What happens to Art and Culture as it crosses the intersection of Tech and Crypto? In addition, Business in a Global Pandemic, Shutdowns, Innovations… and a super talented young Barbadian Creative making incredible things happen within an emerging space.
…That’s what today’s feature is all about!
Although she’s been a rising star on the Caribbean traditional art scene for quite some time, (we’ll touch on her massive QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLAR tag in a minute), last week she partnered with her husband to successfully penetrate the NFT Art market, selling her first few newly-minted NFTs.
Along with another piece, a 1-minute-high-res token called Survivor was scooped up by Caribbean Art Lover and Crypto expert Gabriel Abed.
The talented Jeena was open and gracious enough to offer us insight and full access into her artistry as we discussed her work.
What’s your background?
My background has always been in the arts. I have my undergraduate degree in Architectural Design and Art History, with a minor in Visual Studies (from the University of Toronto). Before that, I did a year at Barbados Community College in Interior Design. I always loved art and wanted to pursue it, but of course my parents were concerned about it as a career. They wanted me to go into something more secure, so we compromised on architecture. In my last year at university, I decided that I really did not like architecture, so I finished the degree and asked my parents to let me try having a career in art for a year and see how it goes. It's been just over 5 years now.
What does your work aim to say?
My work aims to showcase the best of the natural world (in my eyes), especially those creatures which may not be around much longer. Almost all the animals I paint are endangered, some critically. I really just want to put the focus on them and capture them on canvas while they are still around.
Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influencers would be Iris Scott, Peter Terrin, Monet and Jackson Polluck. The first two are current, living artists and are the main source for my "art as a business" inspiration.
As a young artist, how have you developed your career?
How have I developed my career.
This is a little varied. I knew I needed to stand out. I knew I needed to be known for something. And I knew I wanted to give back (though at the time I did not know what I wanted to give back to).
When I first came back from university with full intentions of starting a career in art, the NIFCA exhibition was coming up, so I painted 3 massive Rihanna paintings. 60" x 80". The largest I was physically able to do due to canvas and other physical limitations.
I figured as a Barbadian, I should paint the most famous Barbadian for this Barbadian exhibition. That got me quite a bit of press attention and people started to notice. A few months later was the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust, an auction that happens annually. A family friend suggested I donate a painting there.
It would be for a good cause, and would place my work in front of people who are accustomed to buying art. I did. My dad suggested I paint a Sir Gary painting because that year he would be turning 80, so I created a large 60" x 60" piece of Sir Gary.
That night changed a lot.
There was a lot of luck involved, but Sandy Lane decided to use my painting as the feature piece for that night's live auction, Sir Gary and his team won the golf tournament before the auction, and Sir Gary actually attended the event. The stars aligned, and that piece raised $130,000 USD. Nation news did a story on me, M People reached out and did a feature, and that's pretty much how I began my career.
Since then, it's been a lot of social media marketing, along with making sure I run my business as a business. Too many artists in Barbados do not treat their art as a business, but as a hobby.
What are your challenges as you navigate the art world?
There are a few:
Barbados really makes it difficult for people. Shipping work is expensive, receiving payments from international clients is troublesome. And supplies in general are way more expensive.
I'm not just trying to increase my business as an artist, but ideally I would like to grow the art industry in Barbados overall. Which means working with artists to create a standard/expectation that they must set for themselves and for their work. It's not always easy but it's slowly working.
As technology advances, I'm finding that less people are using certain platforms (like Facebook) and using others more like Instagram and TikTok. With Facebook, more people take the time to engage with your posts. With Instagram and even more so with TikTok, users scroll through so fast, they see your work for a very short time before moving on. I do find I have better engagement which results in more sales through Facebook. But with the world moving towards platforms that encourage a shorter attention span, I'm going to have to really reevaluate the way I market my art.
Let's Talk NFTs. How has your experience been so far diving into that part of the art world?
It has been fun, and a little confusing, I'll admit.
In truth, my husband was the one who pulled me into this world. He loves tech and is always looking at what's new. In late January he told me about NFTs and we looked through it briefly. In February, as you know, we had another lockdown thanks to COVID.
While I was out of my studio and getting bored at home, we decided to start making some of my work into NFTs. So I basically created the art and he minted it. It's been interesting and exciting for sure.
I'll be completely honest and say that if I had to do the whole process myself, it would definitely take me a lot of time to figure out. I haven't yet gone through the process myself, BUT, it's something I plan on learning during our ashy days here so that I can completely handle it on my own.
We're interested- what was it that drew you to NFTs?
Well, a few things.
There really hasn't been a great platform for selling and appreciating digital art before so this is a way for some very talented artists to put their work out there and get paid for their worth. Plus, once a piece of art sells, it is usually just gone.
If it resells, you don't always know where it's going, and you usually don't get anything after the initial sale. NFTs are a way to give the artist more "power". They have control over royalties. They actually get something if their art appreciates and resells.
AND, importantly (for me), an artist can see who has purchased their work.
Is it something you'll be working on exclusively now?
OH DEFINITELY NOT!!!!
My heart still lies in the physical world. The tactile nature of paint is so much more intriguing to me than what can be digitally created. I love the feel and texture of originals too much to stop physically painting. Plus, my digital art is based off of my physical paintings. I do find NFTs very exciting, so I plan on moving forward with both.
What's next for Jeena Chatrani? What are you working on?
Well honestly, I would love to open an Art Gallery. Right now I'm thinking solely online, but I'm working on it.
What advice would you give to fellow young Barbadian artists interested in exploring this area?
To any fellow artists (young or old) looking to get into NFTs… DO YOUR RESEARCH!
There's a lot of basic things about NFTs (like gas prices and royalties) that most people don't think of when thinking of selling digital art. If ever you plan on working with someone where you provide them with the art and they handle everything else and pay you when something is sold, make sure you really trust that person, or that you've done your research, so you know what is involved.
And have fun creating.