Early on in development there were certain things I knew my game must have; one of these things is relatable player characters. I remember playing Monopoly with family and friends and there being arguments about who got to be the car or the top hat. I wanted my player pieces to be memorable and for the people playing to have a vested interest in them. That meant developing personalities and back stories. The challenge came in crafting these characters, not so much as stereotypes, but people you could either relate to directly or know of someone who the character would remind you of.
In my first round of prototype development I cannibalized a $20 Ludo game I saw when I entered a game and hobby store looking for dice. I used those player pieces to work out and develop the initial game mechanics.
While testing was in full swing I approached a friend of mine to help with the character illustrations, I told him what characters I wanted and what they were supposed to represent and he went to work. After he completed the line work, I then added the colours and backgrounds. I am very pleased with the result of our collaborative effort. I wanted to work with other talented artists to bring this project to life. The goal of the game is not only about preserving Trinidad and Tobago culture, but showcasing the huge talent pool we have here. With groups like We Does Draw, we have access to some of the best artists in the country who are are more than capable of producing work of an international standard to compete in the global market. Why look any further?
By the time I got to this current iteration of the game, the player pieces had taken on lives and personalities of their own. With the help of a very intelligent and enthusiastic 12 year old, we developed stats and attributes based on the characters' personalities and back stories; this added a whole new dimension to the game and game play. I think that story is an important part of game design, (at least in my game), I believe this adds so much more to the overall gaming experience. While observing play tests, I’ve seen people build on the initial stories and create hilarious scenarios for their chosen characters, making the game infinitely more enjoyable and memorable. The game is not just about Carnival, but also about the people associated with the festival as well. At least, that’s my goal… time will tell.
It was only a few minutes after 6pm, yet there was already a crowd at the venue. As I approached the entrance a smiling face greeted me and directed me inside, where another usher welcomed me and pointed the way into the main exhibition space. I smiled to myself, they had no idea that not only did I already know my way around the space, but I was there a week before helping to paint and prepare it for this very exhibition. As I rounded the corner and entered the main exhibition room the work greeted me; large, bold, beautiful pieces. I have been a fan of Kenwyn's work for many years and it was satisfying to see his hard work and effort on display for the public to see and appreciate. As I walked around I saw faces in the crowd that seemed somehow familiar; where had I seen these people before? Only to look no further than the hanging canvases and realise that the very same angels Kenwyn had painted were walking around the same room as I was. Kenwyn has managed to create a little piece of heaven at #19 Alcazar Street.
The event was well attended and people seemed genuinely impressed with what they saw. Some people stood together in front paintings carrying on discussions, while others stood silently in thought as they pondered the answer to the question placed before them on a small slip of paper; Which piece is your favourite? A few, with cellphones in hand, snapped photos of Kenwyn's Angels no doubt to #portraitofanangel on Instagram or Twitter. There were even a few children in attendance flitting about with their respective parents or guardians in hot pursuit. I spent some time with an old friend who came with her family and energetic three year old son. As we stood in a smaller room with a few more pieces she reached out and grabbed his hand as he tried to run past us; "Oh gosh he have meh tired," she said with a smile as she picked him up. We stood in front of a framed charcoal piece of her and her son, "when we came in just now he said 'mommy look me! Mommy look me!'"
Kenwyn has done something special with this body of work. How many people can say they have a painted portrait of themselves or even a drawing in their likeness? In the age of technology, digital photography and selfie sticks, Kenwyn's Angels stand out as something of great importance; his work represents us as Caribbean people in a light that we are usually not accustomed to seeing or experiencing. Everyone should come, take a walk among the angels and experience the beauty and power of the work.
The sun had set hours earlier, but the heat still lingered as he wiped sweat from his glistening head and invited me to find a seat while he got ready. I looked around his studio and found beauty in the mad clutter. Jars filled with paint brushes and pencils, reference images taped to the walls, crates of art supplies and tubes of acrylic littered the floor. He brought out almost-finished canvases, and set them up about the room, large pieces measuring six feet tall and smaller ones at around three feet wide. I was introduced to the "Angels;" beautiful in their various states of completion. Being surrounded by these images you can't help but feel intrigued, inspired. The one thing that stood out about the work was the colour, not the richness of his backgrounds, but rather the colour of the angels themselves. They looked like me, I felt as though I could even be one. Angels traditionally are not commonly represented as people of colour but rather blonde of hair and blue of eye, surrounded by white light. Not in Kenwyn's world, in his world angels are as varied as the colours on his palette and they are all beautiful. I have known Kenwyn for almost two decades and we have spoken countless times about him having an exhibition and now it was finally happening; and about damned time to! Kenwyn is one of the most gifted artist I know and I'm sure many more people share that same sentiment. He has shown the drive and focus of a man with a specific goal in mind, and he's working his ass off to attain it. If you are curious to know what an Angel looks like, go see Kenwyn Murray's "Portrait of An Angel" at Number 19, Alcazar Street, St Clair from the 13-28 June 2015. More info at his Website or on his Facebook Page.