Eighteen-year-old Ransford Simon is fast becoming recognised for his paintings and drawings. Ransford’s work has blown up on Facebook, particularly a painting called ‘Mother’s Love’, which captured three generations of an Indigenous tribe—mother, daughter and grandson—in an affectionate embrace.
The young artist, who hails from Rewa in Region Nine, said he was always mesmerised by the Pakaraima Mountains that surrounded the savannahs and red roads where he lived, and he spent his younger years drawing them. While some of his work was inspired by his environment, he has an older brother, who also had an interest in art, and he would copy off his brother’s work. However, his brother never pursued art as a subject.
Whilst Ransford was at Rewa Primary School he entered in an art competition at the Wildlife Festival that saw him finishing third. He later attended the Annai Secondary School where he excelled in his art class and finished as the best graduating student after the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examination. His art teacher, Godfrey Alexander, Ransford said, was his inspiration when he applied at the E.R Burrowes School of Art.
Student applicants are required to present a portfolio, which he did, but he was discouraged when he learned that those applying should be 16 years and older. In his case though, once the admissions officials at Burrowes saw his work, they were surprised at his skill and allowed him to take the entrance exam. He and five other students of Annai Secondary were given the opportunity of realizing their dreams through scholarships. Ransford said one of the lecturers confided that the work in his portfolio was what he had produced after he finished Burrowes.
“When I registered, all the painting courses were full but that didn’t stop me from practicing on my own. I got the chance to go the next semester. The courses were harder than I expected, and I was beginning to think that this wasn’t for me. I was good at drawing, but it was the painting that was hard for me to catch on,” Ransford told The Scene in a sit down.
One of his first paintings was a still life, and he recalled that second-year students commended him on it. The artist added that positive comments and encouragement from students and teachers too motivated him to continue his studies. It was a bit of struggle, he noted, to get the materials he needed, but his scholarship made this easier. Transportation was another challenge for him; there were days when he would have preferred to stay back and work at the school, but because he would have problems getting to where he was staying on the East Coast at nights, he would have no choice but to leave early.
While Ransford’s first inspirations were his homeland, his brother and his art teacher, he met a few more along the way. “When I was a kid my big brother used to draw, and I used to copy his drawing. He used to say I could never beat him… now he says he can’t talk anymore because now he says my drawings are better than his. I used to look at YouTube … at other artists and their work. I was inspired by one of the artists on YouTube; her name is Heather Rooney. I was amazed by the art I saw on YouTube… I thought that Guyana could not have such good artists. Then I met Guyanese artist, Compton Babb and saw his work. He is really good. He told me that his inspiration is a Guyanese born artist who lives overseas, Carl Anderson. I took private lessons from him on portrait drawings mostly. Compton is my mentor too. I’d go to him for advice. He criticizes my work a lot but it’s always constructive criticism and I always listen and try to make work on making my art better,” the artist shared.
Last year at a PNCR Congress event, he and Compton painted a canvas together that served as a background at the National Cultural Centre for the event. The young man shared that he was also inspired by the work of George Simon, an artist who hails from St Cuthbert’s Mission. George’s work, he said, would often be at various exhibitions. Last Thursday, he got the opportunity to work with the artist on a painting at the Castellani House for a current exhibition.
Ransford has two paintings: ‘Nature’s Gift’ and ‘Rainy Season’s Blessing’ on display at the gallery, both of which, he said, were sold prior to the opening of the exhibition.
The young artist majored in painting and minored in sculpting at Burrowes where he spent two years and finished last September as the Best Certificate student while being the youngest of his class also. Asked whether he will go on to finish the third year there so as to obtain a diploma, he said he was still contemplating whether to do so or to pursue a degree in art at the University of Guyana.
While pastels are his favourite to use, he enjoys working with acrylic. He shared that it is important for an artist to have a level head, as artists often pour themselves into their work and this means that if they’re having a bad day, it will be reflected in a painting that may be supposed to show happiness or excitement. Not being in the mood also pushes artists to rush their work instead of taking time to perfect it.
“Art has taught me patience, to be more visual and to pick up on emotions. It is important to be in control of your own emotions since it changes the way your work looks. Art brings out the best in me. It keeps me focused. Life without art would be plain boring,” Ransford said.
Growing up in the Rupununi, he said, has both positives and negatives. While watching the sunrise over the mountains and savannahs is breathtaking and creates a serene beauty any artist would wish to capture, especially in an area where there is little or no distraction, he finds that working in the city, though distracting, more motivating for him. He explained that while he has great support from his family who are always praising his work, because they can’t pick up on his flaws they are unable to say anything or tell him where he is going wrong. Working among professional artists who take it upon themselves to let him know where he is wrong, he says, “brings out the best in me”.
Being an artist, Ransford says, comes with being able to network, meet nice people, and the opportunity to travel. At present, he is a part of a small group of artists called the ‘Moving Circle of Artists’. They have visited areas in the Rupununi and are making plans to visit Region One this year. The idea of the group is to go to areas to find persons with talents, help them to work on their skills and with exposure.
In the year that Ransford has taken up art professionally, he has already sold close to 30 paintings and drawings.
Apart from his art, he enjoys playing football, listening to EDM, tribal or instrumental music especially the flute when he is drawing and reading fiction and history books.
Currently he is working on other portraits.
He hopes that his future sees him becoming internationally recognized and having the opportunity to exhibit his work at national galleries around the world. Most importantly, he looks forward to one day owning his own gallery where he can teach persons passionate about art.
He plans to have his first exhibition early next year.
Ransford can be contacted via Facebook at Ransford Simon or on #610-2292.