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With the Doha skyline (and wife) as muse

Lezima Gomes


DOHA with its high-rises and sky scrapers is definitely an architectural marvel. And who would know that better than Stephen James Watkins. His work is a constant reminder of how Doha has been constantly growing into a city of the future.

As a senior architect, he has had the opportunity of working with leading teams of healthcare specialists on prestigious medical projects. After working for a few years in London and Hampshire, Watkins came to work in Qatar and has been working as an architect for Sidra Hospital.

He takes his passion for architecture a notch further, as a painter, who constantly experiments on the canvas using strong lines to depict landscapes and structures across Doha."The vivid colours that acrylics offer and the fluid feel of paints is a good contrast to the more structured, technical side of architectural drawing," he says. And now, he is often commissioned to do paintings by companies in Doha.

He took to architectural drawings when he was 11."Even as a child, I was more into technical drawing rather than painting. I've always had a keen interest in architecture and I decided very early on that this was the direction I was going in. So, after school, I started the gruelling seven years it takes to be an architect by studying at the University of Greenwich and Oxford Brookes. It's a great opportunity out here to work on such iconic buildings and the possibilities out here are endless," he says.

Being an architect requires a skill for technical drawing and Watkins was blessed with this skill."Since I was a child I was more into technical drawing rather than painting. I did A-Level Art at school but never achieved a decent grade, as I would tend to veer off into a more technical drawing approach," he explains.

It was only after he met his wife, who is an art teacher that he started considering painting."Watching my wife paint, I decided to try some myself and combine painting with technical drawings. I started doing skylines of local cities and without me knowing, my wife took some of my paintings down to a local gallery to display. I was amazed that the paintings started to sell and then realised that there was a lot of interest in them."

Watkins, who paints only buildings, says that coming to Qatar gave him the perfect opportunity to explore his painting technique, particularly with the iconic buildings and ever-changing skyline."I love the varying shapes and intricate patterns here in Qatar. I love the fact that new buildings and shapes keep appearing. This keeps my interest going instead of having to paint the same skyline every time," he said.

Describing his style of painting, Watkins says he is very architectural, but what sets his creations apart, is the use of bright colours to grab people's attention and keep alive the artistic flare."I've started looking into more abstract styles, incorporating the local buildings and combining them with local Arabic patterns. Some of these patterns are very complex and intricate and it works very well with the style I use."

During his travels around the world in 2001, he picked up some original artworks in Mongolia and Vietnam that inspired him."The Vietnamese pieces have such simplicity. I'm also inspired by artists like Piet Mondrian who used bold colours, in a limited palette. I like using stand-out colours and incorporating my architectural painting style with these."

"It's definitely my wife who has influenced my art in the past 12 years.""If it wasn't for her, I would have never even considered doing this. She has also been a great teacher and helped me improve my style and technique. I also come from quite an arty background as my mum was a keen painter and spent a lot of time working with watercolours. So, I guess I have that artistic streak in my genes," he adds with a smile.

The art scene in Doha is constantly growing with a lot of money being invested by the country into art and Watkins is among the many artists who have got the opportunity to explore the art scene."The opportunities I have had to display my work have been fantastic and the contacts I have made would never been possible back in the UK. My paintings also show a distinctive representation of Doha and I think I have been successful because people want a recognisable memory of their time in Qatar," he says

Watkins says that in the future, he would love to do more city skylines/landmark buildings around the world and get his work out to more places."My paintings already cover cities such as Sydney, Aukland, Cape Town, New York, Toronto, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and London. It would be an ambition to travel as an artist to all these places to exhibit my works. I still feel that Doha is a great place for artists at the moment, so for the time being, I guess I will focus on here."

Advice to aspiring artists? Watkins immediately says:"Work on what you're best at. My art teacher at school said I should stop doing such technical drawings but now that's what I focus on and people like it. Look around you. Go to exhibitions. Visit places. All my inspiration has been from what I see around me."


What an inspiration you are To people interested in art.... Well done.

Penny Gardiner :
Jan 28 2016 12:41AM

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