CARIUNITY: Portrait artist from T&T, Darrell Seignoret, cites Bob Marley as one of his greatest influences

What is the longest amount of time you’ve dedicated to a project? How has it affected your work over time? Darrell Seignoret has dedicated the last eighteen years to his craft and has produced masterful pieces that prove how precise his skills have become after working hard for nearly two decades!

There is no denying it takes courage to learn something new. It takes even more courage to stay motivated through the ups and downs and to learn from each experience along the way. We’re excited to share Darrell’s story. It is a story that proves the different ways hard work can foster development and growth. It is evident that he keeps sound purpose in mind and it inspired us to think of our “why” as we build a platform that honors the stories of our people.

We were introduced to his work after seeing a portrait of the legendary Buju Banton posted online. We took note of the level of detail in his portraits and the connections he shared with his pieces and knew we had to learn more about what inspires him to create. First on the list, Bob Marley is a must. He shared three (though he would have shared a full list) of his favorite songs and we’ve been channeling our inner portrait artist ever since. Check out the links at the end to find out a few of his favorites and reach out to him for more. We plan to!

CARIUNITY: The amount of detail in your work shows you’re a seasoned artist. How long have you been a portrait artist and where did it all begin? 

Darrell: I have been a portrait artist for about 18 years now. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s where there was no internet, probably only one TV station until cable TV reached in the mid 90’s. As long as I can remember, my forms of recreation were sports and drawing. We lived by humble means so I didn’t have sketch pads or any special materials. My dad would bring printer paper from his job and at one point there was a printery next door and the owner would give me scraps of paper. I would draw everything I laid my eyes on. As every child does, I did cartoon characters and eventually moved on to real people. There was no internet to download and nobody was going to pose for me so for source material I would look through my parent’s old record jackets and I would draw all the people on them. If I wasn’t in the park playing football I was home drawing pictures. Bob Marley being one of them. His music and him as a person would greatly inspire me for years to come. This continued into secondary school where I eventually started collecting newspaper clippings of other Jamaican reggae artists to hone my portrait skills. I had a lot of trouble learning proportions and shading but I got to the point where I started drawing faces from my head. It was later on when I was about 14 or 15 that something just clicked in me and I just started to get better. My friends in school started to notice as well and it went from ‘he can draw’ to ‘wow he can really draw ’ in that time. This is when I decided this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I focused all my energies into art so that I could go to university to further my studies. I was working part time as well as going to UWI doing a certificate course in visual arts part time. My father also changed jobs and supported me financially. It was in this period that I flourished and explored my creativity not only in drawing but painting, sculpting, wire bending etc. It’s funny how I made another breakthrough. My dad bought a pack of chalk pastels. I tried them, didn’t like them, and packed them away. About two years later in about 2000 I was frustrated with the quick drying time of acrylic so I decided to combine the acrylic and chalk. This was it. The results for me were amazing. It is from this point onward I really became known for my portraits.

He then says these words about how Bob Marley has inspired him:

“Bob Marley still remains one of my greatest inspirations. His love for his fellow Jamaicans, the fact that he was able to fight poverty, fight for his music to be heard, fight to maintain a high standard for his music and then eventually succeeding gives me great hope that maybe just like him my work can touch people not only in Trinidad and Tobago but in regions beyond. “

CARIUNITY: Can you describe your creative process and what keeps you motivated? 

Darrell: My creative process – well it has changed over the years. I used to do most of my work at night from 10pm to 4am locked away in my room with nobody bothering me. Just music from Bob Marley or some other reggae artist and I would jam out work like crazy. Now with my job and married life, I have adjusted to working during the daytime as well as having people in my private space while I am painting. I still need inspiration to feel motivated and to get me in the zone though, this is a main ingredient. I listen to a lot of art documentaries, stories about artists, musicians and take a little piece of them with me and put it into my approach to my art.

CARIUNITY: What advice can you offer new artists that are just discovering their talent? 

Darrell: Stick with it. Don’t listen to people who will try to discourage you. This mission is something you cannot run from. Don’t undervalue your talent, work on getting that first commission, be professional and always give your clients your best.

CARIUNITY: What has been your proudest achievement as an artist? 

Darrell: In 2009, when president Obama was coming to Trinidad for the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit, the Art Society of Trinidad held a juried exhibition and one of my pieces was selected and displayed along the wall of the Queen’s park Oval in Trinidad. I always wanted to see my work in a public domain and it was really amazing to see it there. In February 2019, I was commissioned to do a portrait of the current Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley. After he was presented with the portrait, he posted some pictures of himself receiving it. This moment was on par with my earlier experience. It gave me a lot of confidence and motivation to continue.

CARIUNITY: What challenges have you faced as an artist and what have you done to overcome those challenges?

Darrell: I would say having the ability to create is one thing but figuring out what to do with it in terms of marketing and direction was a bit difficult. Another challenge is the perception toward art. People always want your art for free. So doing work and not getting full payment has always been a challenge. Recently, I have taken steps to protect myself from that sort of thing.

CARIUNITY: Our platform shares how Caribbean culture has influenced the success of many artists, local business owners, and community members. How has your culture influenced your projects and overall work ethic?

Darrell: The Caribbean culture is one of vibrant colours, friendly people and rustic scenes. This dichotomy of leisure and vibrancy has greatly influenced my palette. Also, the issues of, poverty, crime and injustice have always been at the back of my mind when working. Even the issue of colourism, which comes out of our colonial history, inspires me to work harder at my craft so as to quiet the mouths of those who believe art is only for people of a certain skin colour or social status.

CARIUNITY: You have accomplished a lot this year! Can you share more of your goals throughout the rest of 2019 and beyond? 

Darrell: The death of a close friend in Dec 2018 and more recently the death of my dad on the 22nd April 2019, heavily inspired me to push my artwork further and become more well known. I realized you can be excellent or even a genius at what you do but nobody will know about it if you don’t believe in yourself and push it to its limit. My father was a world class engineer, but he was extremely humble, because of this people with less skill than him tried to downplay his intelligence to advance themselves. This made me realize that you can be humble but you have to be confident in your ability and see the value of your own work. I am working on building a wider audience as well as finding ways to get better at my craft. Beyond 2019, I would like to use art to help youths in less fortunate communities to find positive alternatives to crime and drugs.

CARIUNITY is a platform and safe space to celebrate culture. Our hope is that people will travel to the countries we feature and seek out truth, draw (pun intended) inspiration from the talent in each land, and use each experience to break barriers that create bias and division. Our hope is to fight for UNITY through storytelling. Our hope is to show how Caribbean culture has affected other parts of the world and for that influence to be recognized inside and outside of our communities.

In closing remarks, when asked if there was anything else he wanted the world to know, Darrell shared the following:

“I will be signing my portraits as RS to honour my dad, Robert Seignoret, from now on. Also, I thank God for all he has blessed me with.”

It was a pleasure sharing Darrell’s story and learning more about the behind the scenes process that goes into the works of art he has shared. He has inspired us to dedicate time to grow in our craft, to find balance between being humble while confident, and to always remember our why. Follow @868Portraits on Instagram to see his latest creations!