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Drawing inspiration


Drawing inspiration

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Meet artist Troy Burgess, known in the creative circles as Soanrose, a lover of murals and airbrushing.

TROY BURGESS LOVED loved reading the Sunday comic strips. Slowly he would take his time and trace over the comics, mimicking what he saw. He would pester his brother when he came home from Combermere to teach him what he did in art class.

“At that time I was nine and whatever he brought home he would show me what his art teacher Virgil Broodhagen taught him, so in a sense Virgil taught me too. I had always wanted to be better than my brother, but I never wanted to be an artist.”

Before Troy settled his mind on what career he wanted to pursue, his character displayed signs of a rebel, which some would say is a distinct personality trait of a true artist. Rebel in the sense that he was not bounded by rules and always questioned why they were put in place to control the way how people think and behave.

Troy, better known as Soanrose in art spaces, was also drawn closer to art when he saw the work of others in the Queen’s Park art gallery.

“This was the first time I was exposed to professional art but it was abstract art and I could not understand it. And when I was in third form airbrushing impressed me,” he said.

“At first I could not understand how it works but my brother got one of the machines and I started following the work of a guy named Sergeant, who I considered to be the best airbrush artist.”

However he got kicked out of school for his unconventional behaviour but he did not let that stop him from bettering himself. He got accepted in Skills Training to do masonry, painting and trowel plastic.

“Almost everything at that institution had something to do with art,” he said.

“I did things like sign making and graphic design, then I found out about the Community Art Career Programme and that programme was offering the one thing I always wanted to learn – airbrushing – which was taught by a guy who went by the name of Kon Artist.”

Troy, who was working in St Philip, would finish at 4 p.m. and by some miracle get to the 5 p.m. classes in Speightstown.

“I really wanted to learn airbrushing so I always found a way to make it early for class.”

As luck would have it, he found a job at a nearby gas station in Speightstown, which made it a lot easier for him to go to classes. The course lasted for six months and it was the only formal type of training Soanrose received. Everything else he learnt from that period on was self-taught.

“I was into art so much at the time I practically lived at the centre and I made sure I was the best in the programme. The following year I was asked to teach a course in airbrushing and I still do so presently. I also taught at the Barbados Youth Service for three years.

“The funny thing is as soon as I learnt airbrushing the Government made a rule that all ZR vans had to be white with stripes and I was disappointed because when I was growing up the vans were all airbrushed and very pretty, and I was keen on doing that,” he said, laughing.

Troy also had a stint painting community shops and he recalled working on the Preconco Limited roof in Lears Road, St Michael.

“The letters on the building were about 60 feet long and I use to enjoy painting them. I also liked the height; it was about six flights up.

“Eventually a lot of sign companies started popping up and it was easier to stick on a sign so nobody really wanted anyone to paint and I started to get less and less work.”

Troy looked toward a different avenue – body painting.

“I was introduced into body painting and I was one of the first people to start doing so. I did airbrushing and body painting with Betty West and I learnt how to do wire bending from some Trinidadians. Right now it is a dying art in the region.”

Troy has since been responsible for several murals for churches, he has an elaborate wall painting at Pirate’s Cove bar and grill and he also has done a mural at the Animal Flower Cave. As Soanrose, he has won awards at the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA), and won Best In Show at the Central Bank of Barbados Crop Over Exhibition in 2008. He was also a part of the exhibition The Giants Among Us at the Bridgetown Gallery.

“I was working at Pirate’s Cove for a year now and everything on the compound I painted.

“The mural I did at the Animal Flower Cave is comprised of two humpback whales. So basically the mural is the representation of life for a mother and her calf and it was one of the best murals I ever did.”

The 34-year-old told EASY he draws inspiration from nature and the influential artists he looks up to in Barbados: “If my work does not make someone ask why, to me it is not art; I like to evoke emotion from my pieces.

“I also got inspired to do art by Akyem-I Ramsay, who I consider to be one of the best local artists along with Fielding Babb and Omo Alleyne. I actually met Babb at the training programme and I admired his style of the palette knife which I also use.

“I told myself I may have to leave the island but I honestly don’t want to. I get to teach a lot of young people and they asked me why I wanted to be an artist when a future in art is hard. But I tell them there is a future in art. I would like to open an art school here and start a real art movement so that the young ones coming up can have what we older ones didn’t have. I want them to have their own space whereby they can display their work in a proper space.”