So I've had this website for a little while and I haven't written a blog post yet so I thought now would be a good time to introduce myself and talk a little bit (ok actually a lot) about my artistic journey.
So a little bit about my background. I grew up in east Trinidad where I attended primary school until the age of ten. Then, in April of 1983 we moved to Caracas, Venezuela for my father's work.
What was meant to be a two-year stay turned into nine, and I ended up spending my formative years in Caracas. I attended an international American school and under the tutelage of my art teacher (shoutout to Ms. Gil!) I explored pottery, lino printing, batik, pastels... you name it we did it! I participated in a few student art shows back then, locally and internationally, but when it came time to pursue my higher education, art didn't really enter the picture. This was in the pre-internet days and there really wasn't a lot of information out there there about career opportunities. I would have really loved to go to art school but it wasn't seen as a practical choice. If I had gone, I think I would have pursued illustration, because my first inspiration was the beautiful drawings and paintings in my many story books growing up.
I attended Florida International University in Miami, where I had the opportunity to take lots art classes, even though it wasn't what I was pursuing for my major. I did ceramics, sculpture, jewelry making and stone setting, along with figure drawing and painting. I had some really great art teachers there, and when I came back to Trinidad I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do professionally and toyed with the idea of doing art for a living. I participated in one mixed exhibition, but I don't think I was really ready to put myself out there at that point.
After trying a bunch of different things, I moved into the area of graphic design. It was a really great career for me because it enabled me to do something creative while also earning a living. I worked in the printing industry (both digital and offset) for several years learning the business from inside out, and then moved into advertising. I had been freelancing for several years when I landed a job as a Senior Art Director in what was then the biggest advertising agency in Trinidad.
It was, to say the least, intense! Advertising is fast-paced and exciting, but it is also grueling. I really enjoyed being part of a team and getting to work with some of the country's biggest companies. But over time I became frustrated by the lack of creative freedom. And the hours were wearing me down. Fate stepped in several years into my tenure when we lost our biggest client and I was let go from my job.
This event coincided with my father being diagnosed with cancer a month later. Because my siblings were abroad, I didn't go back to a work full time and instead chose to freelance so I could be there to support my parents. My father sadly passed away fifteen months later, and at that point I felt I was ready for a change in my career. I felt like I needed some distance from advertising and in particular the 9-5 work structure.
I continued to do freelance work and started up my artisanal jewelry business, Sundara Artisan Jewelry a year later. I went back to the training I had gotten in my college classes, and supplemented my education with books, videos and websites and blogs. I loved it and was very passionate about it. I used metals, resin, even leather, incorporating both precious and semiprecious stones, cut and raw. I worked incessantly for five years building my business into a brand to be reckoned with.
Around the middle of 2019 I felt the energy behind this path beginning to dwindle. It's the only way I can describe it. It was surprising to me, but it also coincided with some decisions I had to make. I was at a crossroads with my business because I knew I couldn't continue producing every single piece by hand the way I had been doing. I had to decide if I wanted to invest in manufacturing my components and expanding the business, or shutting down. After five years of non-stop work, I was exhausted. And when I felt that shift in the energy, I simply put my trust in the universe that I would be guided accordingly. That December I packed up my bags and flew abroad to spend a month with my friends and family and didn't bother stressing about it.
While on my trip I saw this piece at my brother's apartment in San Francisco. I had painted it many years prior and given it to him as a gift. It immediately sparked something in me and the direction I had been waiting for hit. Start painting again, was the message I got.
Uh... ok? Except I had always HATED painting. It had always felt painful and labour-intensive. I found it was too difficult to get the results I wanted and by the time I finished a piece I would always take years before starting another. My family had often encouraged (nagged) me to pursue it but I always bristled at the suggestion because painting made me miserable. What good was it to be good at something (their assessment not mine) if it made you feel so bad? I could never pursue something that I couldn't put my heart into. But I also was feeling this strongly in my gut. And I have long learnt that when you get that kind of guidance, you follow it, the why will come later. So I stocked up on new acrylic paints, brushes, canvas and brought everything back to Trinidad with me, landing here at the end of January 2020.
A couple of days after I arrived, I got a freelance gig at one of the advertising agencies I often partner with. It was a huge project and I was working in-house every day for a month. It was Carnival season and I balanced the work with going out to fetes and spending time with my friends who had come down to visit. I was having a ball and wasn't thinking about what to do with my business or career one bit, very much living in the moment. Until the day we got confirmation of our first case of Covid in Trinidad. And just like that, everything shut down all at once. The project finished, the friends flew back home, and I was in my house with nothing to do. It made zero sense making any more jewelry. I had tons of stock and no markets to sell them at. I guess the answer to whether I should invest in expanding my business was answered. So great! Now was the time to start this painting thing! Except... it didn't quite go as planned.
To make a long story short, I cannot paint with acrylics. At least not the way I want to. It's always bothered me that they didn't feel they way I felt paint should feel. They also didn't cover the surface the way I wanted. Plus I found the colours often dried chalky and darker than I intended them to be, lacking vibrancy. And they dried too fast! They frustrated me, simply put. And as I sat there working on my first piece, I found myself wondering why I was back in this place again, fighting up with these stupid paints. If this was going to be my path, then this was not how I wanted it to feel. And then suddenly one night, I heard the whisper: Try the oils. What? You mean that set of cheap crappy oil paints I bought years ago and never used? Those? I mean... ok... I guess. I kept hearing it over and over again until finally I went into my storage room and dug them out from a crate of ancient art supplies that hadn't seen the light of day in at least a decade.
To say I knew nothing about oil painting was an understatement. I had never used them before, and my knowledge could be summed up in two points: They took long to dry and you needed to use spirits to thin them down. But I gamely took them out, along with a bottle of really smelly turpentine, and got to work, stinking up the whole house in the process.
And it was magical. The best way I can explain it was that I felt like I was remembering something I had long forgotten. They felt familiar. They felt like I had wanted paints to feel like all along. They were thick yet buttery, the colours stayed vibrant and glossy, and I could take my time with them. And basically, I dove in headfirst and haven't really come up for air since.
I have since watched every Youtube video I could get my hands on, read every blog post, subscribed to every newsletter, and researched exhaustively to learn about my new favourite medium. And I have worked really hard at my craft, learning not just about the paints, but about lighting, composition, colour theory, mediums, surfaces, brushes, technique, it goes on and on. And let's not talk about the money... painting is not an inexpensive endeavour. Fortunately for me, it's supporting itself. What more could I ask for? Fame and riches? I mean yeah. But this past year has been such an incredible journey. I have met so many new artists along the way who have given me so much inspiration and encouragement. On a personal level, I've confronted my fears and grown into my identity as an artist. I have sold my pieces to people on three continents (!). And I learn and grow more every day, in my skills, my knowledge, and most importantly in my confidence. This is where I am supposed to be right now. I don't know if it's forever (you never know with me) but I feel that this is how I want to establish myself as an artist. Thank you for being part of my journey. You knew me when.
Note: If you have any questions or feedback for me please feel free to let me know! I'd love to hear from you!