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.
Now that I had the basic idea about the gameplay, it was time to work on the visuals. I had a specific vision of how I wanted the game to look. There HAD to be stylised illustrations to go along with the actual board design as well as the game cards. I approached a friend of mine to do the illustrations for me; he agreed but said it would take some time as he was busy with other projects. This wasn't a huge problem as I wanted the artwork for the final design anyway; in the mean time I used some of my own illustrations.
The last time I really played board games I remembered the board being a single fold design. Since that time however, the quad-fold board has become the standard; as it can be folded down smaller to take up less shelf space in stores. So after some more research I worked out how to make my own using straw board and duct tape.
After designing the board art I got it printed out on paper, now it's time to attach the backing. I pulled out my trusty metal ruler and x-acto knife and got to work. I bought all purpose glue and stuck the artwork down... piece by piece.
Along with the board, I designed and printed the game cards. I had to cut and glue the fronts and backs together myself (to cut down on cost.) After that, the testing continued.
There are countless ideas that I have stored in my slightly over-sized head. Some of these ideas I put in production immediately... most however, are placed on the back burner and stored away to be accessed later. This one was in storage for a few years. I knew I wanted to do some kind of game around or about carnival, but that was it really... wasn't sure of the specifics at the time. The idea resurfaced sometime in mid to late 2014 while I was reading a comic book series. In one of their issues the comic book creators actually created a little board game based to the comic's story and characters. It was simple, functional and fun. It made so much sense to me the light bulb went off in my aforementioned slightly over-sized head and the idea was dropped on the front burner and a match lit. It was literally all I could think of for a long period. I researched how to create board games, I looked at different types of board games (too many to list) but then I realised I would just have to jump in and develop this as I go, which is what I did.
So my initial design was literally drawn on two sheets of paper that were taped together. Next, I needed game pieces and dice. So I asked around and even looked online, then purely by accident, I was walking through the mall and noticed a toy store so I walked in. I looked around hoping to find dice but couldn't find any. I went up to the counter and asked a young lady if they had any; she said yes and pointed to a large jar right in front of her filled with them. I bought four! I also asked if they had in generic game board pieces... but alas they didn't. That's when I noticed a Ludo game hanging on the wall it looked like a knock off version to be honest... BUT... the game pieces were very functional so I bought the $20 game (that also came with a die) and walked out. Then it was time to flesh out the rules and mechanics.