Creative Rhapsody (Copyright ©2009)

SHE Caribbean, September 2009

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“I think I became an artist because I needed love.” “Love?” I asked. “Yes, not the love of a woman or another human being; I wanted something I could love. Something to call my own.”

Earl Darius Etienne, one of the Caribbean’s most gifted and internationally recognized artists, is lying comfortably on his sofa in his spacious living room, nicely decorated with an array of paintings, sculptures, antiques and hand-crafted furniture, tastefully selected to accentuate the living space. His studio, The Art Asylum, is conveniently located at the basement of his home, the lair where all his greatest works are created.

The influential artist, a pioneer on the Dominican and Caribbean art scene, has been painting professionally for the last thirty-three years, his work evolving, admired, collected, and critiqued with the passage of time.

His short, stringy dreadlocks loosely framing his round, friendly face, the 52-year-old painter stretches his limbs, making himself even more relaxed as he prepares for this interview.

When you meet him for the first time, Earl comes across as positive, charismatic and personable, but when he speaks to you, it’s his zest for life, passion for art and creative energy that consumes the conversation.

Born in Roseau, Dominica, Earl started painting “since I’m aware of myself…at my father’s home”. As a young boy with a dream of becoming a successful artist, he was to paint for 11 years before going on to study at the Jamaica School of Arts. An opportunity he welcomed, as Art school teaches “theory and technique”, two very important elements of art, which every budding artist must understand and appreciate.

There, he was honored with the award for Most Outstanding Drawing Student. Does he think Art school is beneficial to an already talented artist? Absolutely. “Art school helped my work evolve. You learn in 5 years what you would learn in twenty years, if you don’t go to study art,” Earl responds without hesitation. Over the years, Earl has experimented with different media, using trademark techniques which lend even more personality to his work.

“I like to experiment and develop new methods,” he says with a broad grin. “I paint with oil and acrylic, and use coconut gauze, carbon from fire smoke, and even banana latex to give the painting an aged look.”

Some of Earl’s signature pieces include compelling installations often highlighting poignant social and environmental issues. He believes that “artists have a role to play in society,” and makes no apologies for making strong statements through his art.

I glance at several of his paintings on the walls, and immediately recognized ‘The Fisherman’s Shack’, with its bold hues and coconut gauze; once featured on the cover of American Eagle’s in-flight magazine, ‘Latitudes’. “One of my most treasured pieces,” he says.

It’s obvious that Earl is content, and has found the love he had been yearning for a very long time ago. What has kept him focused over the years? His mantra: “Be true to yourself as an artist; you cannot go wrong. You stay true to yourself, and your work will always be pure.”

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