Updated: Aug 30, 2022
I've always wanted to be an artist. I know that sounds like something most artists say but it’s the microscopic truth. I’ve always had a deep-down-in-my-core-yearning to be an artist and have never lacked inspiration. I always knew the kind of art I wanted to create. I envisioned scenes before me unfold on a canvas, but I wasn’t any good at putting it on a canvas. In fact, I downright sucked at painting and badly needed training, but I couldn't afford to go to art school. Over the years I watched other artists blossom with the most breathtaking creations, and I was simply jealous. I was jealous because the creative side of me was “hushed”.
In May 2017, and one of the few times I was not working, I discovered the Ani Art Academies in Anguilla. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked into the building. A REAL art academy on this tiny island. I took an entire weekend to fill out the application. The fine-art curriculum is based on trompe l’oeil/hyper-realism with a 4-year, in-depth study on the Language of Drawing and the Language of Painting. If accepted, I would receive a full scholarship but the main requirement the school asks in return is that I commit to 35 hours per week of intense learning. The thought of going back to school for four years was daunting but the excitement of going to art school was more than I could bear.
After sending in my application, I literally stalked them until I was finally interviewed by the Dean of the school who asked if I could start the next day! On the first day of school, I sat next to another student who also started on that same day. We were about the same age, so I felt a sense of camaraderie as most of the other students were teenagers. I was given my tools and told I needed to fill a 20x22-inch sheet with straight lines. I COULD NOT EVEN DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE! By lunchtime on that first day, the other lady, who was already an established artist, quit the program.
Tassa Drummers - my very first painting
By September of that year, I was beyond excited to start working on my first creative drawing when hurricane Irma flattened the island and the school was closed. Most of the students left, either moved back to their own islands or found jobs. Four of us - 3 young guys and I stayed and worked with no electricity, the limited natural light, and mosquito coils. It was a frustrating time; we laughed and critiqued each other’s work, we argued, but we kept pushing each other.
I was more than three-quarters of the way into the program and dreaming about the day when I could open my own art studio. I could feel it. I could envision it. But then the whole world turned upside down and we were told that once again, we had to study from home. It was hard to concentrate on creating art when the doom and gloom of the pandemic hovered over me like a dark cloud. So many times, I woke up thinking, “who in their right mind would buy art these days?” I kept forging ahead but I felt like I was only crawling to the finish line. It was draining, physically and mentally.
After we moved back home to Tobago, I was trying to decide on a company name to register my business here. I stumbled on an ad-hoc business plan I had written more than eleven years ago, when I left corporate America and returned to Trinidad. Moving back home then was a reverse culture shock. I had no job and no idea what to do with my life and I spent quite some time sitting on the front porch with my father and listening to him reflect on his own childhood. He talked a lot about my grandfather, who was also an artist, and it was during these talks I quite often noticed the pale and sometimes vibrant yellow butterflies happily flitting by. I wrote down the name; “The Yellow Butterfly Studios” and later the definition I read on Google was as follows:
“The Butterfly, a symbol of Resurrection, Transition, Celebration, Lightness, Time and Soul. The Butterfly – unquestioningly embraces the changes of her environment and her body.”
Transition - Abstract - oil on canvas
Stumbling on the name I had written eleven years earlier, I felt like I had just found my wings and with newfound determination, I registered the company name here in Tobago. Shortly afterwards, I had the opportunity to open a storefront studio at the Esplanade, a tourism facility located at the waterfront in Scarborough, Tobago. I was asked to submit a formal business plan which I presented to the Tourism Board of Directors. My plan was to open a studio and also take on 4-6 students, twice per year – during the Summer and Christmas breaks. This was (still is) to be a free mentorship program to children between the ages of 10-15 years old with an interest in fine art. It is my way of giving back since I was afforded the opportunity of an art scholarship.
The Tourism Board was wowed with my presentation and asked me if I could open my studio in time for Christmas, 2021. Then an election happened on December 6th, 2021, the Tourism Board was disbanded, and all new contracts put on hold. Three months later and I still hadn’t heard back from them.
So, here I am, picking up the pieces again and forging ahead in the face of disappointments because I truly believe if you’re hitting a wall, you need to change directions. So, I did. My new direction is to build a gateway to ensure my Caribbean-centric artwork is accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. I must have faith that the storefront will happen on its own good time.
I would love it if you would take a little time and visit my website, yellowbutterflystudios.com and give me some feedback on your experience on the site. I would also greatly appreciate it if you would follow, share, and buy my art, prints or cards (if you can!) and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and support.
Welcome to my studio – my happy space – where I get a chance to transition like a Yellow Butterfly.