Crimea artist Igor Shipilin teaches 16 Abu Dhabi residents the knack of painting outdoors

Participants, ranging from beginners to professional artists, were painting Al Maqtaa Bridge under the guidance of Shipilin who has a solo exhibition at N2N Gallery.

The artist Igor Shipilin, who had his Abu Dhabi students paint the 200-year-old Al Maqtaa Fort, says the tradition of working outdoors, rather than in a studio, is fading. Victor Besa for The National
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Underneath the shade of Al Maqtaa Bridge, a group of artists are focusing on one of the oldest structures in Abu Dhabi.

Al Maqtaa Fort is 200 years old and was built to defend the island against bandits. This week, it is the subject of a week-long masterclass being conducted by Igor Shipilin, an artist from Crimea, whose works are displayed in the most prestigious museums of Russia: the Hermitage in St Petersburg and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.

Shipilin, who currently has a solo show at N2N Gallery in Nation Towers Galleria, paints in the style of the modern masters. At home in Crimea, he is accustomed to sitting in the open air and painting straight onto the canvas with oil paint.

“Russian artists are the only ones that still paint like this,” he says. “French impressionists started this tradition but it is dying now – most people work in a studio.”

A total of 16 participants signed up for his masterclass, which started on Friday and ends on Thursday. “The idea is to observe how we see the light and shadow and the relationship between vertical and horizontal lines and between the cold and warm colours,” he explains. “In the end, I will teach them how to create a living painting.”

The biggest challenge, he says, is to put across how he feels and how he sees.

“There are many people who draw and paint landscapes, but often it is just a scene. Landscape is a philosophical understanding, you have to hear it, smell it and feel it and then you can really paint a landscape.”

The participants in the masterclass range from beginners to professional artists.

Iwona Drozd, 56, from Poland, has never painted before, but says she feels lucky to have such a good teacher.

“Igor is an excellent painter and a really good teacher, he has shown us everything step by step, how to make the painting. I am a journalist and I write books for which I always work with an illustrator. Now that I am practicing with Igor, maybe I will illustrate my own books.”

Sheikha Al Zaabi, a 24-year-old Emirati who works as an events co-ordinator, says she hopes the class might take her one step further towards having an exhibition of her work.

“When I went to the gallery and saw Igor’s paintings, I knew I wanted to take the class. I am interested in working with him because he is from Russia, so he has completely new techniques and inspirations. This is my first time painting in the open air and I’m excited about it.”

Amira Rahim, an American who paints from her home studio, says as there are so few classes in Abu Dhabi, this is a rare experience.

“I am really hoping to learn as much as possible this week and to push myself out of my comfort zone.”

• Igor Shipilin’s solo exhibition runs until February 16 at N2N Gallery, 1st Floor, Nation Towers Galleria, Abu Dhabi