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Savanna Redman - painter

March 5th, 2013  in Lifestyle

Story and photos by

Dan O’Connor

Artist Savanna Redman would describe her wanderlust life and accompanying body of work as “ever-evolving.” The seasoned traveler has used worldly backdrops from almost every continent—and the alluring experiences therein—to navigate and influence her life to this point. Today, Savanna can be found on Tortola, where she uses the various inspiring environs to influence her canvases, and the soft sandy beaches as her makeshift studios. But tomorrow, it may be back to the rainforests of Belize, rice fields of Southeast Asia, or pyramids of Egypt. For this BVI artist, there is no boundary to inhibit her work.

I met with the Tortola resident at Nanny Cay Beach on a particularly pleasant Thursday in February. We sat under the shelter of Peg Legs’ outdoor beach bar and admired the lapping waves and sophisticated seascape that decorates Sir Francis Drake Channel. It’s peaceful moments like this that drive Savanna to create—be it an oil painting on a 4-by-6-foot canvas or a sterling pendant for a close friend. Her artistic mediums shift according to moods and influences. Asked how she’d describe her work, Savanna said, “Eclectic. I’m all over the place. My style is definite, according to the medium.”

No stranger to the Caribbean, Savanna moved to the BVI in 2003, and has been painting under a trade license since 2005. Her work can be found hanging in various restaurants, resorts and villas around the Virgin Islands.

When she lived in Honduras and Belize, she often worked closely with architects and interior designers on contract jobs to paint murals. But in the BVI, her work has sold more on an independent basis. However, she doesn’t shy away from the occasional odd job. For instance, while Josiahs Bay’s Tamarind Club was closed for season, Savanna painted stingrays, hammerheads and dolphins that now live on the walls of Tamarind’s popular pool. Savanna said she likes to work for clients, but doesn’t like to stray away from her style in order to complete a job.

“I’ll do more sales and get further ahead if my work is coming from the heart—if it’s genuine,” she said. “If someone says to me, ‘Can you draw my grey poodle?’ – that’s not what I like getting into. I feel like as long as I do something I can find inspiring, people can connect with it.”

Currently, Savanna’s paintings sells mostly online and are best advertised on the walls from where they, she said.  However, she comically noted, “There’s only so many walls left on the island.” This is perhaps a driving reason her migration into jewelry last year. After years of sculpting with clay, she recently started dabbling with silver. “It’s playing with fire—what’s not to like?” she said.

Mostly, Savanna draws her inspirations from wildlife and nature. Jaguars, toucans, hummingbirds and orchids grace oil-painted canvases inspired by her journeys to rainforests, and reef fish, dolphins and sea turtles seem to dance with the use of ink and watercolour.

But the intrigue and allure of history have also captivated the artist. Sculpted mosaic masks using recycled materials and seashells and silk paintings create fascinating characters reminiscent of ancient Mayan or Egyptian cultures; old-world nautical charts of the Caribbean and Indonesia feature mermaids and dragons inspired from mythical times.

For the traveled and varied artist, it’s the environment that channels her creative energy. Her muse: the unfolding journey through life.  “I itch for big trees and rainforests — I really miss that — but today we’re here on the island,” she said. “Sometimes, painting on a big canvas— underwater themes or larger than life ones — it’s like being Alice in Wonderland. I feel I’m stepping out of a looking glass every day.”

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