Marketing the artful way
Some days you pass through Liguanea Plaza in St Andrew, and you hear music wailing, blaring, oozing or droning. The selector is Donovan Walters. And you look around, and you see some beautifully painted oil drums-cum-garbage bins. The painter is the same Donovan Walters. The selector is the painter.
He is invariably busy selecting or sitting down smiling in a little corner near the door of General Food Supermarket. Nowadays, he is surrounded by several items of artwork ranging from pictures painted on various materials, key rings, fridge magnets, coasters, bags, backpacks, purses, wallets, etc. And they are for sale.
But these are not just any arbitrary mass-produced items. On them are printed the artwork of Walters and his brother, Akiwali, who are two long-standing members of the Trafalgar Artists Group.
"Trafalgar Artists Group in New Kingston, a de background dat, a de foundation dat," Walters told The Sunday Gleaner recently.
Walters has been associated with the group since he was about 13, starting out with the stretching of canvases. Now, almost 40 years after, he has evolved into a prolific artist, preferring not to be labelled under any one particular type of artist, as he said he is "versatile". His brother he has credited as one of those who helped him to hone his skills.
And his versatility is indeed evident in his work done through a variety of media. He has worked with canvas, rocks, wood, metal, cloth, etc. On them there is portrait, still life, surrealism, landscape, etc. Now, his dynamism has extended into how he markets his work, printing them on the items mentioned above.
So instead of just the paintings that are offered for sale, they are printed on items that are used for various purposes. It is about marketing his work, he said, but it is also about functional art, not art for art's sake, but useful art.
"Functional art are pieces that can be used every day, in everyday life. It can be a bag, it can be a key ring or a pendant around your neck," Walters said.
It is also about giving people the chance to own a piece of artwork that they perhaps could not afford. They may not buy the actual painting, but they could own something that has a reproduction of that painting on it. The bags, especially, are fashion statements in an artful way.
But Walters doesn't want this concept to be seen as mass production of his work, since there are limited numbers of each print, and they have many pieces from which they can do printing.
"I think it's a great idea to get the artwork out there, and to sell more art as well. People might see a bag, but not necessarily want a bag, but want the actual artwork," Walters said. It's a way of promoting art.