| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Portrait of a lady

Renee Hartshorn paints a pretty picture of life in Dubai...

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© ITP Images

Have you always painted?
I have, ever since I was a kid. I had a pony growing up and I used to draw and paint horses all the time and I did an undergraduate degree in art education. But then I was holding down a full-time job and raising kids – pretty time-consuming as you can imagine – so there was a period of about 15 years when I didn’t paint at all.

How did you get back into it?
We had a house in Connecticut with big wall space and art was expensive! Plus the girls were older, so I started again. Here, I paint a lot – almost every day.

Does it keep you sane?
Yeah, it makes the day better if I’ve painted. I went from a very busy lifestyle in the US – I was working full-time, finishing up an MBA, looking after the girls and my husband was working here in Dubai. To go from that to doing nothing was tough. I needed to have something to do. It’s funny, I thought I’d never get used to not working but now I’d love to open a gallery or a place like the JamJar when we move home. That’s the great thing about Dubai – it’s the kind of place that gives you the opportunity to try something new.

Do you find Dubai inspiring?
I do. I love painting mosques and figures, and the colours of the desert – the browns, oranges and yellows – inspire me too. I recently held a show and it was the paintings with an Arabic theme that sold. I think a lot of people felt my pictures reflected their experience here.

Is it east to be an artist in Dubai?
I did a painting course and a pottery course at the Dubai International Arts Centre (DIAC) when we first moved here. They were great and got me back into art again. I used to live near New York City and I think I would’ve found the art scene there extremely intimidating, but here it’s much more open. Supply-wise, I can get most things – Emirates Trading near the American Hospital is a great store – although the brand of paint that I like working with isn’t sold here so I have to bring that in myself.

Do your girls like your work?
Yeah, they think it’s cool. My youngest, Elle, is particularly keen. She loves artsy stuff and she has her heart set on becoming a photographer. I also invite the neighbourhood kids in to paint – not all of them! – but small groups of kids who are roughly the same age. They have a blast.

What’s next?
I haven’t painted the Burj al Arab, even though I can see it from my window. I’ve really got to do that…
Check out Renee’s paintings on her website www.rlhpainter.com or contact her on renee@rlhpainter.com.

By Time Out Dubai Kids staff
Time Out Dubai,

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