Nabil Abou Hamad
Nabil in his studio. London, 2016
Nabil's life as an artist began at infancy, starting from the age of six, where he made use of a crayon set to habitually draw portraits of his family members— his mother and older siblings. It was during his teenage years that he pursued self-taught artistic development, experimenting in drawing and oil painting, and choosing to paint from life- landscapes, still life and portraiture.
Nabil with fellow artists Samir Kahaleh and Elias Zayat in Harasta, Syria in 1958, along with two of Nabil's paintings from the session.
Developing himself into a highly skilled draftsman, Nabil's first paid job was to provide caricature and political cartoons to a modestly-distributed magazine— a step that introduced him to the world of graphic art and magazine design. By 1963, Nabil was employed as a graphic designer for a magazine in the then burgeoning gulf nation of Kuwait.
Relocating back to Beirut, Lebanon a year later, Nabil continued his development in fine art under the informal tutelage of his close friends Rafic Charaf and Paul Guiragossian, both of whom, being artists who were older in age and their careers, had a significant influence on his artistic education and development.
It was also during this period and up until the mid 1970s, that Nabil came to be part of the Beirut-based circle known eponymously as the "artists of the Horseshoe" after the café/diner that served as the group's unofficial forum of debate, discussion and general congregation, among which included Charaf and Guiragossian.
Portrait of Nabil by Paul Guiragossian. Beirut. Late 1960s.
Charcoal study of Nabil, by Paul Guiragossian. Beirut, 1969.
A study of Paul Guiragossian in charcoal, by Nabil. Drawn in Nabil's studio in Beirut, 1969.
A party at the Arab Cultural Club, Beirut. Nabil (in light grey suit on the far right) enjoys a cigarette with colleagues. Rafic Charaf stands in the centre wearing a hat. Circa 1964.
Portrait of Nabil by Rafic Charaf. Beirut, 1960s.
Cartoon by Egyptian artist George el Bahgoury, featuring regulars of the Horseshoe café in Beirut's Hamra street. Nabil is the character with the big eyes in the bottom right corner of the paper. 1972
Shortly preceding the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon, Nabil had secured employment as art director and political cartoonist for Al Dastour magazine, for which he relocated to Paris, France in 1977. Just a few months later he moved to London, UK where he took up the post of art director of the Middle East's most prestigious political magazine at the time, Al Hawadeth, a role he held until quitting in 2004.
It was in London that Nabil underwent the greatest development and maturity as a fine artist, and where he began to further his experimentation in a variety of materials and styles. By 1982 he had gained representation by the Getty Talberg agency, where he became one of the most sought-after graphic and caricature artists of 1980s Britain, garnering a number of notable commissions including his artwork for the The Illustrated London News' 1988 Royal Year Issue, and his portrait of Ronald Reagan which was used for publicity artwork to promote the release of the single America for Beginners by British pop band Latin Quarter. It was during this period that Nabil became one of the world's leading examples of advanced airbrush usage in contemporary graphic art; with his work subsequently going on display at the 1983 Graphic Art expo in New York as part of the airbrush manufacturer DeVilbiss' commercial stand, marking the centenary of the modern airbrush. A year later in 1984, Nabil's caricatures featured as part of a themed exhibition displaying the Arab world's leading contemporary political cartoonists at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, France.
In 1988 Nabil co-founded, with his wife Marie Saba, the Argile Gallery, located at 7 Blenheim Crescent just off the Portobello Road, in what was at the time the run-down area of pre-gentrified Notting Hill Gate. The gallery was to go on to exhibit works by a handful of well-known artists from the Arabic-speaking world, including Paul Guiragossian, Saliba Doueihy, Joumana al Husseini, May Ghoussoub, Aref al Rayess, George al Bahgouri and Mario Saba; as well as a number of established British and international artists such as Chelsea College of Art lecturer Peter Fleming, Natural History Museum commissioned sculptor Graham High and New Zealand painter Michael Brown. It was also during the Notting Hill years that Nabil became part of the organically-formed Portobello Artists Group and undertook a course in stone lithography printing at the Heatherley School of Fine Art.
Nabil with fellow artists George al Bahgoury, Saliba Doueihy, Aref al Rayess and Syrian writer and poet Nizar Qabbani with whom he collaborated on the creation of a limited edition album of poetry and hand drawn art.
Whilst the Argile Gallery finally came to a close in 2013, Nabil continued to be a regular participating artist in the annual Notting Hill Visual Arts Festival since its inception by fellow Portobello Artists Group member Ronald Best.
Today Nabil resides in London with his family, where he continues his activity of producing and exhibiting art. His contemporary portfolio reveals a mastery in both draftsmanship and painting techniques developed over an extensive career, incorporating work in watercolour, pen and ink, oils and acrylic, alongside on-going experimentation in mixed media collages.