In February 2018 I took what turned out to be the biggest and most progressive steps in my fledgling art career….I painted. I didn’t now it then as most things usually go, but deciding to finally use the hundred of dollars worth of art supplies I kept hoarding turned into this journey that I didn’t expect would unfold this quickly.
In about October 2018, I was asked to participate in what would be my first major art joint exhibition in March 2019. scared, I asked for time to think before I took such a big step. What would I paint? Who is my audience? Would people not only like, but buy my work? The doubts surfaced, but then, I began to think of all the reasons why I should, the most important being another step toward fulfilling my lifelong dream.
So after agreeing to share the space with another amazing local artist, I began to explore my artistic vision. I find myself drawn to old yet beautiful things, I feel like there’s a subconscious link in there to my late father and his fascination with hoarding simply old things that become engulfed in time by the effects of nature, but for now I’ll leave it as this cursory self-revelation.
With that said, I decided to focus on aspects of landscapes and seascapes that showed a different aspect of my country, Trinidad and Tobago. Over this week I will give some insight into this body of work and what inspired me.
It was frustrating, rewarding (all my pieces were sold!) and exciting. I made new friends, attracted new supporters of my work and accomplished one of the most intimidating experiences I think an artist faces. Looking forward to it all getting better from here!
Now that my Peru series of portraits are over, the next series of paintings in my collection will capture some of my memories from Europe. I did an exchange semester in the Netherlands so I took the opportunity to travel through as much of Europe as possible. Europe for me was more about architecture as it was my first time that and I really wanted to see as many historic landmarks as possible.
The first stop is Germany. I went to Berlin and Potsdam as I didn’t stay very long, about 3 days so I took the opportunity to see the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. Sanssouci is the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, in Potsdam, near Berlin. It was absolutely gorgeous and it would have been even more so if the garden terraces were fully grown.
After touring the outside of the palace, I explored the gardens and came across this windmill – which I didn’t think I’d see anywhere but the Netherlands (naive I know) and decided to paint it. Doing the wet on wet wash for the sky was tricky but even more challenging was the wood detail. My favourite part was how the light was captured on the fan blades of the windmill.
Let me start off by saying I have to return to Peru! Maybe it will happen sooner rather than later but as I come to an end of the Peruvian leg of my travel memories I did learn a lot along the way which helped me improve my approach to portraits.
This portrait is by far my favourite. I was enthralled by the multitude of colours and the stark contrast between the turquoise background against her red coat. This one took me about 11 days. I think it was because I was so in love with everything about it and didn’t want to take too long to finish so I was excited about seeing the end product and getting it all the way I wanted to.
I did a trial version of the wall background because I needed to have it all perfectly executed and I guess this is where my perfectionist nature emerges! But I’m so pleased with the end result. After completing this piece; I was pretty much an expert with the masking fluid and capturing the details. In my reference photo, she was behind a table so I had to make up her skirt, but in the end all turned out well!
I’m almost at the end of the Peruvian leg of my memories and this one was not as complex – I think subconsciously I needed a break from all the details. I really love how vibrant her hat was against the contrast of the white wall. I’m not sure I captured her the way I really wanted to, and at times I feel like doing it over because the perfectionist in me is coming out, but I still love it.
The subtle shadows on the wall weren’t as difficult to capture as I thought the straps on her hat however, was much more demanding. The biggest lesson from this experience so far has been acquiring patience and trusting the process. Sometimes in the beginning, when just the undertones are laid down, I begin to doubt some decisions and constantly have to remind myself to relax and go with the flow (no pun intended!).
This next piece challenged me in many ways. The first was getting his facial expression right. He wasn’t exactly smiling, and had a small, slightly upturned mouth. I also really wanted to capture the sun-burnt cheeks that most Peruvians have with my paint application. Lastly, the biggest challenge was executing such an intricately designed poncho!
Getting the under-painting down came easier with all those min-portraits I did in the last few months. What took the most time was that poncho! I questioned my decision to do it many times – could I do it? Can I capture the shadow and light within all those patterns? the masking fluid application in itself was a huge task! My last big decision was whether or not to paint the background behind him or do a wash; mostly because I was already overwhelmed by the details of everything else, but I wanted to test my limits and went with the background of the photo. I wanted the multi-coloured clothing to be the thing that drew in the viewer the most so I made the background not appear too prominent with more muted tones utilising more water.
