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Oneika Russell

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have SBA questions, here are some candid answers to frequently asked questions:
Originally written - Jan 29, 2018 (Updated April 20, 2019)

  1. At what age did you become interested in art?
I always did colouring books as a child and enjoyed them but became curious at about age 9 or 10 when I saw a concert set being painted by a high school artist. While in grade 6 we had an art education student on teaching practice from Edna Manley College. It was the first time we had real art lessons. We drew abstract art designs, made tie & dye and colour charts. That was the first time I remember being interested in being creative.

  1. Is anyone else in your family an artist?
No one else is a fine artist like I am but several family members have creative hobbies or do other creative jobs. My younger sister is a filmmaker and my cousin is a screenwriter.

  1. What influenced you to become an artist?
I was finishing up 6th form and thinking about what to do with my future. I couldn’t find a course at UWI or UTECH that interested me. I decided to try applying to Edna Manley College because a friend was also applying there. I went and then fell in love with Painting and contemporary art.

  1. What mediums do you prefer to use?
I use too many different media to list I think. I do a lot of interdisciplinary work so that means my medium can be anything that I think I need to work with. I draw, paint, sew, make videos, animation, books, textile pieces, paintings, clay objects etc. My current favourite media at this point though are watercolour and ink on paper to start my projects then I print them on textiles and then sew them into textile pieces.

  1. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I look, I read, I listen, I write. Artists have to take in information from various sources and process it. A lot of my inspiration comes from visiting galleries and museums in various countries, looking at great artwork, reading about various bits of history and culture in books and art news websites living and experiencing different things in different places. It is also really inspiring to attend talks and presentations about art and the world. Current work comes from Jamaica’s tourism campaign, photographs I have taken myself and some aspects of Haitian art and Outsider art

  1. Where did you learn about art?
I learned in various places and I still continue to learn everyday. I went to school at Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts to do a 4 year diploma. After that I went to the UK to do a Masters in digital art forms and then I went to Japan to think more about how to make animation from my drawings in experimental ways. I also listen to a lot of contemporary artists talking about their work in galleries on YouTube channels like Tide Rising Art Projects, ART21 and Louisiana Channel. 

  1. Is there a message or meaning behind your artwork? If so, what meaning would you like to convey?
I don’t know if I would call it a message as such. There are definitely things I am thinking about while making the work and a lot of it affects how the work looks and the decisions I take when making the work. I am now making work which talks about the legacy of colonialism and tourism in the Caribbean. I am also thinking about the objects and materials which get produced in this industry such as souvenirs and postcards.

  1. How much time in a week do you spend on your artwork?
I spend way less than I want to spend. I don’t have a weekly ration.  In a year I have periods of high creative activity such as the summers  when I do residency programmes or make work at home. In those times sometimes I am doing 14 hour days in studio. I also have periods when I am teaching full time where it is not as easy to be creative daily such as January to May. In these times sometimes I do 4 hours a week or so. I guess on average I spend 9.6 hours a week actually making art. In recent times I have taken a break from full time teaching and am therefore able to spend more time so I guess my average might have gone up to about 20 hours per week. 

  1. Have you participated in art shows or exhibits outside of your country?
Yes I have. I have been in every Biennial at The National Gallery of Jamaica since it began. I have also done exhibitions in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Norway etc. You can see more about this on my cv at my website.

  1. What advice would you give to someone who give to someone who wants to become an artist? 
If you want to be an artist you have to do it for the pure thrill of being creative. You can’t be an artist if you just want to make money etc. You have to really love it because building a strong and successful art career is tough. I would say to ensure that you study art at least by going frequently to see exhibitions and reading catalogues and art books, meeting and speaking with active artists, research what being an artist entails by looking at all the activities artists do. Understand the art market that you are going out to participate in and try to be a part of it. You also have to keep making art work and improving your content and technical work. once you have done all of that you have to show your work regularly and get feedback by joining exhibitions etc. A successful artists life is filled with reading, writing, speaking, planning and making. If you are not prepared to do all of this then you will be limiting the levels of success you have. Lastly you must travel and expand your knowledge of art and the opportunities out there that don’t exist in Jamaica.