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In Perfect Balance: Procurement at Work, Painting at Home

Science, technology, and engineering fields are full of people who once dreamed of working in the arts, but chose a “practical” degree after telling themselves they will practice art as a hobby. Too often that hobby never happens.

Nour Saied-Ahmed is one of the exceptions. From the time he was a child in Hebron drawing with pencil and charcoal, the 51-year-old head of sourcing in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey region for GE Digital has continued to follow his passion.

It’s this dedication to creative expression that is commemorated every April 15th on World Art Day, a global celebration promoting the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art.

“Ever since I can remember, I have always been sketching.”

But when he proposed pursuing painting as a profession, his father asked, “How will you eat?”

“So I decided maybe I would do painting on the side and pursue some other profession, something technology related that turned out to be quite a contrast.”

As a result, Nour earned a bachelor of engineering degree in Manufacturing Engineering and Management from Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK.

“This makes for a good balance. Sourcing is very process oriented. Painting and drawing are very much ad-hoc and liberating, without any specific constraints, so actually, it works out quite well.”

For Nour, creating art is calming and relaxing.

He considers what he does a hobby, even though he is regularly asked to do commissioned work and has had his paintings exhibited in galleries in the UAE, where he works and lives, and in Finland, where he holds citizenship. As well, his work was included in the book, “Creative Palestinian Art,” published by Art Sawa in 2010 in Dubai.

He always carries a sketchbook with him when he travels for work or pleasure, eager to capture his surroundings. He does quick drawings or watercolors to capture the new scenes, colors, architecture and views.

Being open to new aspects of the craft, Nour says, is important to improving your skills. “You need to experiment quite a lot. Whenever I’m in a new country, especially in Asia or Africa, I search for handmade paper to experiment with. I sometimes use different types of inks.” Not long ago, he discovered rice paper provides an interesting surface for painting.

For some projects, instead of brushes, he has used chopsticks, needles and mechanical pencils.

“That exploration is important. I try to find different subject matter all the time. Some artists focus on specific things, but I do different things all the time – birds, vegetation, landscapes, people.

“It’s important not to feel constrained by one type of method or technique,” he says, pausing before adding, “Of course, being open like that is fundamental for success at anything, not just painting.”

And yet, the engineering and analytical side of him – the side that helps him succeed at work – also informs his art.

“I’m interested in any project that presents a challenge; it’s about being creative and trying to solve problems.”

He has developed an Arabic proverb series that presents viewers with a type of puzzle. Each painting combines calligraphy and painting to provide hints to a well-known proverb.

He also uses painting to provide a visual travelogue of family vacations. One painting he did to represent a trip to Australia was done in the style of Aboriginal dot paintings.

Working primarily in watercolor and acrylic, he also has done series on classical composers, Middle East and European cities, the desert and wildlife.

Despite having nurtured his passion for painting over the decades, Nour finds there are times when he disconnects from painting and drawing. But he always returns to it. “Like anything else, you need to keep practicing it; don’t let it die out. The only thing is to continue doing it and keep the inspiration and creativity going.”

His advice, aside from continual practice, is not to be intimidated by great art.

“For a while, when I was younger, when I saw good art, I felt a little bit challenged, uneasy. I would think, ‘This is better than what I can do.’ But eventually, I started to appreciate it and tried to understand the process behind the work, the materials, the technique.

“My advice is to really appreciate and study the work of other artists. It enriches you and is a source of pleasure. Otherwise, you are missing out. You’re depriving yourself because you feel challenged or competitive. It’s important to differentiate” that competitive unease from the beauty and appreciation of the art, he says.

See more of Nour’s work by visiting his website:


Country: UAE

Keywords: Artist, Drawing, Finland, GE Digital, Painting, Palestine, Practice, Procurement, World Art Day

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