Like most expats, Eleyah moved to Doha with her husband and two young kids. A trained graphic designer, Eleyah put her full-time job on hold to manage the family and did a few freelance jobs for a while until when she rediscovered her love for art and also realized that graphic design wasn’t the direction for her. She then eventually with a group of friends, formed the Doha Artists Collective, which has turned out to be a beautiful space for creative artists in Qatar.

Eleyah is currently enjoying her family vacation at her native place in India. The All & About team recently had a chat with her (on Zoom of course), where she took us through her artistic journey and how the Doha Artists Collective group came into being.

Read what she has to say below:

“During our summer holidays a few years ago, we were in Cornwall, UK where I attended an art workshop. The person conducting the workshop really loved my work and reminded me of my love for drawing. His words really triggered something in me. I came back and told my friend Philippa that we should make a commitment and motivate each other to paint more frequently. Our friend Cristina joined us on our first ever paint/coffee morning. That was the beginning of the Doha Artist Collective.  A lady saw us painting and was keen to join us as well. Initially, it was just the four of us and we made a promise that we would do it every week.

Since we were mostly meeting in the mornings, it was mostly attracting mums or those who did not have work in the mornings. Over time, a few more of our friends joined us – it was mainly through word of mouth. During the initial years, we had a rule that a new member had to be introduced by an existing member, and so the group just started growing. Most of our meetings were at the Starbucks at Aspire; we loved meeting up there and we sometimes painted the Aspire park with the torch in the background with some of the trees. So, it just started like that but then eventually, I felt a lot of potential in this group and then I designed a logo (with my graphic design background) followed by the Instagram page.

There have been members in the past who have mentioned to me how this group has not only has inspired them, but has also been a wonderful support system. Moving to Qatar was definitely a challenge for me as I had moved with really young children and I didn’t have any family or friends here at the time. This group being an art group really helped us with connecting through something that inspired us from within. Initially most of us were art enthusiasts, but once I built the Instagram page we began to attract interest from other artists in Doha.

We participated in a group exhibition just before COVID started – that was the beginning of the new era for the collective. This group is around 5 years old, but it’s grown from 2 friends who were trying to motivate each other to over 20 active members.

We now have professional artists in our group and when you push yourself to that level, you demand more. If you are committing your time to a group/club you want something out of it. But the group is also a great support system and we share information regarding art-related things happening around the city, and also motivate each other. We regularly share tips and discuss our work. The group has now gone beyond the initial moms’ network. However, we have maintained it as a women-only group because our sessions are usually in the mornings. We are not closed-off to any gender or nationalities, it’s been such an organic growth, and it’s sort of built itself in a way. Two years ago, I began to feel that I could use some creative input to run the group, so I formed a core committee – including Zakiya from Instruck studio, Cristina from BonTon BoutiQ…) Nish – Nish Lukis , Daya from Razzle Dazzle and Philippa, who has been a co-founder of this group.

The first step we made as the new group was the group sale at ASD in February 2020 which was a great success. It was an amazing experience. With the COVID19 situation, some of our plans have had to take a back seat. With the improvement in the situation in Qatar, we are looking forward to some exciting new ideas in the near future.

I started my Instagram page to motivate myself and have a record of my progress. It has developed into an amazing platform for me as I have acquired customers from the world. I have also had enquiries for art lessons. I mostly work from home, take commission, teach art classes online, and I do some graphic designing work as well. Now that my children are older, it has provided me with more time to focus on my work.

I would love this group to be eternal.  It would be a wonderful thing for Doha, especially with its expat population, people could keep joining it even if I leave tomorrow. I want to pass the baton and have this group to be a place where anyone, be it a professional artist or a beginner, can come in find a support team and grow.

I have always liked traditional form of art like paper, pen and paint. When I was going to university, my parents did not think that traditional fine art would be a promising career option. After having completed my Bachelor’s Degree from St Xavier’s College in Mumbai, I went to London to study design. A year later I moved to Bangalore and worked as a junior graphic designer for a studio there. I returned to London a few years later and studied design for communication. It was important to me to create a stable career out of being creative so at that point, it was graphic design.

