ROCKS may not be your typical canvas, but that's not the case for Tami Jardine.
While she never had any formal or professional art training, she has worked on her craft until she managed to turn a hobby into a form of income.
The 37-year-old artist runs a business called Rock Some Love. She paints bright, very detailed and sometimes fun designs on rocks.
Speaking with Newsday, Jardine – who lives in Petit Valley – said her interest in art began when she was a child, describing her family as a "bunch of creators."
"I have always loved art, even as a kid. It would bring me so much joy and I loved doing it in (secondary) school.
"And my family is very creative. My aunt was a Carnival queen, some of my other family members are decorators. It's a family full of creators."
She said her art teachers at Tranquillity Secondary School, Port of Spain, always believed in her and motivated her.
"I always did excellent in art in school. My teachers would always put up my stuff on display at the end of the week.
"I knew that I was good and I had something, but I never thought about it as being more than just that."
She began her art journey by drawing and doodling, but only decided to try painting in 2017. While doing a degree in education at the University of the West Indies (St Augustine), she felt she had neglected art along the way and was eager to get back into it after graduating in 2014. She taught art at
St Andrew's Private School in Maraval for three years, and is now a general, classroom teacher there.
"I felt like, as an adult, I just lost (the ability), because I was never really involved (in art) while I was in school. Then, I'm not sure when it happened but I just started picking up books and try to do little things and learn more techniques.
"It's just such a great way to relax, to calm down, to feel free. That's how I started back."
It was only after a friend shared some artwork by Elspeth McLean that she learned about a technique called dotillism – using small dots to form an image or design.
"I saw it and I immediately said I wanted to try it.
"But in the beginning, it was a hot mess. You have to be so careful.
"But I still found it so mesmerising. I loved what it looked like."
After practising the technique for about a year, she was able to make some of these stunning creations with ease. But she never once considered the possibility of this passion becoming a business. She recalled people asking to buy some of her paintings on canvas, but she only started posting her work on social media to share her creations with friends and family.
"I was just doing it for fun. Selling my work was not even my idea. Somebody asked, 'Can I buy this from you?' and I was like, 'Really?'
"It was not even a thought in my mind. So I only really started selling because other people were interested in it."
Now, the question she is asked most is: Why rocks?
Jardine began painting on canvas, but wanted to try something unusual, and created a Facebook page for the business in May 2018. She said the name simply came to her one day while painting.
"I think rocks are such a cool canvas. I love that it's unusual, it's not what everybody else is doing. You see a lot of canvas work, but you don't really see rocks.
"It's something new and different. That's what I wanted."
She usually collects her rocks from different beaches in Toco.
All of her creations are done by hand, using paintbrushes, which she said many people find hard to believe.
Asked if there are ever times where she would be nearing the end of a project and one minor mistake ruined it, given the complexity of some of the paintings, Jardine said, "In the beginning, when things like that happened, I'd go 'Oh my gosh, I'm never doing this again.' But as you get to do more and more, you get more patient. It taught me not to worry so much. I have trained myself."
While it depends on the size of the rocks, she said a painting can take up to an hour. But she is still able to balance her full-time job and the time she dedicates to art. A lot of her paintings are based on original ideas, but she also accepts commissions and does not limit her work to dotillism. Jardine commonly paints cartoon characters, TV show and movie references and animals, among other things.
"My weekends are completely taken up now. I mean, for summer I wasn't teaching, because school was closed and that was when I had a lot of time and put a lot of effort into my business as well.
"I love it because I could sit down from 8 am and work straight until the afternoon or night, and I wouldn't feel it because I enjoy it so much."
Her aunt Susan will usually sit with her while she's painting on weekends and she said the company helps her a lot.
Art has helped Jardine through several difficult periods in her life. Calling it an "escape from the world," she said it still has the same effect.
Feedback from friends, family and strangers has all been great.
"It has been so good, especially through the (artisan) markets that I have been going to. They have been so successful. And it's not just about money for me, it's also about exposure."
She has been to three markets for the year so far, and is scheduled for three more around Christmas.
Her career in art has been a wonderful experience thus far and Jardine is grateful for all the support.
You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram @rocksomelove.