Artist Gail Pantin sketches on her verandah at Signal Hill.

Tobago-based artiste Gail Pantin is using the lockdown period to expand her work and upgrade her skills. Guardian Media visited Pantin at her residence in Signal Hill, Tobago, where she absorbed the warm morning sunlight creeping into her verandah as she worked on sketches. Pantin has also used the current restriction period to capture sunsets and other images of Tobago life not only with paint on canvas but also with the camera. She offered some advice to young artistes and persons who are now discovering their skills as they have ample time on their hands.

“These days everybody is an artist; there are artists popping up everywhere and this is a good thing since we are all born with some level of talent. In times when money is scarce, artists now have to give more to their patrons,” the artist said. She went on to say that she has to constantly find a cutting edge that would be completely different to make her work marketable.

She said, “I am trying to up my technique, my skills. I would like to advise all the upcoming artists to do the same. Money is something people are finding harder to part with unless they get really good work. People will still buy but give them something more and be unique. Create that special piece that would stand out above the rest.” Pantin said hard economic times call for artists to become flexible, she jokingly added, “Money is money, if I’m getting a job to paint a wall or a chair I would do it.”

Pantin said during the lockdown she has re-started doing a self portrait daily, a labour of love she did for 13 years before travelling to Singapore in the 1990s. She said she keeps busy by painting the scenery, the hummingbirds and the goats that litter the landscape at Signal Hill. Pantin has also done several original postcards with watercolour on heavy paper that depict scenes in Tobago.

Pantin said art education would go far towards the aesthetic development of individuals and allow them, not only to appreciate the creative talents of others but serve as an avenue for people to maintain their sanity. She said laughingly, “Especially now when you can’t get to a bar to relieve the stress of the day, persons with artistic and creative skills can use this to channel their energy and skills, until the good times roll back in.”

Pantin is the daughter of Tobagonian Kevin Pantin while her mother, Patricia, is from Trinidad. Her style of art was greatly influenced by the Caribbean and Asian cultures prevalent in T&T. She attended Holy Name Convent in Port-of-Spain where her interest in Asian culture was ignited. Pantin travelled to Asia in 1995 and later returned to stay for two decades. During this time she travelled and sketched while holding a full-time teaching job in Singapore.

Pantin was also very involved in various artistic projects in Singapore and she would use art to capture various moments of Singapore’s growth and change including the Waterfront from the period 1998-2015.

Pantin said her work is perceived differently through the eyes of varying individuals.