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Dubai: “My parents always told me to choose a career that would make me a living,” Rashid Al Mulla said to Gulf News as he looked around at all of his pieces hanging in the private dining room at Coya Dubai. Rashid is a self-taught Emirati portrait artist born in Sharjah and now based in Dubai. By day, he is a Civil Engineer working on the Etihad Railway, and at night he is an artist who loves bright and vibrant colours. “My friends would describe me as a quiet person,” he said with a smile. “It’s always been easier for me to express myself through art than it is with words.”

Rashid has had many different influences on his art. “As a child, I can remember copying from my brothers’ drawings and using them as inspiration to create my own artwork. Then as I got older I started taking art classes. They have served as my escape.” These classes also gave Rashid a good foundation in drawing and confidence in his skills. “My teachers and classmates were also very encouraging which helped a lot.”

Rashid Al Mulla
Rashid posing with one of his most colourful pieces.

Although he went on to follow a very technical career path by studying Civil Engineering at Concordia University, Rashid still takes his art very seriously. “I always try to make as much time as possible for art regardless of how busy my day job is.” Many times Rashid will work on his art late into the night. “Sometimes I am up until 3am painting. I am a night owl like that. But these days I’m trying to sleep a little earlier, so I can wake up earlier and do a little bit of exercise in the morning.”

Rashid is passionate about humanity and the environment. Many of his works — acrylic paintings on large canvases — focus on delivering human emotions and shedding light on issues, such as water scarcity, deforestation, and animal cruelty.

“I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid, can't remember exactly how it started, however, I knew that I always wanted to continue in this field, making art always gave me the chance to express and to me, it is a sort of meditation and a way to escape from the world around me.”

Rashid started his career at Sharjah Art Institute in 1998, where he took different art classes ranging from sketching, oil painting, acrylic painting, to sculptures. He has exhibited in several galleries and events around the UAE and has been commissioned to create a 140-meter long mural alongside other artists by the Cultural Office of Sheikha Manal Bint Mohammad Al Maktoum.

His latest solo exhibition called “I have so much to tell you” is currently hanging on the walls of the Peruvian restaurant Coya Dubai at the Four Seasons Jumeirah.

Each artwork in this new series dives into the different stories of culture and emotions of humans, specifically women, and how their simple facial expressions can convey a message to the viewer. The exhibition also includes pieces inspired by elements of Peruvian culture and heritage.

I wanted to project my unique take on illustrating human emotion and the power of facial expressions. The illustrations I have devised incorporate a myriad of vivid colouring and free-flowing lines that help to draw the viewer into the moment.

- Rashid Al Mullah

“I am always proud whenever I have the chance to exhibit my works. The most stand-out exhibition for me, was when I was invited to be part of the reopening of Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation which gave recognition to Emirati artists.

The art scene in the UAE

“It is such a vibrant art scene. At the moment, since I am a part-time artist, rather than a full-time artist, I may not be as fully immersed as other artists who live here, but I know it’s such an exciting place in the Middle East to be an artist. The UAE really encourages art and culture.”

“I feel like these days also, people are becoming more interested in art, especially in this region where the art scene is flourishing, and many have just discovered a passion for collecting art.

Even though Rashids portraits are very personal, he still finds many people who are able to connect with them and want to acquire them. “No matter what we go through, you will always find people interested in buying art.” Rashid’s wife has also been a major support system to him. She encourages him to keep creating art. “She believes there will always be people who are interested.”

Looking ahead

Rashid Al Mulla
Rashid next to a portrait he painted inspired by his wife.

Rashid is currently working on his next collection of art pieces. They will be inspired by the sea. “The one thing I really want to do is travel the world and explore the art world more. I believe that travelling and seeing art from different places and cultures would help me have a better understanding of art.

My goal one day is to be part of any international artist residency particularly in an environment surrounded by nature.

You can see Rashid Al Mulla’s art work in the private dining room at Coya Dubai at the Restaurant Village in the Four Seasons Jumeirah.