Tell us who you are and what you do!
I’m a freelance creative based out of NYC who’s passionate about the creative process. I double up as a fine artist and motion designer, so most of my creative energy is split between the two. I’ve drawn almost my whole life, ever since I was a little kid. My father was a self taught painter so I credit much of my initial interest in art to him. I started off drawing teddy bears, toy cars, action figures then eventually got into drawing Marvel characters from the cards I collected. I still draw them to this day! This practice turned into a full blown love for the arts.
I really started to take my gifts seriously when I got into high school and began to take art classes. It reinforced for me that I was actually good at it and it was worth me giving it a shot. In college, I majored in Illustration & Printmaking at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) then went on to get a Master of Fine Arts in Animation at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). Going to a big school like UCONN then a straight up art school like SCAD was really pivotal in helping me find my voice. I learned a lot from my classmates and professors over the years.
My art is always evolving so I’m constantly searching for inspiration or experimenting with techniques. Experimentation and exposure to art is really crucial to any artist’s progress. Therefore, I spend a lot of time viewing the work of other artists to get ideas. I’ve recently started an ongoing body of mixed media portraits called “The Tribute Series”. I’m using this work to bring awareness to the social injustices that black men, women and people of color are facing here in the USA at the hands of police and the criminal justice system.
What is the inspiration for your work?
The most defining moment in my life was being sexually abused at the age of eight and surviving it. That experience shaped and provided the lens for how I saw the world around me and ultimately my drive to create art. Art my was therapy and it attracted me to themes surrounding suffering, triumph and love. I always felt like I was in a whirlwind of emotions that I couldn’t express with words. That taught me to be extremely sympathetic to the human condition because you never know what others are dealing with or what burdens they carry. I made a conscious effort with my art to always tell stories that involved people. People are a complex weaving of all of their life experiences. That view translated into the style of my work. I looked for extremes in color contrast, shapes and form. Anything that would make the work unique but still gritty. I admired artists like Pablo Picasso, Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden for their abstraction of form, use of color but continuous focus on the figure. My style has since evolved into mixed media and collage with the resourceful use of materials. Being able to transform my subjects into an abstract figurative work of art is really satisfying for me. “The Tribute Series” is an ode to my life experience and heavily influenced by my upbringing.
I grew up in Queens, New York in a large Guyanese West Indian family so I was always surrounded by people; hard working people. My mom is a recently retired 20 year veteran of the NYPD. I also have uncles, aunts and cousins who were working in law enforcement. Resourcefulness and hard work was something I was accustomed to. I got to see the world from the eyes of police officers first hand. It’s an incredibly stressful and difficult job to do. Because I have that insight, my current work resonates with me at a personal level. I’m moved to action by the social injustices our brothers and sisters of color are facing here in America. As a black man and an artist, I believe my voice is critical in the narrative and perception of people of color. The victims in my artwork were just like anyone else. They had families, dreams and aspirations and I want their humanity to be recognized. If we don’t exude positivity on a daily basis, it’s easy to feed into the negative expectations that society has for who we are. I want my work to reflect that. Who better to shape that narrative than us?
What would you say to prevent an upcoming artist from making the same mistakes you have made?
Don’t compare yourself to others and their success or failures. Every artist is unique in their journey and their contribution. No one can do what you do or how you do it, so value the talents you have and nurture them. Learn from others’ failures so you don’t make the same mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask an artist how they’re making it work. There will always be those that think you’re not good enough or you won’t make a living following your dreams. If you believe in yourself 100% and don’t QUIT, you can make a living as an artist. My biggest mistake early on was not seeking the help of others in fulfilling my dream. Hard work can only go so far. You need people who believe in you and are willing to support you in your journey as an artist. So befriend other artists, get loved ones to purchase your work and try to build a creative network so you stay motivated and accountable to your creative output.
What obstacles have you faced as a Black Artist/Business Owner?
I’ve had many doors closed in my face. I was told “You’re not good enough yet”, received little to no acknowledgment of my work and was warned that I’d be a “starving” artist. My motivation at the time was to prove the naysayers wrong. I believed that I was good enough and I was willing to work hard to perfect my craft. As long as what I was creating was meaningful to me, that was enough to keep me going. Just stay true to your work and the rest will fall in place.