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February 14, 2014
I don’t like to label myself as a ‘graffiti’ artist

His art work has been popping up on buildings, schools, restaurants and shops all over St Vincent and the Grenadines over the past three weeks and people are still wondering who’s been up to the beautiful drawings they have been seeing.{{more}}

SEARCHLIGHT was able to track down the person behind it all and speak to him.

He is Jabari Elliot, a soft-spoken ‘fine artist’, who lets his aerosol cans speak loudly.

Elliott, who came to St Vincent and the Grenadines recently to visit his mother and family, said he has been travelling all over the world to paint and thought to himself that he could not afford to skip out St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I’ve been to all these countries like Argentina, South Africa, a lot of states in the US and I just decided I could not leave out SVG,” Elliott chuckled, during a telephone conversation.

Elliott, who was born in Montreal, Canada, moved to St Vincent when he was just four years old. He attended the Kingstown Preparatory School and after successfully completing the Common Entrance examinations, he attended the St Martin’s Secondary School.

He said he was visiting his friend “Kubi” at Long Wall and asked if he could paint his shop.

“Kubi was cool enough to let me paint his shop and from there, people started realising the work and it caught on. I was waiting to get my barrel with all the paint and then when the 96 cans of paint came, a lot of people began requesting my work, “ Elliott said.

Elliott stated that it might take him approximately two to four hours to complete a painting.

According to the lanky lad, in 1994 around the Christmas holidays, he got a job at the Vincentian newspaper doing layout.

“At the time, things were not as advanced as they are now. So ,around Christmas time, they wanted to fill the corners of the newspaper with Christmas greetings… I drew some things and they realised I could draw,” Elliott recounted.

After realising his potential, Eliott was rewarded with his own comic strip in the newspaper, called “Buzz and Scuzz”, which, he stated, he did for a year.

However, Elliott, the son of mas designer Walter Elliot, who has designed for Mirage mas band in the past, said he moved back to Canada at the age of 15.

“My father really taught me how to draw like when I was five… It kinda took off from there, but I couldn’t really do much here (St Vincent) because we only had like business and science subjects,” he stated.

Elliott recalled, while still a teen, doing graffiti on buildings without permission from owners.

While in Canada, Elliott enrolled at the Etobicoke School of the Arts and that was where, he said, his artistic abilities came to life.

After graduation, Elliott attended Sheridan College to study animation.

“I was in school with people who worked on the movie King Kong and I thought this was the way to go for me…,” he disclosed.

Not too long after enrolling, Elliott said he had a change of heart from animation. “You had to draw 24 frames to get one second of animation and I thought that was a lot of work at the time, but I still learned it,” Elliott further stated.

The young artist said he then switched his field of studies to illustration, in which he now holds a degree.

After leaving school, Elliott worked for the Toronto Star, National Post, Globe and Mail. He has also worked in animation studios such as Cuppa Coffee in Toronto and Smiley Guy.

While working in animation, Elliott said his true love of arts was calling him back and to be with his group, History Unleashes Genius (H.U.G).

“I was still doing graffiti here and there while working in animation, because it knew it was my first love…”

Elliott’s body of work has been featured in a number of publications, hung in prestigious galleries such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, and he has had his own installation in the Royal Ontario Museum.

In his travels to South Africa, where he was an “Artist in Residence,” Elliott said that he did not get to do as much work as he wanted, but noted that it was an experience that changed him as an artist.

Although stating that he can’t turn his back on his past, Elliott said he does not like to be labelled as a “graffiti artist.”

“I call myself a fine artist, because I do a list other things. To have the ‘graffiti’ moniker, it does not help much. Sometimes graffiti gets a bad rap. So, I don’t like to label myself as that,” he added.

Elliott described his work as an expression, not only of himself, but also of society.

At present, he runs a mural company in Toronto and plans to do more travelling to paint.

He is currently in Trinidad and Tobago visiting his father and family.

“It’s all about travelling and painting for me right now. I’m not trying to have kids and a wife just yet. My next trip is probably Italy to see my uncle and paint more there. I want to see the world first,” he said, laughing.

His manager in Canada is Ann-Marie Power and if anyone wants to get work in St Vincent and the Grenadines, they can contact David Sutherland.

Elliott disclosed that he will be back in St Vincent and the Grenadines in December and in February 2015, to celebrate a relative’s 100th birthday.

“So, if you want to get your fence painted, call David and make it happen…,” he said.

Persons can view Elliott’s work on Instagram: @elicserelliott; on Facebook: facebook.com/elicser.elliott and email: [email protected]