One of the challenges of Caribbean history is that pictures do not exist for the many heroes and personalities we have heard of. Meet Esther Griffith who was commissioned to tell the story of the Caribbean to the world through art on Wikipedia. Esther is a studio painter, illustrator and ceramist from Trinidad and Tobago. She enjoys exploring the visual language of color and form. His art typically features portraits where hyperrealism is juxtaposed with abstraction. The colors are vibrant and expressive; it builds layer after layer, with rich results. His work has been collected by art lovers in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Trinidad and Tobago. She has exhibited her work in Trinidad and Canada. Here is our conversation with Esther Griffith.
How did you become interested in art and painting?
When I was little, I saw my mother sketching people. It interested me in the human figure. Growing up, I became interested in nature…the colors and textures of the world around me.
What was your first reaction when you were chosen as one of the artists for the Wikimedia Unseen project to fill in the gaps?
To be honest, I wondered why me, because there are so many talented illustrators than me. But then when I started researching these characters, it was less about me and more about how to do justice to the subjects of the stories by bringing them more visibility.
What are some of the challenges you face trying to create visuals of these Caribbean characters?
One is the availability of images that can be used as reference images to create the original art. It’s amazing because we live in a time where people can take multiple selfies and post online. However, here we have historical figures who have done remarkable things, but have limited images freely available in the public sphere.
Another challenge is making sure I’ve captured not just the likeness of the person, but their disposition or spirit in this illustration. I wanted to bring them to life.
Can you tell us which are the first 10 Caribbean figures you will create?
I was commissioned by the Wikimedia Foundation to make three. This is Asquith Xavier – was a Briton of West Indian descent who ended a color bar at British Railways in London by fighting to become the first non-white train guard at Euston Station in 1966;