Group Coordinator Central Creative Services Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
Contemplating a career in the arts, Lubna Habib, knew that she had chosen the right path during an exhibition following the 1988 monsoon. She recalls participating in a exhibit with hundreds of other art students of Chittagong, “I had known from the very beginning that I wanted to be a part of this exhibition because the money that was raised would go to help countless victims that had been afflicted. I realized in those moments that my art which was my greatest passion would create an impact.” The impact that she had made inspired her to pursue a career in the arts and realize her passion for the field.
Lubna has taken her career beyond the canvas, not only has she flourished in one of the country’s leading pharmaceutical companies for almost 2 decades, she has also managed to run a number of successful art galleries.
As we walked from her gallery to her residence, Lubna details the many journeys she has had in life, from her education in fine arts, working in a multinational corporation, and still making time to create her own masterpieces.
“I had known from the very beginning that I wanted to be a part of this exhibition because the money that was raised would go to help countless victims that had been afflicted. I realized in those moments that my art which was my greatest passion would create an impact.”
Imagination and creativity has shaped the entirety of my youth. Every aspect of my childhood gives me the opportunity to reminisce times filled with life and colors. It was really a spur of the moment decision to study fine arts, but I like to believe that my obsession with vibrant colors and arts and crafts from a very young age drove me to it. My first class in the Fine Arts Department at University of Chittagong led me to believe I had made the right choice.
Another milestone during my time in University of Chittagong was when Professor Alok Roy, an internationally renowned sculptor, organized a weeklong workshop for his students. With his help, we were able to transform clay into magnificent sculptures and pottery from scratch, for which we had received substantial acclaim. The sense of accomplishment that I was given following the workshop propelled me to extend my boundaries into the fine arts and discover what the medium for me was.
Making of the Medium
As a fine arts student, I’ve explored many mediums throughout my life. Some were complex, some were fascinating, and some were downright a pleasure to work with. However, none of them even come close to oil on canvas. Many people find my fascination with this particular medium peculiar, as it is very difficult to master. Yet the idea of mixing paint and oil together to create blends and strokes of masterpieces is so alluring. I am able to create contours and structures, highlight the emotions evident in someone’s eyes, the shadow of an object in a precise form, simply with a few touches of a brush and this medium. The dimensional possibilities with oil on canvas are truly endless.
Canvassing a Career
My career in a creative sector began with Madonna Communications Ltd., an advertising agency. Working in an advertising agency was challenging and fascinating at the same time. However, I had applied to Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd. at the same time, and soon after joining the ad firm, I got a call from them asking me to come in for an interview. Upon taking the interview, I was selected for the position and asked to join immediately. I had really started to enjoy working for Madonna Communications, but the idea of being able to work for an internationally renowned pharmaceutical company exhilarated me. I took the job and have been working there for over eighteen years.
The aspect that made me hold my ground here at Square was quite simple. Lack of creativity in most pharmaceutical companies isn’t something unusual. However, here at Square, the opportunities are quite endless. Along with my job came acknowledgment of my work and growing respect for my field. These past years working here has been exhilarating, progressive and allowed me to flourish; attributes that I equate to the environment, which is very homely, and the people are very supportive. I have received international recognition and admiration for products and promotional marketing items I’ve designed. My paintings can be seen in many embassies. All these opportunities have come along with the responsibility of the creative service sector of a leading pharmaceutical company in this country and I doubt I’d get this many incredible opportunity anywhere else.
Creativity amongst the Corporates
For a few years after my post graduation, I had trouble keeping my creative juices flowing. There may have been a few instances where my brushes met canvas in this time, but even then it wasn’t anything sincere. I found myself investing all my time in my job, the workload, and my family. I didn’t stop for a moment to think about what I was giving up in the process until about six years ago. I had a moment of awakening. As an artist, I believe that failing to nurture the creative vision that has been bestowed on you is nothing short of a crime. Hence began my numerous attempts to implement my passion for arts into my workplace.
I started off small with the promotional design. Eventually, I found many more opportunities, as the Group Coordinator of Creative Services, for which I could utilize my artisanal perception. I took the responsibility for creative marketing into my own hands. I found a way to introduce art in the process of approaching new ways for marketing and communications. While information and pharmacology are the norms for marketing, my artistic take on it has been described as a ‘breath of fresh air’.
Functionality vs. Aesthetics
When it comes to the creative aspect in the corporate world, the sector has become tightly regulated over the years. Targeted pharmaceutical content marketing is a very tricky concept. Since there isn’t much room available for fine art in a pharmaceutical corporation, it is important to find the right balance between functionality and aesthetics.
In terms of promotional and marketing design, I make use of my creative vision to interact with the general public while keeping the company’s objectives intact. I find a way to connect with them on an emotional level, subsequently managing its informative and persuasive nature.
Less Talk, More Art
After a busy day of work, household chores, and spending time with my family, I like to visit my art gallery just two minutes away from my apartment. After a hectic day, the familiar smell of paint and linseed oil is like my personal heaven. There have been days where I started painting and lost track of time and ended up watching the sunrise. I do most of my work at the gallery. Upon the completion of each painting, I hang them up on the walls. Friends and family have visited the small gallery and bought paintings at minimum cost since it’s not a commercial project. Nevertheless, at the end of a day, time to myself in this familiar sense of paradise is much needed.
Since I began my career, I’ve done one solo art exhibition and about over a dozen group exhibitions. In 2009, I had done an exhibition with my husband. It was a unique experience for me considering how supportive he’s been since the very beginning of our journey together. We’ve worked alongside each other on numerous projects as students. Afterward, we have both been involved in various nationwide group exhibitions as well. However, this was the first one we worked on together, just the two of us, outside of organizations.
I had my first solo exhibition three years ago. It was held at a Bronia café/art gallery. The response I received was incredible. I guess when it comes down to individual preference; I would definitely opt for solo exhibitions instead of groups. I might have participated in several group exhibits over the years, however the feeling I experienced when I saw my work, and my work only, filling up the spaces on the walls of that café is indescribable. As people admired my painting, finding joy and appreciation in something that I had created provided me with a sense of fulfillment and empowerment in my abilities. It was a marker in marker in my career as an artist because I had gained the confidence that I could display my work independently.
The decision to study and pursue a career in the arts is definitely one of the best ones I’ve made so far. There are stereotypes insinuating that job opportunities and success in this field of work are sparse and uncommon. That is a widely believed misconception. Not only can you actively paint or sculpt for a living, it is also incredibly easy to implement your imagination and talents into any work environment. To this day, people seem unconvinced about the link between creativity and effectiveness, despite the fact that it has been repeatedly proven to be true. I, for one, have been incredibly lucky enough to have parents who have done nothing but support me and encourage me to follow my dreams in a time when studying fine arts was highly unpopular. No matter how difficult the circumstances are, despite most people’s perceptions on this matter, I believe it is important not to hesitate in pursuing a career in this field if job opportunities and success are what one is worried about.