INTERVIEW: MARIA TYRRELL, artist behind DE LA ANTIGUA

Today’s interview is particularly special as I ADORE this artist! Born and raised in Antigua, the uniquely named Maria de la Antigua Tyrrell has recently launched her business to bring her talent to the world.

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Maria’s art is quirky, bright and playful and when you meet her you will just want to HUG her. Quite unaware of her talent, Maria unassumingly told me of her characters and their stories and the world in which her art is beginning to flourish. She says her parents were quite eccentric in the naming of her and her siblings, so the name of her business ‘de la Antigua’ taken from her own name, is a nod towards them.

Her creativity has recently been thrust into the limelight through the launching of her full time career in art and her first exhibition at the Antigua Yacht Club Art Show.

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Maria left Antigua for secondary school and university education in the UK. Now she splits her heart between the two islands. “Without the crickets and tree frogs in England it is just so quiet” she says and admits that she has been homesick for Antigua when she is there and just wants to run back home. “What do you miss about London when you are here?” I ask. “Art galleries: the Saatchi, Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery” she says without hesitation.

As a child she dreamed of evolving into a mermaid! However the middle child between 2 loud siblings left her quietly expressing herself through art. Teachers at a predominantly academic school in the UK didn’t embrace creativity, so she followed a different path eventually becoming a teacher herself at St. Nicolas primary school in Antigua.

Nowadays her art has taken over, with commissions for furniture painting and her upcycled pieces and gift cards selling out fast. Her feet are firmly on the ground yet her imagination is swimming with the mermaids – her art sings of the sea and the vibrancy of the Caribbean. Meet Maria:

– Can you describe how you discovered art as a career?

‘Art as a career’ is something I have only very recently found the courage to pursue. I have always done things here and there such as tattoo designs or logos, but mostly my art was confined to endless boxes and folders in my house, or found scattered across the walls and shelves of various friends and family members. Until now, that is. It’s a scary thing leaving a ‘proper day job’ with a guaranteed pay cheque and having no clue how your new venture may be perceived, but it felt like the right time. If not now, then when? 
– What did you love to draw as a child?
When I was a child I went through many deeply committed drawing phases. There was a stage when I only drew cross-sections of various fruits (resulting in a house full of half eaten produce), or another when I focused mainly on horses. I’ve always loved drawing animals. As a child I had many subjects at home to choose from – cats, dogs, parrots, rabbits, horses, donkeys, monkeys and more. My biggest artistic love affair was probably with mermaids. Whenever I was asked what I was going to be when I grew up I would respond with, ‘Mermaid drawer, obviously.’ Unfortunately one day this dream was shattered when I was told that this was not actually a legitimate or ready-made profession. As you can imagine this devastation hit me pretty hard and I was forced to re-evaluate all future life plans…
– How is your art is inspired by life in Antigua?
Antigua is a very inspiring place for an artist. Every day I see colours, shapes and animals that make me want go running home to make something new. 
– What do you love about creating art with different art supplies and objects that you find?
More and more these days I am making pieces using things that I have found – driftwood or objects from the beach, scraps from construction sites, things that other people have tossed away.. (One man’s trash.. and all that jazz.) It is a very satisfying feeling knowing that you have given life to or created something new out of some discarded material that another person might not have looked twice at. 
– How has your style evolved over time?
In some respects my style has changed a lot over time, and will continue to do so! I love experimenting with different mediums and materials. What has remained consistent is my focus on careful detail and my compulsive need for clean lines. Part of me would love to be able to throw paint around in some kind of explosive Jackson Pollock-esque fashion but it just isn’t me. I’ve always been rather fastidious and particular so I’ve learned to embrace it when it comes to my art. 
– Can you describe a typical daily routine for you when you are creating a piece?
My typical routine when creating a piece usually involves hiding away with my cats Rags and Kittie Inception, and excessive amounts of tea! I find that I get my best ideas and bursts of energy at night so sometimes end up covering the house in paint or ink at 3 in the morning. I’ve learned that it is important for both my back/posture and sanity to take breaks though. For this I try to get myself out of the house and go down to the beach for a swim (not at 3 in the morning of course). It’s nice and invigorating, as well as allowing you to step away for a little bit and return with a fresh set of eyes.
– Where do you go to seek inspiration in Antigua?
Everywhere! You can see cool and interesting shapes and colours wherever you go. Whether it’s the beach, the supermarket, town, the country, wherever.
– What is the most challenging part of your work?
The most challenging part of what I do is finding the bravery and nerve to show it all to other people. I’m very grateful to my boyfriend who has really pushed me to move out of my comfort zone and get over my fear of the dreaded social media with a Facebook page, Instagram account etc. And he was right to do so. As much as my shy and introverted self finds it all very awkward and strange, if I don’t put my stuff out into the world then I will never be able to make a solid career out of doing what I love so much. 
– Where can we see and buy your art?
Right now my art can be seen on Facebook de la Antigua or you could check out my Instagram account – delaantiguaart. Contact me directly in order to purchase already existing pieces or commission something unique. Once the season gets going my work will be available in several locations.. Stay tuned!
– Finally, where is your favourite view in Antigua?
What an impossible question! Hmm… So many to choose from… I have to say that there is something special about turning that corner when you look down and see your first glimpse of Half Moon Bay from the top of that hill. Reminds me of being little and the epic exploring missions we would go on with my Dad. 
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