Like all true artists, there is something about Naja Simeon that captures you when you engage him in discussion. Some may consider him somewhat a “rara avis”, a rare bird, one who is appreciative of his surroundings, and who brings it to life on canvas.
Naja, 31, describes himself as a young creative artist, who, at every opportunity, makes the best out of life. Naja has been painting for a number of years now, from “yay high” in fact, however, has been painting seriously for an estimated four years.
“I like to look at things. I like to gaze at things sometimes. Sometimes people call me rude but I have always been appreciative of the way things look or work, so I stare at them and then I could easily redraw them. People have always told me, ‘you’re good at this’,” he said thoughtfully.
His work is evoking, passionate, vivid and sincere. The skilful painter aspires for his work to be known, and not necessarily the face behind the painting. He referenced the work of acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey.
“Shepard Fairey, he’s probably someone you know, or have seen his work, but you know nothing about him. Like him, I want to be able to have my work out there in such a vast way that it touches everybody but you will not even know who I am,” the artist said; he also spoke of his love for another respected painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The painter is looking to build his brand, “Saki Productions”,the name “Saki” stemming from his second name, “Misaki”.
Naja, who studied Engineering and Fine Art at Grambling State University, is currently an educator at the Gros Islet Secondary School, where he teaches Visual Arts, a task which proves to be somewhat challenging at times, as some students fail to realize its importance.
“Everything around us is designed by somebody, by an artist. Art is in everything,” he emphasized.
He enjoys painting many different things, especially man and the environment. His work has been displayed at various exhibitions in places like London, Louisiana, Trinidad and Saint Lucia amongst other places. In Saint Lucia, his work can be found at Island Mix Art emporium in Rodney Bay.
When he’s painting, he likes to be surrounded by information, the welcoming sounds of artistes like Ed Sheeran, Bob Marley, Major Lazer or an audio book. At other times, however, he enjoys working in an atmosphere of quietude.
Taking me back to his boyhood days, his glory days, Naja painted a colourful mental image of his hometown, Saltibus, which has inspired a number of his paintings.
“Growing up in Saltibus, it’s the most amazing thing because you grow up on the farm, you grow up by the river, you grow up to hot bakes and cocoa tea and hot coffee; most of the time I prefer coffee over cocoa tea. It’s just country life,” he recalled fondly.
When questioned on the best piece of advice he has ever received, he responded, “You have to be willing at any moment to give up who you are for what you can become,” a quote by motivational speaker Eric Thomas.
“So in a sense I’m never content with who I am I’m always on a quest for new knowledge, new skills, new insight, meet new people and do new things,” he added.
When he’s not painting, he’s “teaching, planning lessons, listening to music, hiking, sketching someone, or taking pictures.”
For Naja, greatness and improvement are primary. “If I die tomorrow what will I leave behind for the world? I’m trying to achieve greatness in the next painting. Every painting that I’m working on nextis the masterpiece. That’s how I push myself.”
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