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Carla James, UK artist with Trini heritage

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“As an artist, I’ve always been inspired by my identity, culture, surroundings and adventures around the globe. From my home in the countryside of Somerset near the city of Bristol, to my family home on the tropical island of Trinidad,” shares UK-born, mixed-media artist Carla James.

“I love travelling to beautiful destinations such as the intricate decorative places in Thailand to sensational Bali. I am passionate about exploring the world and love to capture a little piece of the exotic when I’m back designing in the studio, creating beautiful works of art.

“I design and paint every original artwork. Some of these pieces are then transformed and printed to make unique products and limited-edition art prints. I love using vivid colours, delicate application, and a strong sense of style at times, embellished with delicate gold details. Also, making custom artwork and commissions, and enjoy experiencing my collections of work.”

Professional artist and dental nurse, the daughter to Ron and Nicky James, and elder sibling to Christopher, Carla said her parents always supported her passionate interest in art as a profession, and never forced her into anything else…but guided.

She recently presented at the Upfest Street Art Festival in Bristol, UK, and also participated in exhibitions at Palm Beach, USA, and London, but would also love to have a solo exhibition in a gallery targeting T&T, as that’s where her inspiration comes from she said.

“I’ve been painting all my life. I studied art throughout school, college and university, and from the University of West England, Bristol, in 2008, I graduated in Drawing and Applied Art.

“That was a time of recession, and the art world was not an easy place to be. I then trained as a dental nurse so I could have some financial security. The plan was to go part-time, but with only full-time vacancies available, I put artwork on hold for a few years. I then began selling my work slowly and growing my business.

“I now have a great balance and am continuing to expand the business. Hopefully, I will be a full-time artist.

“I love positivity, love and free spirit. I actually use quite a variation in the mediums. From acrylic on canvas, to watercolours on paper and spray-painted murals. I love all the different effects and details you can create from each one.

“I mostly love to paint nature and travel-inspired pieces. My identity is reflected here too. My artwork is like a window into my soul. Whether it’s the way the medium is applied or the representation in the subject,” James said.

She explained: “I love the hummingbird, which is seen in most of my pieces. It, too, represents my identity, and Trinidad as the land of the hummingbird—free-spirited. I show this by using bright tropical colours, but I also recognise my Indian heritage, which is represented in my use of gold leaf.

“During the lockdown, I was inspired to try new things, paint something different and challenging. I then began painting balloons as I’ve always been fascinated by how to create shiny art. Becoming very popular, my balloon-painting collection emerged.

“My imagination spiralled. I then wanted to paint balloons that show reflections, so now, adding to the collection are balloons showing reflections of what I’m passionate about within my heart. My world of art is enchanting.”

James had a couple of small local galleries showcase her work and sells her pieces at local independent shops.

She has some words of advice for aspiring artists.

“To aspiring artists: Being an artist requires hard work and dedication. You need to be dedicated enough to push on with your work; have the self-belief to keep going no matter what; and the strength to get back up, again, if being knocked down. The best thing is, you’re creative, so if you meet a challenge, you have the creativity to find another way to create your goal.

“More than painting, it involves creating ideas, business management, digital design, communication, social media, product development, photography, etc. You never know where it might take you. It’s very exciting. Just go for it, be positive, it’s possible, and never give up.

“There’s a current shift in career paths as social media has made the creative sectors much more achievable, with many diverse creative opportunities allowing artists to thrive more meaningfully.”

James is currently working on a printed product collection with a view to launching later this year.

There will be wrapping papers, notebooks, pyjamas and make-up bags to begin with. The collection will be inspired by nature in Trinidad. James plans on exhibiting in London, UK, later this year.