For many artists, the digital sphere has been a necessary tool in reaching larger audiences and sidestepping possible gatekeeping from institutions. Instagram, with its emphasis on all things visual, has been particularly helpful.
Since the 2018 rollout of a feature that allows users to share other peoples’ posts in their Instagram stories, profiles on the social media platform have become reminiscent of the blogs on LiveJournal or Tumblr, with personal posts placed between music suggestions and images meant to boost an imagined aesthetic. Queued after videos from, say, a hike or a meal, you may catch the work of an unknown artist your old friend or little cousin admires — and find that, after visiting the artist’s profile, you admire them, too.
ALL ARTS has always been a platform meant to bolster the work of artists through a supportive community that transcends genre, and the ALL ARTS Instagram is no different. Every week, we feature posts from creators in the digital space on our Instagram stories. And now, with the aim to foster our arts community, we’re talking with a new artist every week in our new series: Artists of Instagram.
Meet Ricardo Edwards (@piratebwoy), a 26-year-old digital and traditional oil painter based in Kingston, Jamaica.
Edwards’ interest in art began as a child after seeing his dad’s and uncle’s artworks. He took to copying their projects, and the rest is history. Though he did not attend a formal art institution for his education, Edwards said: “Sometimes I do wonder if there is such a thing as a ‘self-taught artist.’ I’ve learned a lot from different places, books, videos and observing work that was created long before me. Formal or not, we’re all students of something.”
We spoke to the painter about his work, his inspirations and what art means to him.
What does art mean to you? How does it fit in your story?
Art is my story. This is my life, it’s one of the only things that makes me feel alive. I can’t imagine myself living differently; it keeps me sane. I’m stubborn — I decided really early that there would never be a Plan B. This is it: Art or nothing.
How would you describe the type of art that you create?
I’m a digital and traditional oil painter. I’m heavily inspired by my reality, life experiences and culture. This bleeds through my work when observing the subject matter, colour choices and overall energy of the pieces I try to bring to life.
How has social media and the digital sphere helped you with your art career?
I have a WiFi symbol tattooed on my left arm, and that’s because I started this thing with a piece of paper, a pencil and a WiFi connection. Most of the things I’ve accomplished are because of how I utilized social media — jobs I’ve done, people I’ve met, flights I took and the places I’ve been. If you’re a creative with little to no resources, the internet is your friend.
How has the current global climate affected your art?
A few things got postponed. However, I’ve gotten the time to sit down and really focus on myself and my work. I’m genuinely in love with the art I’ve been creating. I can’t wait to share.
How do you find inspiration?
It’s always there. My environment is my biggest inspiration. The smallest of things get me excited, I just have to act on it. Action then inspiration.
What other artists inspire you?
I like Kadir Nelson, Kim Jung Gi and James Jean.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Be very careful of the narrative you feed your mind. If you think you are less than, your actions will reflect that. Whatever story you tell yourself, that’s what you’re going to believe. Be gentle with yourself; you’re you and that’s the best thing you could possibly be. Work at your own pace, express how you feel, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, be kind, make sure your steps are pure, love hard and live life to the max.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Top Image: Courtesy of Ricardo Edwards.