Wendell Mc Shine, an award-winning artist and animator whose work has inspired and influenced many young artists in T&T and the international community, had actually given it up once.For a few years, earlier in the century, he stopped producing art.He describes working in Trinidad at the time as an illustrator, designing Web sites, doing other forms of commercial art and knowing it was not compatible with his passion."I really didn't want to do commercial art," he said during a recent Skype interview. "I wanted to have an avenue to freely express myself without limits. Becoming a painter was my true drive."
Mc Shine–AKA "Shine"–had studied graphic design at the John Donaldson Technical Institute, worked as an illustrator for two national newspapers, and Caribbean Beat inflight magazine, to name a few.At the time, it seemed the only way for someone like him to earn a sure living, he said."I feel more alive when I'm in the studio painting and creating, connecting with that higher force. That's why I was, like, 'That's it; I'm done with compromising my compulsion.' So I gracefully, and with much gratitude, transitioned out of the world of graphic design."With uncertainty and disappointment looming, Mc Shine spent a few years in New York bartending just at the doorstep of his major life change: moving to Mexico, his new home away from home.In Mexico, a place filled with deep history, arts and culture all around him, with the challenges of learning a new language and finding a place within the new, he was introduced into the complex world of art and true self-expression.
"In Mexico everyone is an artist," he said. "I can't think of one artist in Trinidad that I know of that's on par with just a regular craftsman on the street in Mexico."I'm not comparing, but it is the reality that almost 70 per cent of things there are handmade and recycled into an ambiguous form of functionality. It seems like art sprung up out of a necessity and that engaged me in the most profound way."It's not even about talent there anymore," he said. "It's about how one expresses that inner consciousness."The Mexican environment led him into himself, to cause a rebirth of sorts for Mc Shine and the development of his signature approach, which references surrealism, indigenous codes and belief systems, moulded with animation and urban and contemporary art practices."Moving to Mexico made me into what I am," he said. "That's the place that actually started my career as an artist."
Mc Shine lived in Mexico City for eight years, vigorously climbing his way up, becoming a force within the eclectic art scene there, exhibiting regularly at major locations and being the subject of print, broadcast interviews, seminars, documentaries, and major international art projects.His reputation spread out of Mexico. Since then he's exhibited and lectured in the US and Europe, in museums such as the Kunsthal Kade in the Netherlands, and been a guest lecturer at art institutions such as the Royal College of Arts in London.In 2013 Mc Shine gave a dynamic TED talk on "the power of your ideas" at the Facebook headquarters in California.He had not completely abandoned art while in New York. There he had been playing around with an animation/visual effects programme called After Effects, investigating his abilities with animation and the moving image."You know how with callaloo you just know how to make it? That's what went on with me," he said of his experience with animation. "I see it as playtime and that's my approach to any art making."
Marrying animation with fine art–for instance, burying moving images in the belly of a still piece installation–is one of the things that distinguishes Mc Shine's work.On a visit to Trinidad in 2009, he met Sheldon Holder of 12 The Band and it led to Mc Shine doing the animated video for 12's song Prosper, using images from a series of works called La Puerta Abierta (The Open Door), which he created in Mexico."We discovered Sheldon sings the things that I paint about and I paint the things that he sings," he said of meeting Holder. "We became really good friends, and we decided to just make the video."The video won the best use of animation in a music video at the T&T Animae Caribe Animation and New Media Festival and has made its way around the world on the international film festival circuit. Other Mc Shine shorts have won Animae Caribe prizes: In 2010 his Rainbow Hill won the award for the best T&T short.Regular participation in Animae Caribe and implementing chapters of the programme Art Connect are some of the ways he's maintained professional contact with T&T.
As the founder of Art Connect, an international self-awareness art programme geared towards stimulating and inspiring the imagination, he's passionate about empowering a range of groups in society. One of the chapters focused on marginal youth and adults with learning disabilities and won its way into the prestigious Liverpool Biennial.In the early days, youth from Point Fortin were the participants in this art project. Later on Success Laventille Secondary School benefited from Art Connect. (Local arts facilitator Charlotte Elias is producing a documentary on the project.)Wendell Mc Shine is gearing up to launch another branch of his programme in Miami, this time geared towards healing adult men."Bringing this leg of Art Connect to Trinidad is very important to me because it is much needed in my homeland," he said. "I am reaching out to the public and private sectors to join me in manifesting this vision.�For now, he's settled with his wife and three-year-old son in Miami, Florida, going back into his inner child, renewing and revolutionising his creative force."The work I'm putting out right now is surprising me," he said. "I can't wait for the world to see and experience the evolution."