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“A talk with a self-taught illustrator: Nourane Owais” – a Q&A interview

A talk with a self-taught illustrator: Nourane Owais – a Q&A interview

Today we invite you to meet one of the most talented artists currently booming on social media, self-taught, with a will of iron, Nourane Owais is an artists to be looked up to and learned from. Her portfolio and journey are a testimony to how much effort and passion she put in her work and how much she is still working on to show the world.

Let’s meet the artists, shall we?

Hey, Nourane. Tell us about yourself and how you took the first steps into the illustrations world. Why did you choose to teach yourself that in particular?


Hello there, my name is Nourane Owais, Egyptian, born and raised in Cairo. Studied Computer Sciences, worked as a Technical Engineer at Microsoft for 3 years in Cairo, then moved to Dubai when I took a Marketing job offer at Google. It was a complete career shift that I was and still am very passionate about.


My move to Dubai helped me develop a consistent work/life balance, in other words, my social life dropped to the minimum, and I dedicated the time to work on my artistic skills in both watercolor and digital illustration and photography, every day after work for two years. I’ve always loved painting and doodling, it’s in my blood; both my grandfathers were artists and one of them was an art teacher.


My career at Google enlightened me on the power of YouTube and the rich educative content one can find there. When my interest grew in watercolor, I was able to learn a lot about this media and different art techniques from fellow artists that I found on social media and tutorials on YouTube. Then came photography. I connected with artists from different platforms and regions, enrolled in online courses and learned everything I need from techniques, to purchasing my gear kit. All the information is available online, you simply need to look for it.



Who/What were your main inspiration?


So many watercolorists and photographers have inspired me. People I follow on Instagram and YouTube, especially the ones who are generous enough to share their knowledge and invite you to become part of their community. Sadly, very few are from the Arab world. I hope I find an inspiration from our region soon, or maybe I become one!



Which tutorials do you recommend for aspiring illustrators to follow?


For watercoloring and mixed media, I’d recommend Iraville, Minnie Small, Holley Exley, kendyll hillegas, Taryn Knight, Wonder Forest, Shayda Campbell… so many, I could go on forever. The reason I’m mentioning these names is because they share not only their final work, but how they did it. In my opinion it makes a whole lot of difference; I’d rather learn from them, than just admire good artwork and have no idea how to create my own.


How did you balance between your job, life responsibilities and a skill that you wanted to learn, any time management tips?


Over the past 3 years, I was blessed with a job that allowed me to learn about online marketing, social media and digital content creation, a very supportive best friend, and an understanding husband. They are the 3 main factors that helped me use my internet knowledge, and free time after work to grow my artistic skills. My tip is just do it. Whether learn it online or enroll in a course. Make the time for it. Period.


Giving up sometimes is the easier path, how did you stay true to your passion?


My best friend and my husband’s continuous support, they always pushed me to continue when they found me giving up on my brush or camera. YouTube & Instagram always keep me on my toes when it comes to inspiration. Even if it was a one minute video on how to organize my workspace, that sometimes lights-up a little fire inside me to get up, clean my desk and start water coloring.


What’s your favorite(s) illustrations to make?


I love painting cactus. No idea why. I can paint them forever.



What’s your favorite(s) brushes brand, colors, paper types, paint brands… the ones you recommend.


Brush Brand: Silver Brushes

Watercolor Paints: Winsor & Newton, Schmincke

Papers: Winsor & Newton, and Strathmore


Sharing your passion on social media sure does have its challenges, what’s the best & worst thing about it?


The best thing is the feedback and questions I get. It means that I’m actually helping someone out there and it keeps me going. The challenge is maintaining the consistency. It sometimes makes me feel pressured. It’s a true commitment and vlogging takes a lot of time and effort, plus I’m usually not very comfortable in front of a camera. I just hate watching myself talk!


From illustrator to photographer, how did you take that step?


When I posted my watercolor paintings on Instagram and Facebook, people asked me if I sell them or if I receive commissions. That’s when I took photography seriously because I wanted to learn how to professionally photograph my artwork and create a beautiful gallery for my Instagram profile and my Etsy shop. Later, I deep-dived into the world of photography and it expanded around me. A year and a half of practice and investment later, I became a professional photographer.


Tell us about your #myblackandwhitefacesproject.


I started this project almost a year ago, by accident.

When I started my YouTube channel, I purchased some lights for better video quality, because my apartment in Dubai was not very well lit. I am a daylight shooter, which means I prefer shooting in natural outdoor light. But since I had the lights already for my vlogs, I started experimenting portrait photography using them on my family and friends.


When the #myblackandwhitefacesproject became more popular on Instagram, I decided that it should have a meaning, I wanted people to remember me and remember my shoot. I studied more on portrait photography, how to capture raw emotions and micro-expressions of my subject and built a unique process from my shoot. The whole experience transformed from a fun staged shoot, to a therapeutic experience, where I discuss personal and relevant topics with my subjects, they don’t expect what’s coming next, or when will I capture their faces. They eventually enjoy it and love the results.


Photographers that inspire you?


Emily Quinton, Jessica Kobeissi, and Brandon Woelfel


Product photography, portraits, food, travel … which is your favorite and why?

  1. I love still-life (including product and food) because that’s what got me into photography. I wanted to shoot my paintings, remember?
  2. I love Lifestyle photography is because it’s all about capturing authentic moments and milestones in an artistic manner.
  3. Street photography because I love travelling and documenting my steps. Recently, my interest in fashion photography started growing. So maybe ask me that question again in a month or two? haha!


Do you listen to music while working, if yes, who’re your favorites?

Yes, I do. My favorite is Coldplay.


Do you have any tips for people wanting to share their passion on social media, how should they go about the first steps?

Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself. I call them the “I’m hot you’re not” content creators. Follow accounts that inspire you to create something beautiful and productive every day. Even if it’s how to make a pretty cup of coffee. That helps.


What do you say to aspiring artists and photographers?

If I can do it, you can too.


Photography, illustration … all are forms of art, how do you believe that art is expression?

Art makes me feel good about myself. All I need is some paint, a camera, some fresh air and a Coldplay song.


You can find Nourane on social media right here:

  • Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/nouraneowais/
  • Website : http://www.nouraneowais.com/
  • Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/user/Nourane89


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