42-year-old Michael Conjusta dreamt of becoming a doctor, but his “God-given talent in painting and the hardships in life” brought the Filipino artist to Qatar. Michael has been living in Qatar for 23 years now, a country he had not heard of until he turned 19, and was convinced by a neighbor to try his luck here.
Without a university diploma but with a portfolio of his sketches and paintings and a dream of giving his family a better life, Michael boarded a plane to Qatar in late 1998. Since then, Michael has splashed many walls with colors, he has built modern buildings in the sand and transformed faces into angry lions and lovely butterflies. He has received numerous awards and recognitions, and has made his parents proud.
The ILoveQatar.net (ILQ) team reached out to Michael Conjusta to learn more about his art. Let’s get to know him better!
Michael: I am a self-taught artist from the Philippines. I paint walls, canvas, faces, and bodies. I decorate foyers and ceilings. Whatever items I hold, I try to turn them into a piece of art. I have been working as an Interior Decorative Artist in Qatar since September 1998.
I was a year short of finishing a bachelor’s degree in Architecture when my neighbor told me that a French employer was in the Philippines and was looking for an interior decorator to bring to Qatar. When I learned about the salary being offered, I immediately applied, and before I knew it I was already gathering documents needed for travel. I bid goodbye to my family and boarded a plane for the first time to Qatar.
Michael: When I was eight years old, I saw my cousin working on a school project. He was using a graphite pencil. I was amazed by how he created his drawings. What I did was I took a piece of charcoal, the one my mom was using to cook our food, and then I started sketching using it. My sketch turned out really beautiful. It was then that I learned that I can draw and paint.
Michael: Qatar is full of life! This country has given me the opportunity to enhance my craft and build a name for myself as an artist. Now, I am not only an interior decorator but also a muralist, face and body painter, sculptor, and a canvas master, as my friends call me. I have discovered these talents in my two decades of living here.
I also got introduced to various art and cultural groups and worked with a number of government and private companies, and gained many loyal customers who became my friends. I have also had the opportunity to participate in many art exhibitions and competitions in the country.
Michael: I never faced a major challenge as an artist until the pandemic started. Before COVID-19, there were many events so I did a lot of mural works and face painting jobs. Good thing that amid the pandemic, a number of art groups organized painting competitions. Luckily, I won the top prize in the Visual Art Center's 'A Drawing From Home' COVID-themed online drawing competition. I was able to put food on the table by joining various drawing and painting contests, and by making portrait paintings for friends and friends of friends.
Michael: To be invited to exhibit my works and to conduct workshops is a big accomplishment for me. I have been part of more than 20 art exhibitions in Qatar. It feels great to be recognized as an artist and win awards. But if I have to mention the biggest one, I'd say when I won 1st place in the first-ever Sand Art Competition in Qatar in 2019. It was the most difficult contest I have ever entered due to the weather conditions at that time. But it was all worth it because I took home the trophy and the top prize of QR 25,000. This was the highest prize money I have ever received in my whole life. I sent most of it to my family back home, and that for me is one big achievement, too!
Michael: I will be very honest, my job is my family’s bread and butter, therefore I must love what I do! Another thing, I can express myself through my artwork. I can bring joy and happiness to many faces. This is very important to me, so I will continue learning, continue what I do, and continue loving it!
Michael: I am working on several mural paintings. I am happy that things are getting back to normal and I have started to get projects and commissioned works again.
When things become more relaxed, I plan to conduct workshops again for children and adults alike. Perhaps I might collaborate with some companies and organizations to be able to pursue this. I hope the Qatar National Library (QNL) will invite me again to exhibit my works and conduct a live workshop. I was the first Filipino to do an art exhibition at QNL. It was a three-week exhibit.
Michael: Practice, practice, and more practice! Paint and draw every single day! Believe in what you can do and in what you can achieve.
Michael: The support that we are getting from the Qatar government is beyond praise. Qatar is our second home, thus we must love it as our own. We are safe and protected in this country - what else can we ask for? Respect the rules and regulations and everything will be okay.
Cover image credit: Michael Conjusta
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