The Secret to a Signature Style: George Rodney’s 60 Year Career in Art
When I was growing up, I knew only one person who didn’t have a “real job”: my Uncle George.
My grandmother’s cousin, Uncle George stood out for his soft voice, his big Afro and his love of sports. I knew he was an artist, but it wasn’t until I saw his paintings in a gallery that I understood.
Uncle George was kind of a big deal.
Forty years later, George Rodney is still one of Jamaica’s most celebrated artists. I love his paintings, both because they depict the colour and beauty of Jamaica’s landscape and for the singularity of his style. I asked him about it and instead of a prescription, I got a gentle reminder to wander.
“I didn’t know where it would take me.”
Six times in an hour, he uses this phrase to describe key decision points. From giving up a potential career in architecture to enroll in art school inspired by the Van Gogh bio, Lust for Life; moving to the US to study fine art; moving back to Jamaica to paint, but spending nine years in graphic design instead. His career has been less linear than I’d thought.
He was near 40 before he had his first major show, before he settled into the colourful semi-abstract style I love.
“It took a lot of time to [get to] this stage,” he says. “It’s a blending of things that are within me. The lines that you see [in my work] come from architecture. The hard edges are from my experience in graphics. All of this has worked itself out of my system and on to the canvas.”
Uncle George’s advice for defining your voice is the same as for getting unstuck: wander.
“When I’m stuck with a painting, not knowing where I should take it, the answer is to put it aside. Forget about it for a while, do something else.
“When you go back to it, the answer is there.”
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