Jamaican Artists: Andy Ballentine
Jamaican artist Andy Ballentine came from humble beginnings, at one point he could not afford canvas and painted on pillowcases. Andy attended Spanish Town High School and then the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, entering the professional art scene in 2000.
Today he sits at the top of the art ladder, having never given up on his dreams. In June 2017, this talented artist showcased his work at the prestigious Art Basel exhibition in Switzerland. He was the only Jamaican artist invited to exhibit at the show.
When are you at your most creative?
I paint anytime, once the energy and the vibration are there. Once the energy is there I just create.
Take me through your creative process.
I’m inspired by people. Every painting I create is inspired by people. My creativity comes from my surroundings. If I’m walking down the street and I see someone drinking juice and it looks unusual I’ll capture the image in my head, come home and put it on canvas. People really motivate me. When it comes to commission work I can create anything someone has in their mind, just tell me how the place looked and I can bring it to life on the canvas.
How do you want your work to affect people?
We are vibration and energy and the energy you put into something is what you get out, that’s my view as an artist. I create art with a positive energy because that’s what I want people to get out of it. I want people to see it as medication. I want it to lift people’s spirits. I want people to find the love and joy when they’re looking at my work.
When did you realise you had a talent for art?
I began drawing around the age five. When I reached high school there was peer pressure not to choose art as a subject, but my art teacher encouraged me. My father was so mad when I told him that I was choosing art as a career path, but I had decided to take it very seriously.
What has been your proudest career moment so far?
When my first solo exhibition in 2003 when my father got a chance to see the impact my work was having in Kingston and other parts of Jamaica. When he saw the number of people that had come to see my work he cried. I just want to work and make people happy.
How difficult did you find getting support/exposure for your work?
It was very difficult and slow like peak hour traffic. The people who can help you aren’t giving you their eye. I couldn’t afford the canvas so I would to take my parents sheets and pillowcases and paint on them.
I went to a gallery and showed them my work, and was asked my name and where I went to school. The woman at the gallery said: “Who is Andy Ballentine, people don’t know you why do you think they’d want your work?” I was asking her to give me a chance and she wouldn’t. It was seven years of this; you’re immediately profiled and put into a box. But that didn’t break my spirit.
I went home and studied how people do art, I bought my own canvas and never looked back I just kept pressing on. Now that person congratulates me every day. If I had let this break me I wouldn’t have met the people who’ve helped me, I wouldn’t have gotten to go to Europe or tour seven states in the US.
What would you like young artists to know about being successful in this business?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a visual artist or performing artist, believe in yourself. Put armour around yourself; there’s nothing anyone can tell you that should break you. Use what people tell you to lift yourself up. Believe in yourself and keep working and one day you’ll get there.
No matter how long the line is, join it, one day you’ll be at the front of the line. Greatness is in young people in Jamaica who come from humble backgrounds if people just give us the opportunity to broaden our horizons we will make the country proud.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I was born poor and I don’t feel bad, but now that I’m here I’m going to control my destiny. I’m not going anywhere. I believe that people in my country need me, I believe that my talent shines better in Jamaica. People need to see my talent shining, it will uplift them and will change the way they think. People don’t see art as a real career choice, we need to change the way we think about art as a society.
To find out more about Andy Ballentine or how to request pieces on commission, visit his official website.