Related articles A Rose among thorns Her heart’s in art Art is where the heart is For visual artist Sherridean Skeete, art is as natural as breathing. She believes it is “a living subject”.
“Art was always a part of me. I just grew up naturally drawing. In Sunday school, we would be given Bible stories and just told to represent it and so I would do that. There were times when I won art competitions at school. It continued in my teens when I met an artist by the name of Trevor Chase. I guess he connected with my skills and he gave me some of the best art materials (paints, canvas) and I started painting and it kept going from there.
“Just being able to express your thoughts and see how they could come out on a two-dimensional surface and being transformed into depth and movement and energy . . . . Just being able to express thoughts about God, about life, about experiences, I found it fascinating and I moved from painting, exploring different styles. That was all an attempt to find my own language. I tend to diversify and choose my style according to the theme,” she said.
Sherridean was born in Barbados, left when she was around two and a half years old and returned about six or seven years later. She attended primary school here for “a term or two”.
“We were mainly in Trinidad. Then, I started school here at Barbados Community College, where I did my teacher’s training at that level for primary and secondary school and again went to do my bachelor’s degree and from there I went to Erdiston Teachers’ Training College to do my teacher’s training in art education,” said the head of the art and music department at Harrison College.
She said there are two schools of thought. One, is that there’s art for art sake and the other is art for people’s sake. She always went with the latter “because just as creation, when God created it, it always replenishes, it always heals, it brought some kind of blessing.
“When you look at a flower, its colours, it brightens up your day. We use flowers as symbols of love and appreciation and so what I create is to bring some kind of blessing, some kind of healing, to have some kind of reason.
“It was always beyond just exploring your own notion, just putting things on paper because you had training or the education behind it. It was about me expressing myself yes, but with a bigger picture in mind is so you can touch other souls.”
She has been teaching for 27 years now, and her joy comes in the creative process – when she is exploring herself and things that happen to people.
“I think my greatest joy is when a client looks at the artwork and says ‘wow’. I saw tears trickle down from a gentleman’s eyes as I was showing him the painting Whole Again. When he saw that painting and understood that meaning, it was like, ‘Wow’.
“When it brings that healing touch . . . that encouragement, when someone appreciates and says, ‘I can’t wait to hang it up’ . . . that means I have touched someone else.”
From July until August 20 this year, Sherridean’s paintings were mounted at an exhibition at the gallery in Pelican Village.
Through her work, which is available on social media, she was documenting or capturing life as she experienced it.
“People went through loss, disappointment. They went through celebratory moments just as well. However, what I wanted to show through my volume of work is that even through what seemingly may have been negative experiences, you can find some good things in there, you can find some joys that helps you to become a better person. If you’re experiencing loss it helps you to appreciate those that are alive with you.
“If you’re going through divorce, it helps you to appreciate people and their emotions. And, it’s a personal perspective because you can allow life to make you bitter or you can seek to be better. I sought to be better through it and as a result captured that on the canvas.
“So, where you might have dark tones you will find some highlights and contrasting light areas. Even if I captured sceneries, I tried to put in my own touch. The one with the house, it gives a homey feel, where you can just get away into the greens and find that solitude, that place where you can recreate and re-generate life and think about God and think about His likeness,” she said.
Not afraid of criticism of her work, she said she worked out from “very early” that sometimes people could be “very harsh but you have to know yourself and be confident in yourself as an artist. Furthermore, understand that you are on a journey and you are not perfect and there will be room for improvement”.
Equally important is the fact that you have to keep your goals and expectations in focus and surround yourself with supportive people, those who understand your journey, so you are always kept on your chosen path.
“When I exhibited years ago, people were so harsh because I had more spiritual, religious, upbeat type of pieces, while the others were reflective of Crop Over as a theme. For a long time, it sent me in a shell but then, it got to my attention one day that they were criticising the appearance of the work, not the content, not the technique, not the interpretation.
“There will always be differences, but as an artist you have to train yourself to know yourself, to think well of yourself, to believe in yourself and to do what you have to do and think of the big picture. Each exhibition is just a step. Count it as a classroom, a learning experience. You learn to even do better”.
While some artists have a preferred scenes or subjects such as landscapes or flowers, she does not. She likes to explore different subjects and different themes given that life offers varied experiences.
“I just ride on its as it weres and try to connect using materials [which] can go from normal to abstract, from realism to abstract or a combination of mixed media. My favourite medium is acrylic paints and I combine that with other material as well.
“To me, what you put into a painting is what you get out. If you’re a peaceful person you’ll get a peaceful painting, unless you deliberately choose to get a particular theme on love or happiness or joy or sadness. Unless you really intend to do that it just evolves.
“People all say when you look at artwork it tells you a lot about the artist, but, for me, art is like a process. Sometimes I use it to express difficulties, uncertainties and paint light or I paint shapes that always bring about a sort of hope,” said Sherridean. (GBM)
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