Shortly after that, I got married and moved to Dubai where I worked with a branding agency. After becoming a mother, I was doing a lot of freelance graphic work which meant I had control over my work. It was very tricky to manage my time and my sleepless nights since I had kids just 2 years apart, so with that, graphic design was becoming really hard. I took a break from designing and during that time, I began to draw and paint again. It was as if I was rediscovering my love for art. It brought back the old me. It ignited an excitement and motivation I had not experienced in years. I have not looked back since.

When I initially moved to Qatar, it was very challenging, especially with a very young family. But over the years, I have grown to love my life here in Doha and I truly believe my art has helped me connect with these wonderful, creative people. Painting is the opposite of work for me. It my time to relax.

When I paint, I like to work on my own as it keeps me very focused. Some people like to create art in isolation while others like to finish all their chores and have a separate time for painting. It was like that for me at first, I just wanted everyone in bed before I started painting as I completely zone out when I do. I also paint when my children are at school as well.

In my paintings, I try to portray a sense of human connection. In a way, I’m able to get a sense and feel for what people need. I’m able to get people to do things, that’s how I connect with them.

My favorite artist is Van Gogh. I can relate to his artistic journey, which had many ups and downs, just like any other. If I could, I would just want to talk to him and pick his brains. I don’t think we’re going to be painting. We’re going to be talking a lot, just discussing his painful journey.

The fact that we have platforms like Instagram and Facebook really changes the whole experience of being an artist and finding ways to sell your art. Van Gogh’s journey was full of hardships but I’m sure every experience enriched his creative thinking and added to all the magic in his work. If you feel like you have reached a point where you are happy and content with your creativity, it tends to slow you down in my opinion.

I have always painted with my heart, but at some point, I realized that I would like to make a business out of this. I realized I could not just keep piling up art in my house. Being the third generation of an entrepreneurship family, and my father strongly believes in entrepreneurship. He has always been an encouraging force for me and my siblings, no matter what our passions were. However, he has been instrumental in pushing us to thinking of business ideas around our passions. He has never encouraged us to take up the current family business but rather, has wanted each of us to be entrepreneurs. He always asks how my art is going to become a business, even though I generally don’t think like a business person, his voice is in my head all the time and I do often think of how I can make my passion a viable business.

I grew up in a gorgeous boarding school built by the British in the south of India. These buildings were my first inspiration to draw. I loved the intermingling of the plants and architecture. The natural form they created together. I love watching ivy grow on those beautiful old brick buildings.

I first called up a few of my friends and mentioned how I had been wanting to paint houses, so I started doing a few portraits for friends whom I knew had beautiful homes. I began getting a few commissions for some of my paintings. This was where I had an idea to market my work. I was finally ready to start selling my art.

During my journey, I questioned whether or not this was the right path to take, especially when I was working as a graphic designer, I could get the job done but it wasn’t in my heart. I never loved it.

It gives me a lot of peace when I’m making these paintings. Although it always breaks my heart when I have to part with them, even though that’s part of the journey. As much as I want to keep my paintings, I also want to spread the joy.

Whilst I developed myself as an artist, my husband was the one supporting me and my kids, I’m blessed to have him in my life. He has always been supportive in my pursuit for art. Because of him, I was able to slowly, and organically find my way.

I believe in staying true to yourself. If your heart is in something, the potential and the motivation to grow will always be there. No matter what I did, I would always come back and paint at the end of the day because that’s where my heart lied. It’s through painting that I’m going to communicate everything that’s in my head. That’s my story to the world.

I’ve been told at a past interview, that I had no skill to create fine art. Though it took me a while to push myself, I believe that you should never let anything come in the way of your dreams. Drawing and painting are skills and that anyone can learn. I had to keep my mind open, to stay persistent and to not let anything hold me back. I define talent as a combination of hard work and aptitude.

The art space in Doha is quite young and that gives amateur artists great opportunities. It’s such a wonderful place to begin your art journey and it is amazing that you are providing these opportunities.”

-Elizabeth (Eleyah), Founder of Doha Arts Collective