While most artists generally discover their calling from a very young age, it was different with Alanis Forde. She fell in love with art a mere five years ago and is now pursuing it full time.
The 21 year-old sat down with Bajan Vibes and reflected on her creative journey thus far. Initially, Forde admitted that she never wanted to be an artist and actually would run from the class at secondary school.
“At the end of third form when students were choosing subjects to pursue for CXC, art was one of them and I glanced past it and signed up for home economics,” she said.
But fate would have a different plan for her. “At the first class of home economics, the art teacher comes in and he says ‘Alanis Forde, you’re in art’. I was a bit frustrated, questioning how does this happen but I went to the class and told myself I had to pass this like any other subject,” she recalled.
Forde, who admitted that she did not believe she had a raw talent for art, decided, nevertheless, to put in the work during class and it was there she fell in love with the subject.
“Originally, like many other young people at 16, I wanted to be a doctor, but by the end of fifth form, after completing the CXC, I found myself applying to the community college for the art programme,” she said.
“If I am being honest, I was inspired by my art tutor at the Coleridge and Parry Secondary School, Mr. Arthur Alleyne. I saw his work and said to myself ‘I want to get there someday’.”
She described her first year at the Barbados Community College (BCC) as challenging.
“The first year of an associate degree you have a lot of different mediums you have to work with all at once, from sculpture to painting to drawing to photography to print making and clay. There are many mediums so balancing was very challenging especially coming from secondary school where art is not a main focus subject,” she said.
BCC exposed Forde to many things. “The main things that I have learnt is that it’s possible to take art and make it into a career, even in Barbados. Our tutors were local artists and they exposed us to the business,” she said.
Business would be the greatest challenge for the upcoming artist as she tried to find her market. “I am grateful for the era I live in as I’ve been lucky enough through technology, specifically social media, to get my work out there. Everyone is plugged in and online and that’s been a huge platform for me. I was able to gain a clientele and get commissions but, more importantly, it allows for persons who see my art to connect with me,” she said.
Forde whose medium of preference is oil paint, though she also loves collage, primarily focuses on the black female in the Caribbean space. She told Bajan Vibes she is inspired by many things. “I’m inspired by the black female figure. It’s beauty, realness and history,” Forde said.
She went on: “The black female body was exploited and hypersexualized in the media and my research was based on that. I did my dancehall queen series, looking at how they’re dressed, the entire dancehall culture being from the Caribbean. The series represented an external process of representation but also an internal process of self discovery.”
Forde, who won best in show last year at the Crop Over Visual Arts Festival, is most proud of any piece she finishes which says what she intended it to say and the audience receives that.
When asked what she loves most about art, she responded: “I love that I get to experiment with whatever concept I’m working on at the time… and what I originally think the work will look like in the end, it never does and oddly enough I love that.”
Forde’s favourite artist is Caravaggio, an Italian painter whose technique she really appreciates., “Despite Caravaggio being my favourite artist, I am influenced by a time period more so than an artist, the Renaissance time period, high Italian Renaissance,” she explained. “I love religious paintings not particularly because of the subject matter but the process and the drama, that is all me.”
Forde first completed her associate degree, went on to do her Bachelor’s. She graduated from BCC last month with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art and was immediately offered a teaching opportunity. She now teaches painting at BCC one day a week.
Now that she has completed her degree, Forde is currently creating a body of work to have a show next year. With big plans for the future, Forde said within the next five years, she hopes to have work in galleries, collections and exhibitions internationally.