Ahmed S. Eltemtamy was born and raised in Kuwait, the son of Egyptian parents. His father is an eye surgeon and his mother a social worker. Eltemtamy says he doesn't remember a time when he didn't have the urge to create art. "It used to get me in trouble with teachers," he laughs. "While the other students were busy with their assignments, I'd be at my desk drawing trees, birds and portraits." He says he sold his first painting, a watercolor, while in third grade and continued to draw and paint throughout his formative years.
After graduating from high school in the late 1970's, Eltemtamy attended college in England for two year, and then moved to the United States. He attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana with the goal of becoming an architect, but married and moved to Dallas before finishing.
After working for several years in a management position with Radio Shack Corporation, Eltemtamy formed a partnership with a college friend to export American-made automobiles to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In 1989 he and his partner moved their business to the Florida panhandle. With the responsibilities of a family and growing business, Eltemtamy says he found little time to spend on his art.
His earlier works, mostly drawings, watercolors and pastels, were displayed and stored at his parent's home in Kuwait. "In 1991 my parents were vacationing in Egypt. The day before they were to return home, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Iraqi soldiers occupied my parent's house and booby-trapped it when they left." Nearly all of Eltemtamy’s artwork was destroyed. Only a small sketchbook remained, which Eltemtamy now keeps at the Ormond Beach home he shares with his wife and two daughters.
Eltemtamy moved to the Daytona Beach area in 1992 to be closer to the auto auctions and dealerships. In 2000 the partnership was dissolved, and Eltemtamy began selling insurance and buying and re-selling antiques and art. He says he noticed that at auctions older oil paintings would usually sell for only $5 or $10, but Florida landscape paintings by certain artists were going for considerably more. He learned that those artists, and others, were referred to as "Highwaymen".
Although it had been more than a decade since he had created his own art, Eltemtamy says he thought to himself, `I can do that’. Eltemtamy purchased an oil painting kit for $14.95. "My goal was to do one painting, and then sell it for enough to make back my money." He painted an interpretation of a John Maynor Highwayman landscape. He decided to list it on the internet auction site eBay. "I had been inspired by the Highwaymen artists, and I thought of myself as their contemporary counterpart - an `information super highway' artist.”
His first painting sold for $50.00. That gave Eltemtamy the confidence to paint a second piece, which then sold for $75.00. "If those first two pieces hadn't sold," he says, "I probably would have dropped the idea and moved on to other things.” Instead, he decided to continue painting and vowed to improve his technique. Early on he sought out his favorite artist of the Highwayman genre, Sam Newton, at Newton's Cocoa Beach studio.
"I took several of my paintings along to show him and asked him if he would give me lessons. He looked my work, and said 'you should be giving the lessons, not taking them!"' Eltemtamy persisted and ended up spending six months during 2002 and 2003 studying with the Florida Hall of Fame artist. "Sam taught me how to work with oil paint, how to mix the colors and use the palette knife. He has been making his living as an artist for more than forty years and unlike other art teachers that I had in the past, he teaches you the technique and leaves the rest to you.”
In 2003 Eltemtamy decided to follow his mentor's lead and make the creation of art his full-time occupation. He opened his own studio and gallery on Beach Street in Daytona Beach, but closed it when he found it difficult to both paint and keep retail hours. While he still occasionally offers his work on eBay, Eltemtamy now exhibits at galleries in Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach and St. Augustine. He also has a dedicated following of local collectors.
Eltemtamy continues to specialize in the nostalgic rural Florida landscapes perfected by legendary Florida artist A. E. Backus. "Have you seen the Backus Museum in Fort Pierce?" he asks. “Backus was the master of portraying light and mood." Eltemtamy also admires the work of Sam Newton's late brother Harold, Roy McLendon and St. Augustine's Tripp Harrison.
Eltemtamy says he is just now beginning to paint to his potential. "I didn't start (creating art) again until my early forties. On a scale of one to ten, I'd put myself at a two or three. But I am learning more each day."
"By Greg Milliken. The Daytona Beach News-Journal"