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John Paul Mayers’ Pride of Barbados


SHERIA BRATHWAITE

John Paul Mayers’ Pride of Barbados

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JOHN PAUL MAYERS is a quiet, and unpretentious. He spends most days indulging in his passion for art. The former Graydon Sealy student had the honour of creating the 50th anniversary of Independence logo and for that his name would always be remembered in history.

John Paul explained to EASY magazine that he always wanted to be an artist. However, it has not been an easy journey. When he transferred from Princess Margaret Secondary School to Graydon Sealy in fourth form, he had a hard time settling into his new school. He was forced to take pure academic courses and had to practice on canvas from the comfort of home.

“When I was at Princess Margaret I was into art big time, but when I transferred it was different,” he said.

“They used to allocate certain subjects for children that are challenged in academics so they could develop a skill. They would have them do woodwork, metalwork, food and nutrition or art and I was not really allowed to do art there because I was academically inclined.

“I asked why I could not take the class and they told me no, that it is not for students in my class. But in fifth form I picked it up but the teacher only allowed me to sit the basic exam. He said I did not do the course long enough to sit the exam.”

John Paul said he was upset, but was happy to receive a grade one for the subject.

“I continued to do art after I left secondary school and Arlette St Hill, a well known artist in Barbados, took me under her wings. At that time my talent was still raw and she helped strengthen my eye and coordination. She taught me about proportions and balance and how colours complement each other. After my time under her tutelage, I decided to carry my studies further.”

John Paul realised that society was moving into the digital era and in order for him to keep up with this new paradigm, he had to strengthen his skill set even more. 

“I did ‘A’ level art at Barbados Community College and that experience was great. Art now became a philosophy. I learnt about art as it related to war, the Egyptian sculpting and Michael Angelo. It was just not about sitting down and drawing, it was deep and holistic.”

With his skill at another level, John Paul went job-hunting, but no one was hiring artists.

“When I went to interviews they kept asking me if I knew how to operate the computer and I told them no. We were moving towards the digital age so the conventional brush and canvas was not cutting it anymore. I had to go and research how to do art on the computer because I was oblivious to it and I ended up doing an associate degree in the field.

“There is a big difference between graphic art and regular art. When you use a brush it is more personal and expressive but with graphic art, it is a commercial art form.”

During this time John Paul still did not gain employment and after completion of his studies he soon got a call for an inteview – but there was a slight hiccup.

“At that time computers were very expensive and I was only taught how to operate a Mac. The company that was hiring me used Windows PC and Corel, a software that I was not familiar with. But I wanted the job at Vision Marketing, so I stayed up late that night and read the manual. The next day my employer was impressed.”

Although John Paul said he was grateful for his job at Vision Marketing, he became curious about the printing aspect of graphic design and wanted to explore that more. He sought employment at Cole’s Printery where he has been for 13 years. 

John Paul was unaware of the national logo competition. Friends Chantal and Roland encouraged him to enter.

“Anybody that knows me knows I do not like competition. I am not interested in proving myself. But after the encouragement of my friends, I started putting together ideas and visuals.

“At first I had a concept but I was not satisfied with. It was really decorated with flying fish, the Pride of Barbados . . . . It showed a million things. I looked at it for a day and I told myself it is not finished. My work usually has to carry something different about it and I was just not getting that from what I had.

“So I was driving down the South Coast an evening and I just got a vision in my head. To me, my 50 had look like an average 50 and that evening I saw the Broken Trident attached to the 50 while I was looking through the glass. That was spiritual and I think God has a lot to do with my journey. The image just formed in front of me.

John Paul went straight home and worked on the idea.

“My mother kept asking why am I messing up the first logo I made. When I was finished I ran both ideas by my son Ajáio and I said that whichever idea he chose I would go with. And he picked the one with the Trident on the 50. When he found out that I won he asked me if I told the Prime Minister that he selected it as he wanted credit,” John Paul said, chuckling.

The 43 year-old said that he was happy to have won the competition. He feels good to see the logo reproduced on T-shirts, mugs and other items.

“Growing up I did not get the support people think I did. My mother and grandmother would ask me why I don’t follow my brother and do accounting or another white collar job. I was looked down on because I chose to stick with art. That is why I tell my son to follow his heart and passion and don’t let what people say about his career influence him. And I think that Barbadians usually think people with a skill are not successful but that is not true. Plumbers and carpenters always have work and if they are really good at what they do they excel more than people in an office behind a desk.

“Through art I was able to gain my greatest accomplishments. I own my company Press Print and I have won a prestigious award.”

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