Bunji Garlin

MASSIVE ERUPTION: Soca artiste Bunji Garlin’s artistic interpretation of a photo of the erupting La Soufriere volcano.

Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez) has demonstrated a talent for artistic expression that goes beyond his colourful stage show.

The four-time International Soca Monarch (ISM) winner shocked fans globally when he shared a series of sketches and shade work inspired by recent images coming out of St Vincent, following the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano two weeks ago.

“I grew up drawing. My brothers could do it to and my daughter’s just as talented,” Garlin started during a series of WhatsApp voice notes with the Express yesterday.

“I developed it (art) as a kid from primary school and when I went to junior sec(ondary) and later to Arima Senior Comprehensive, the art teachers at the time helped to nurture it into something more defined,” he continued.

Garlin shared six pieces of embellished art, along with the origi­nal photographs, to his near 300,000 Instagram followers on Tuesday. The photos, captured by a number of Instagram (IG) users including @duane_bailey, @kbpixels and @sita_music in St Vincent, depict the La Soufriere volcano at different stages of its eruption from various vantage points on the island.

“I able to do full, free-hand sketch and paintings, but in this case, this was different. This was simply interpretations, I would call them, of existing photography,” Garlin clarified.

Moved by the imagery shared on the platform, Garlin said he saved a few images onto his iPad and used Apple Pencil to embellish and reveal hidden imagery he found in the photographs.

“I saw the photos and wondered if people seeing this, boy. I highlighted the hidden interpretations within the ash clouds and the lightning and put body around it. What I understand well is shading and colours and how to use light and how to use lines to bring out something. In any place you look, not only clouds, you could see it right on the ground, sometimes in the bush there, is always a hidden face or body. What I did was find it, sketch it and bring it out,” he continued.

Cautious about promising a full exhibit

Since sharing the sketch work, Garlin has been bombarded by calls to complete and exhibit his visual art.

The “Differentology” singer said while it is a very interesting idea, and he is by no means ruling out the possibility of one day showcasing his artwork, he remains cautious about pursuing such a time-consuming endeavour.

“A lot of people been asking me why you don’t bring this out more. The last time I sat down and draw and sketch or anything with art was probably about ten years ago or more. It’s a nice idea, but it’s a lil intimidating, to be honest,” he readily admitted.

“I know when you’re approaching art how tasking it could be sometimes. I remember looking at (American R&B star) Chris Brown when he was doing his anime stuff, he was doing some designs for his branding and stuff, but he was doing all his original paintings and drawings. He had a nice exhibit.

“At some point I might get there, yes. But the truth is I sat down and did this not just because I had free time but because I was looking at these things over IG, I wondered if people seeing these things so I sketched it and brought it out.”

Garlin said he hopes his art can bring greater awareness to the massive needs of the people of St Vincent following the eruptions. Hundreds of nationals of that country have been displaced from their homes, having to evacuate large sections of the north of the island in the volcano’s wake.

“We want our island neighbours to know we’re with them. We should always try our best to help them. At some point in time, we may need help. Some years ago, St Vincent reached out and assisted Tobago when they needed help. I guess that’s why Tobago was so on hand to assist in this case and, of course, as were many Trinidadians as well.

“Things like these tend to be difficult times for any society of people. What we need to remember is we are all people together, and try our best to nurture that hurt and pain and help them out. If your leg is injured, you will try to nurture that leg back to health because you want it to operate with the rest of the body. If you can’t walk properly and your hand gets injured and your next hand gets injured, eventually, you will be down permanently,” he said, talking in parables.

A family that creates together

Garlin said together with his wife, soca act Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez, and his daughter, Syri, they have been working overtime to not only keep up their spirits but also to keep everyone in their three-member bubble ticking over creatively.

Syri, he said, has begun to explore graphic art as an outlet. The young Alvarez’s artwork is impressive for her 12 years.

“I have been in my own mind, I’ve been in my family’s mind, my wife’s mind, my daughter’s mind. They have been in my mind. And we’re all discovering new frontiers. Of course, you could expect new music soon, in all different variations and forms, which is great. I’m kinda excited with some of the collaborations that’re already completed and ready to go out,” he revealed.

Garlin urged everyone who reads today’s paper to find ways and reasons to push on despite present circumstances and challenges.

“At the end of the day, yes, we’re in a pandemic and its hurtful for everyone, and we can all sit and cry ‘it’s a pandemic’, but it ain’t gonna change the fact that it is a pandemic. From, really, our side of things, what we did is we buckled down, kept a smile going and we kept pushing through. We are human beings, we’re resilient, we were designed with survival in mind. What we did was honour that human code and stay on the fight side,” he concluded.


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