'I have no limits for my future'
Young artist has big dreamsThursday, August 05, 2021
JAMES HILL, Clarendon — Shaquila Gunzell dreams of having her own art gallery, having her work on show in museums around the world — and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
“I have no limits for my future. I would love to open an art gallery and have my work on display alongside those of other artisans. I want to attend art shows around the world and have my pieces end up in museums [everywhere],” said the 23-year-old James Hill resident.
She works with charcoal, creating likenesses of subjects from photos. She studied art alongside chemistry, biology, and five other subjects in high school and was awarded a grade one in the subject at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate level.
“I loved [art] so much that I left high school wanting to go to Edna Manley College, but the funds weren't readily available. There and then I started working with the intention of saving to go to college. But I realised that, while working, I didn't have time to draw. I felt like I had lost my passion,” she said.
Help in rekindling her love of art came from an unexpected source: COVID-19. With a lot of events curtailed she has been spending a lot more time at home.
“I decided to start practising again and so I started doing portraits. After the third attempt, I posted a drawing on Instagram and people started asking me to draw them. So I started doing commissions,” Gunzell told the Jamaica Observer.
She does not earn a lot from these jobs, she said, as many people are reluctant to pay her what she thinks her work is worth.
“What they don't understand is that I have to purchase materials such as drawing pencils, charcoal pencils, Bristol paper and other drawing supplies, including frames which helps to put on the finishing touches. It takes at least three days to complete a drawing because I don't sit one place and draw all day, every day,” she said. Her process involves drawing for a few hours each day and, in an effort to maintain the highest standards of quality, she tries not to force herself to go beyond that.
The modest sums raised from clients sourced on social media will go towards doing a bachelor's degree in fine arts at Edna Manley, but she knows she will need a lot more funds to get there.
After leaving high school in 2015, she filled out an online application for the Caribbean's premier institution for the arts. But, concerned about how she would pay for it, Gunzell said she saved the application online and never submitted it. She was surprised when the college reached out.
“A couple months ago I got an e-mail from the school [but did not see it]. Then shortly after I received a call from the school to say that they are seeing my application and have noted my interest in furthering my studies. I thought this must be a sign because I don't recall submitting the application,” she told the Observer. She was accepted. Now she needs to pay for her studies.
“It would be great if I could get a scholarship to pursue my degree as the first step toward realising my dream. I would be so grateful because I am sure I could make an impact on the world through my work,” she said. “I want to do and be so much. But first I have to get my degree and then take it from there. I want to go all the way because this is my passion, this is what I live for.”
She first did art as a hobby while in primary school. She would mimic drawings her sister did as part of her high school homework. “I used to draw anything she draws and I think that's where I found my passion,” Gunzell recalled.
Her older sister, Monique Alexander, is extremely proud of her.
“She is amazing, she really surprised me. I have always known that she is talented from long time and now she has surpassed me by far. I'm even more excited and happy knowing that I'm the person she emulated. She wants to be an artist who is recognised. I also want that for her because her work is great, and I want her to be the very best that she can be,” beamed Alexander.