The Science of Art and the Art of Science

Have you ever been faced with making a “now-or-never” decision that would forever change your life’s course?  When there is a fork in the road, trusting your intuition is the bravest courses of action you can take.  No one knows this better than Henry Jabbour (MFA 2015) former scientist turned painter.  Last month, he sat down with us to share a bit about his decision and journey down the road less travelled.

Henry Jabbour’s life was a crossroads.  Having reached an inflexion point in his research career, Henry found himself having to make a choice: a drastic decision to either continue trail blazing the path of his twenty-year career as a scientist or pursue a neophyte path as an artist.

Prior to 2011, Henry was content with his work as a scientist. He was at the top of his field as a senior scientist, program leader and honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh.  With his own lab and two decades of research under his belt, Henry‘s world was all things female reproductive health, including the establishment of pregnancy on a molecular level, pre-term labor and its consequences on babies.  With such a valuable research portfolio, Henry was offered the highest honor as a scientist - a Chair at the Medical School of the University of Edinburgh.

Until this point, Henry’s passion for the arts was confined to the evening classes and weekend workshops he dabbled in at the Leith School of Art.  He was, however, becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of time he had to explore his artistic vision.  And his passion was becoming too loud to ignore.

Henry weighed the high cost of freedom to pursue life as a full time artist.  Ultimately, that meant Henry had to decline the University’s offer bringing his career-long research to a screeching and abrupt halt. The decision was “painful” but one he knew he had to make.  It was either going to be now or never.  And the time was now.  His decision was also inspired by a Goethe quote from a friend shared with him at the time: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
In 2011, he decided to study art full time for two years at the Leith School of Art with mostly cheers from his family and fellow colleagues.

The World is Small
Henry took courses at Leith School of Art taught by Academy alumnus Kenneth Le Riche (MFA 2002).  Immediately, Henry sought solace in Le Riche’s mentorship and shared his goals of receiving an MFA in painting where he could gain “traditional skills with a contemporary approach.”  It was Le Riche who encouraged Henry to apply to the Academy despite limited experience in art, and helped Henry ready his portfolio and artist’s statement for the application process.
Once Henry received word that he was accepted to the Academy, he knew he had made the right decision.  His family and friends were also by now in full support of his passion.  
During his career as a scientist, Henry had travelled extensively in the USA, attending conferences and spending sabbatical at Harvard University in Boston.  Despite unfamiliarity with the city, on arriving in New York, Henry felt “completely blessed” and an immediate sense of calm once in Tribeca.

Outsiders Paradise
Henry is no stranger to the feelings of being an outsider.  Originally from Lebanon, Henry received his PhD from The University of Sydney and subsequently settled in the United Kingdom, moving to Scotland in 1995.  Interested in the fragility of the human emotions and experiences, Henry’s work explores “the figure and its sense of belonging to, or alienation from, its environment.  There is a sense of nostalgia and a life-long quest.” Reflecting his own journey, Henry explained “there is a duality, a sense of belonging in my work.  I feel Scotland is my home but I don’t quite belong there.  Lebanon is where I feel I belong culturally but it is no longer home. In both places I’m not entirely at ease, my sense of belonging is marginal at best.” 

Art of Science, Science of Art
In terms of his career transition, Henry pulls from his past experiences as a scientist and finds a lot of similarities between the two practices.  “The art of science, science of art is fueled by intuition and your work is a direct response.  It’s all out and unwavering.”  Henry adds “There is a commitment, dedication, to create, think laterally, hit the wall and go thru it in both science and art.  When you hit the wall you have to figure it out.  I have the training as a scientist which comes along with a stubbornness and commitment to long hours that also is required for artists.” 

Henry’s commitment to his artistic practice is rooted in an unwavering determination. Henry reflects “I’ve made the decision to rebuild my life spending time far from my family and loved ones back in Scotland.”  Yet simultaneously “it has been a humbling and freeing experience.”  In his first semester, Henry has already “expanded beyond measure” and has been inspired by his fellow peers.  Now clear and more determined than ever, he knows this is only the beginning and to take things day by day.  “I’m interested in growing as an artist,” he says “I’m on a life long journey.”  And the Academy is thrilled to guide him along the way.


Follow Henry Jabbour (MFA 2015) and other members of the Class of 2015 by clicking the label "First Year Experience" or see their work on the Academy's online artwork gallery. 

If you have any questions for Henry, please leave them in the comments section of the blog.


  1. fantastic Henry, I loved reading about your path to now, and especially seeing your beautiful work, my favourite is the drawing of the girl, I think it's Carolina, lovely x

  2. Gidday Henry

    A great switch from science - well done young man.

    Mark, Marilyn and Sarah Fisher