MASTER CLASS: Watson (centre), with students Katrina Abrahams and Sebastian Elliott; (below) Elliott and Abrahams catch up.
On reflection Barrington Watson is well aware that his life could have turned out a hundred different ways, given the myriad talents he developed as a youth. But, ultimately, the lure of the art world proved too powerful for him to resist, reeling him in like a prize catch.
“I chose to be an artist but my father wanted me to become a lawyer. I was a good footballer and had many opportunities to play football in England, and I could have done just about any other profession. But I found art to be the most difficult,” explains the legendary artist, who relishes the thrill of conquering creative challenges. “I like to be challenged, and it’s interesting to do things that in the beginning you never understood. You find out. It’s a talent I have been given, and by gaining knowledge I was better able to use my talent.”
TALLAWAH spent time talking with Watson on Thursday evening at the well-appointed Gallery Barrington on Old Hope Road in St. Andrew, as a couple of his most talented students – Sebastian Elliott and Katrina Abrahams – joined him for the Kingston On The Edge session, “From Master to Student.”
Undoubtedly a master of his craft with the iconic body of work, the prestigious accolades and international acclaim to show for his 50-plus years in the art business, Watson makes visual art seem as effortless as a layup. But, by his own admission, nothing could be further from the truth. “It’s never smooth sailing. You have to dig deep. Before I became successful I had to do quite a few menial jobs to stay alive,” he reflects. “But the greatest thing I experienced through doing art is that it takes you to all levels of society. There was no question about class, uptown, downtown. Art crosses all the lines.”
Lighting up the room in a sunshine-yellow shirt and warmly greeting guests as they come up to his chair, the 84-year-old visionary says he finds joy and takes immense pride in “imparting knowledge” and seeing his style and techniques reflected in work produced by his students.
For their part, Abrahams, 38, and Elliott, 30, know how incredibly lucky they are to be able to sit at the feet of one of the world’s greatest living painters. “He’s a teacher at heart; a very patient and giving man,” is how Abrahams describes her beloved “Barry.” Adds Elliott, “I see him as someone who not only teaches but encourages you and gives you guidance. He’s a very humble man, but he doesn’t believe in second place.”
For all his accomplishments and living-legend stature, modesty becomes Barrington Watson. Still, he’s not afraid to toot his own horn every now and again. “I think that as an artist I achieved what I set out to achieve,” says Watson, who is nearly finished working on a piece titled “The Bathers of Roselle”. “And what I have seen from history is that I am better than a whole lot of other artists. And I’m not unhappy about that.”