During my last month in Peru, I decided to see as much as I could in the week or so I had left when school ended. So I decided of all the places I still had on my bucket list in the country, where would I get the best bang for my buck, and decided to return to Cusco. This solo trip was going to be my last hurrah and I wanted to make it count so I pulled up a map and charted out my adventures.
I stayed in Cusco for a couple days and decided to take a bus from there to Puno overnight for one full day of touring Lake Titcaca, the Uros Islands and Taquile Island. My logistics went seamlessly and with my improved Spanish language skills I felt invincible! After our Uros Island tour where I saw this little angel; we went to Taquile Islands where we were hosted by a family who did a traditional dance and received a traditional meal.
In preparation for the dance, I took some photos and there was this musician tuning his guitar. I was drawn to the contrast of their simpler, less colourful costumes overall so there was this stark contrast between his hat and the rest of his outfit, so I decided to capture him on canvas. Also his background made the perfect composition!
Just before I left Peru for good in December 2016, I decided to return to Cusco on a solo adventure to knock some places off my list. This mission took me to Lake Titcaca – the highest navigable lake in the world with its colony of floating islands complete with families of inhabitants.
On my tour we took a ride on their reed boats which was awesome and learnt about their culture. While on the reed boat a family took us around and I managed to snap a pic of one of the kids in a candid shot. Looking through my pics when I’m being nostalgic, her innocence and demeanor spoke to me enough to want to paint her. I tried once before, and actually failed miserably but I was determined to do her justice.
On my second attempt I enjoyed the process a lot more. I realised I was very impatient in studying proportions, light and shadow and depicting texture. the delicate nature of watercolour – requiring sometimes layers upon layers also reminded me of my digital design work and it helped me understand the process better.
With that said; presenting piece number two in my Painted Memories Collection – the Girl from Lake Titicaca.
Having lived in Peru for about 11 months while going to school it was my first time living outside of my country for such a long period of time. It was definitely an adjustment not hearing your native language 98% of the time but sampling new foods, seeing new locations and making new friends helped with that adjustment. I also managed to learn Spanish along the way; I really had no choice in the matter and I’m glad I did 🙂
Peru for me represents a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, the challenges associated with living in any developing country became quite evident at times(and more so in another language) and on the other, my desire to explore its geography and immerse myself in the culinary world made the challenges (and the extra pounds) worth it!
I am in love with colour. Seeing the indigenous people in all their colourful splendour was a sight to behold – it’s what inspired my first piece in this collection. I actually posted about it before. In this piece, I experimented with a couple watercolour techniques to get it to my liking. I especially love his jacket where I got it to resemble the textured threads of the fabric with some dry brush and lifting of the paint. I wanted a type of 3D effect so I painted his hat outside of the colored background; I was also unaware of the use of painter’s tape for my borders, so this was my attempt at staying within the lines. Almost got it!
My very first why is because I’ve always wanted to be an artist. It’s that simple; always felt like it was my destiny and one day in 2017 I told myself it’s either I shut-up about telling people I always wanted to be an artist or do it since there is absolutely nothing and no-one holding me back – except myself – and I wasn’t okay with killing off the artistic side of myself for good, so here I am!
With that in mind, it led me to my second why; after living in Peru and the Netherlands over the period 2016 – 2017 while pursuing my Masters I took the opportunity to see as much as I could and I wanted to recapture some of those memories on my canvas, on my medium of choice – watercolours.
My last why for this collection comes from, I guess, a place of self-discovery. Most of my travel was done solo and while I was intimidated by that fact and there were a lot of things that at times tainted the true beauty of my destinations, I still found the beauty in each location, the diversity of the people and just the sheer geography made me want to share this diversity with others through my work.
In painting your collections, has finding your why come easily?
A month or two ago, I did a couple of posts on my decision to submit some pieces for an upcoming exhibition in Trinidad for new and emerging artists. As the heading states, I was successful in obtaining a space along with 14 other local artists!
I happened to come across the call for submissions quite by accident on my social media and of course saw it as a sign. Funny enough, after deciding to submit, I came across a YouTube video from Stefan Bauman about improving your painting by selling your work. two things happened for me at that point; I saw this exhibition as giving me the ability to experiment with non-portrait work and focus on more local scenes and also to produce pieces for a specific purpose. Yes, I know we produce art for the love of it, but as a new artist it can feel pretty daunting just painting for painting’s sake – this was a great goal to work towards!
Receiving the news that I was successful was pretty overwhelming – it confirmed for me I was on the right path finally taking up art. I felt a bit validated in my decision and it gave me the boost I needed to continue. I am already working on more submissions for more shows!