.

I am influenced by [French artist Edgar] Degas for his portrayal of women and love his use of colour and mood. I am more influenced by modern art, though, and often use a photograph to start a painting. I love figurative art – something that looks as though it has a story to it or something so colourful that it is the first thing people notice when they walk into the room.

Moving to Dubai gave me …

… a little more time. For the first time in my life, I was able to do what I wanted to do and not what I had to do to make the family work. We had just one son still at school, so I soon found that I had too much time on my hands.

I took a drawing class and found that my talent had only been lying dormant. In 2003, I enrolled at the Dubai International Art Centre and found myself being drawn to oil painting and this was to be my new vocation.

I owe my skills to the many hours of painting I do every day, and am deeply indebted to my art teacher, Alem Goshime. I attended every workshop he conducted and learnt that to become a good artist, you must practise constantly.

Initially, my love of interior design sparked my interest in creating art for my own home. This, in turn, led to friends, neighbours and acquaintances wanting to view my work and asking me to create something for their homes. Over the last few months I have been very successful, having sold my paintings to a number of people in Dubai, the
UK and Turkey.

I recently joined a group called ARTE, Artisans of the Emirates, which holds art and craft exhibitions around the UAE.

It's sometimes hard to let go of a painting …

… but I cannot keep all my art as I paint so much and love to start new paintings. However, I do become attached to my art. When I look at a painting, I feel the emotions I felt at the time I painted it. I have a couple of paintings that would be almost impossible to let go of.

Art is an escape for me …

… I sometimes totally lose track of time, often painting for four hours without a break. Then I stand back in amazement, look at what I have created and wonder how I did it. I have had a bit of stress in my life and believe that art is a much better antidote than anything a doctor can prescribe.

Carol Smith can be contacted at