Self-taught Mayaro artist Charmaine Murray, whose work has been sold countries abroad, is urging citizens to use art as a therapy to reduce pandemic stress.
Murray, who lived in Tunisia, Tanzania and Egypt, is back in Trinidad and plans to host an art exhibition in her home town of Mayaro as well as San Fernando sometime in the future when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Speaking exclusively to Guardian Media, Murray said she was using the pandemic to bolster her creative side, noting that some of her best work has been done during this pandemic period.
"The downtime with COVID has allowed me to fall in love with nature again. When I do a plein air painting, I am inspired by the colours and sounds of nature. COVID has brought a stillness and a peace that was not there before," she said.
Murray said while many people are stressed out because of the trials of COVID-19, there were still growth opportunities.
"My primary goal is to do a solo exhibit of my work in Trinidad one day, maybe in my home village of Mayaro and then in San Fernando where I have lived and worked for considerable times in my life. COVID has put a damper on things but I am hopeful that someday if given the opportunity, I would be able to do so," she said.
Murray explained that art allows her to explore areas that she did not know existed.
"I love doing landscapes, it allows me to touch nature’s colours and tones and perspectives. I would love to see older women getting involved in art, which for me is therapeutic. Long after you leave these shores, your footprints would remain through your work," she said.
"Nothing brings more satisfaction to me than to take a blank canvas and with the drawing and colour bring something to life. It’s like a rebirth. A completed piece gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction."
Even though her work is well respected abroad, Murray said she was always pleased when people come to her home to look at her work.
"Art has given me a purpose. I plan my days to incorporate two or three hours of 'me time' so that I can paint, look at videos and techniques via YouTube and dissect the work of famous artist like Ludmila of Russia," she said.
SHARING HER TECHNIQUES
Murray said she was also willing to share her techniques and passion for art.
"I would like to invite older women to pursue a hobby and stick with it. Initially, when I paint it was to put beauty on the walls of my home. That was my motivation when I started doing art in Tunisia. A big palace with empty walls was my home, so I brought life to that space by putting colour and images throughout the home," she explained.
She said it was also possible to make an income from the artwork.
"When you start enjoying the fun that art brings and if the fun allows you to gain competence, you could sell a piece or three, like I have been doing and even make a living from it," she said.
"Art is the cure for all stress-related ailments...something about mixing colours and the release of stress. I often feel that women, especially those who have worked in corporate offices or just generally outside the homes, at retirement tend to complain of boredom or are confused as to what to do next? Art could be the vessel through which you express that confusion and help to rebuild your confidence and purpose."
She also invited older women to paint with her.
Murray said she works with all types of mediums including acrylic, watercolour and impasto but her preference was oil paint on canvas.
"I am a registered member of the Art Society of T&T. Before my involvement in art, I worked with AMOCO Trinidad Inc, secretary to two mayors of the City of San Fernando and finally executive assistant to the president of BHP Billiton," she revealed.
Murray said she was encouraged to pursue art while studying at the Rio Claro Government Secondary School in 1976.
"I am a self-taught artist, with an eye and drive for continuous learning. After 30 years of working in the field of business and raising my children, I pursued a Diploma in Drawing and Painting from the London Art College. My speciality and passion are in Fine Art which is a visual art, considered primarily for aesthetic purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically in the areas of painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolour, graphics and architecture," she said.
LIFE AS AN ARTIST
Murray was born in Mayaro and got married to Stevenson Murray in 1983. They have two children–Al, a mechanical engineer and a daughter, Alyssa, who is a medical doctor.
Murray said her husband lived and worked in Egypt where she visited from time to time. In 2011, she joined him on an expatriate assignment in Tunisia, North Africa.
"During my time there, I decided to pursue Fine Art. I had my work exhibited for the first time in Tunisia with Atelier. The response was favourable and three small pieces were sold. I moved to the Republic of Tanzania, East Africa, in 2014 and lived in Dar es Salaam (DAR)," she recalled.
Murray said DAR was a hotbed for art but mostly in the indigenous art form of Tinga Tinga (painting of stick-like figures).
"I continued working under the tutelage of two renowned Tanzanian artists, Armani and Ludovic. Eventually I was able to exhibit my work with them and most of my work was sold. It was a humbling time for me. One of my pieces was donated to the Vipaji Art Gallery to form part of its permanent collection," she revealed.
Murray said she moved back to Trinidad in 2018 and continued quietly doing her work.
Although art material is expensive and sometimes not available in San Fernando, Murray said she was still producing masterpieces.
"Sourcing an accomplished artist to shadow or to work alongside is not readily accessible as is common in other countries where I have lived. Those artists help you to learn new techniques and to sharpen your skills," she said.
Although COVID-19 did not allow her to follow through with her plans to showcase her work this year, Murray said she still plans on giving back.
She said going forward, she plans to give to charity a portion out of every piece that is sold.