Working across the mediums
Artist Tai-Quan Ottley’s first sale at 16, was to a former premier. The mixed media portrait was of himself, tearing through a map of Bermuda. It caught Ewart Brown’s eye when it was hung at the Premier’s Concert; Dr Brown began making inquiries into the purchase.
Mr Ottley, now 27, told The Royal Gazette: “That was my first sale — to the Premier. It gave me a lot of confidence. He gave me a check for $500 which was a good bit of money.”
Mr Ottley has built on that success in the years since. He is currently working on a large-scale mural on Church Street near the entrance to Par-la-Ville car park, commissioned by the City of Hamilton. Spread along a 50-foot stretch of wall, it is nostalgic scene focusing on activities Bermudians traditionally enjoyed.
Mr Ottley explained: “I proposed to paint different outdoor activities, the things we used to do when we were younger like marbles, tops, jacks, kite flying, hopscotch and jump rope — everything we used to do before the internet. I know someone who has a couple of kids and she has to force them to get out and play, but when I was younger my mom had to scream my name to get me to come home.
“I didn’t have video games until I was about 8 years old. I started playing Nintendo but even then we still got outside and did some exploring. It is healthy to get fresh air and exercise.
“The reason I am doing this is to encourage people to have fun outdoors rather than sitting up on their phones or computers all day.”
Mr Ottley honed his artistry in high school, at CedarBridge Academy, and at the Bermuda College where he studied towards an associate’s degree in art and design. He was raised in St George’s. Creativity runs in his family. His father, Carlos, is artistic and his sister, Chakeya, is an interior designer.
Mr Ottley, spurred on by that first sale to Dr Brown, gained numerous commissions because of his lifelike portraits.
He enjoys working across multiple mediums including pencil, pastels, charcoal, acrylics and watercolours.
He has featured in many exhibitions, including solo shows at Bermuda College in 2012 and Homer’s Café at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in 2015.
His work has also shown in the now defunct Windjammer Gallery in the former Bluck’s store and The Dragon’s Lair Gallery in St George’s.
In 2016, he completed a mural for Anthony Correia, whose wife, Patricia, has Alzheimer’s disease.
Mr Ottley, who met the family through caring for his own aunt with the same condition, painted a large mural of an idyllic Italian street that the Correias visited, to help her remember the vacation.
Colourful floating balloons feature in a mural he painted near the bus terminal in St George’s; another offering an aerial view of Bermuda sits near the Church Street mural he is working on.
At the moment, he paints roofs for a living, but his ambition is to be a full-time professional artist.
“I want to focus on my own website, I am building up a portfolio of images. I want to travel the world creating artwork and be happy doing it. I am trying to create a happy life.”
His advice to aspiring artists?
“Work hard on your craft; there is no right way to do it in art. I like seeing other people‘s art, but I always try to think of something of my own, something unique and different.”
• See Tai-Quan Ottley’s work on Instagram: @taiottley