Danielle was teaching early in her working career when she suddenly and clearly had a sense that that was not what she was supposed to do with her life. Although she was met with scepticism about her career change to artist, she held steadfast to her decision. Fast forward years later, talking about her art, this phenomenon arises again, one of following your feelings and instincts- which is how she describes her painting process. We talked with her about her journey as an artist, and a new development in that journey, motherhood.
EP: When I spoke with Annelie Solis for her interview said that she sees herself as a channel for God to work through, which manifests in her art. I wondered if you shared that view about your work.
DBF: My feelings about my work and where it comes from are really complicated. To an extent I do feel like that, but not so much in terms of allowing a divine presence to pass through me. I`m not closed to that and I do feel like that sometimes but I`m really interested in channeling memory. Channeling my own memory and the stories of people around me…my grandmother and my relatives etc. I think I`m more interested in being a channel to memory and landscape and the kind of buried truth that we live with as women. It`s not just one thing.
“I think I`m more interested in being a channel to memory and landscape and the kind of buried truth that we live with as women”
EP: Did you consciously decide to focus on women as subjects?
DBF: I think that just kind of happened. When I look back at what I used to draw when I was little. I would always draw I guess myself, or my mother. I would just draw these female characters, these presences. It`s something I`ve always been doing without consciously deciding or knowing that I`m doing it. Sometimes I don`t feel like I should have to explain, because it`s not something I would be asked to explain if I was doing paintings of landscapes. People always seem to want a specific reason for it. Sometimes people are even a little offended by it.
EP: Offended that you do women?
DBF: That I don`t do men. Not too much offended maybe, but they feel that there needs to be a justification. Or there needs to be an explanation for it, which I don`t really do anymore- explain.
EP: Would you say that you are fascinated with women?
DBF: I think I kind of zone in on a particular area of interest where my work is situated in terms of my theme etc. without trying to and all of it keeps coming back to women and myth and landscape. I don`t know if it`s fascination but there is a knowing that that is where my work is supposed to be and where I feel the strongest connection.
“There is a knowing that that is where my work is supposed to be and where I feel the strongest connection.”
EP: Do you have any favourite writers?
DBF: Lots and lots. It keeps changing. I`m reading lots of poetry at the moment. I`m reading a lot of the Jamaican poet Shara McCallum. She has this book that has a particular section about motherhood and the interesting divisions between mother, daughter and granddaughter. How we overlap and build on it. I find it really interesting.
EP: What is the starting point for a painting or a poem. Where does that first spark come from?
DBF: I sketch really thoroughly before I start. Sometimes I don`t even know where I`m going with it, it`s just a shape. It might be a really abstract round kind of shape, a curve shape. I kind of see what happens with the paper. And from there I kind of get into it and see what is trying to emerge. My process is really based on instinct. Whatever feels right I continue with and if it doesn`t feel right I start over. I feel like poetry is much harder. It`s less pure instinct and more mental for me . It`s more of a picking apart kind of process as opposed to the fluidity and the natural flow of painting.
“My process is really based on instinct. Whatever feels right I continue with and if it doesn`t feel right I start over”
EP: Do you know the sex of your baby?
DBF: Yes, it`s a boy.
EP: Do you have any thoughts on that?
DBF: I have never thought until I found out I was having a boy about how complicated it must be to raise a boy in the world we live in. And it`s been- and I`m picking my words sparingly because it`s fresh feelings- I`m trying not to sound like a really mushy new mummy, but it just opened up parts of my thinking and my heart that …they were kind of closed off because I work a lot in female figures and I work mostly with girls, even when I have to work with students and stuff like that. It`s been interesting but I feel like it`s something I`m very excited about. And oh gosh I love him already
EP: How has being a pregnant affected your work if at all?
DBF: I thought that it would have had a more direct correlation and that I would know how I feel about everything and be able to process it right away but I feel like…I`m very much in it so it`s very hard for me to process (the pregnancy) and then process creatively at the same time. So I `ve been painting but I feel like a lot of my whole process of turning things over in my mind and in my heart still has to happen. I`m giving it its time.
EP: What would you say is needed to be able to live as an artist. I`m using the context of an artist in Trinidad and Tobago and where “artist” is like a poet or painter, or visual artist, these kinds of things.
DBF: At first when I just started I had this idea in my mind that I would paint, I would exhibit locally, I would kind of link up with some galleries and things like that because I mean this is what you see and as an artist just starting these are the channels that you go through you. But as time goes by I find other avenues and other ways that my art can work and connect.
“It`s a really humbling way of connecting with people and their most personal lives”
I do book covers, illustrative work, I`ve worked with some musicians and things like that. Sometimes it`s a really pleasant surprise the kinds of suggestions people have and it`s a really humbling way of connecting with people and their most personal lives, like wow your wedding invitation? It`s a way of connecting with people through art and I didn`t really anticipate it beforehand but to me it feels a lot more meaningful that just exhibiting.
It`s not any one thing and I don`t think so much in terms of what other artists do. Not for any other reason than it depends on your particular set of circumstances.
Colouring Books with Art by Danielle
EP: When I saw your characters, I thought the artist was someone who had kinky hair then I saw that you have straight hair and I was really curious about that…
DBF: This is an interesting question. I actually always wondered how come nobody ever asked me this. I would have to answer it in a really kind of roundabout personal way. I was raised by my two grandmothers. I grew up in Grande with my maternal grandmother who is of east Indian descent. My paternal grandmother is African and Chinese. I was always very conscious that I was raised by these two women with such interesting stories and stories that I feel really shaped me as a girl growing up. And I was always conscious that all of these identities are part of me. I guess the average person looking at me would not see that or I don`t know… I don`t really think about what people see, but I remain really, firmly aware that these women are quite literally parts of me. And that kind of emerges in the creative process. I realize now that a lot of the things that they imparted became really huge parts of my work. There`s a body of visuals that I keep coming back to. I don`t think I`m specifically trying to represent any one identity but I`m really conscious of being a Trinidadian young woman and that being part of my heritage. Being part of the inheritance as a Trinidadian on the whole- a Caribbean person, all these different voices and memories and identities
EP: What does it mean to you to be extraordinary?
DBF: It does not necessarily mean “not ordinary”, but rather a kind of elevation of the ordinary, because my work is very much grounded. And I think as a creative person it is important for me to be very much grounded in the everyday. I feel like the things that speak to me most strongly in other people`s art like writing, photography, anything..…are things that are rooted in the ordinary. In the minute normal aspects of everyday life but kind of transcend. Looking at them in a different way or elevating them to a symbolic level, connecting with something else, something bigger. That`s kind of what I think of when I think of extraordinary, in terms of what I want it to be in my work, or in other people`s work.
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