Public figures inspire Abigail Yearwood's portraits

This portrait of  Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar landed Abigail Yearwood in a political firestorm.
 - Angelo Marcelle
This portrait of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar landed Abigail Yearwood in a political firestorm. - Angelo Marcelle

Nineteen-year-old Abigail Yearwood faced her first critics when she posted a portrait she did of the Prime Minister on social media. She found herself in a political firestorm.

"When I drew the Prime Minister, I got a lot of backlash. At first, there were a lot of positive comments. But then people from the opposing party were upset because 'I only drew the PM and not the Opposition Leader.' A few hours after, I drew Kamla (Persad-Bissessar). I was always planning to draw her. I was very discouraged after all the negative comments and surprised at how people think nowadays," she said.

Yearwood turned to her faith to find encouragement in her art.

"I almost wanted to give up. I went to church the next day and I'm good now. I don't know where the art will take me."

The young artist from Diego Martin is still critical of her own work. "Sometimes I look back on drawings I did five years ago and say to myself, Oh my gosh, that is so horrible. As I keep on practising, I learn new techniques. Sometimes I look on YouTube and see how other artists do it and say that's a good idea and try to improve. I did art at Providence Girls' Catholic School, but I failed it for the exam. I was overly focused on my other subjects."

That setback hasn't stopped her though. As the word of her talent spreads so does the resume. Yearwood is employed as an illustrator with an overseas company.

Abigail Yearwood presents Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith with a portrait of himself at his official residence in St James. - Angelo Marcelle

She has also sold sketched Bible characters to her uncle, who uses them for missionary work around the globe.

"I'm now doing digital art for him," she said.

Yearwood's ability to draw people in identical likeness is amazing, as seen in her drawings of public figures.

“I started since I was about four. I always loved art and I believe the talent came from my father, Richard Yearwood. He is an artist and I am very inspired when I am around him. Her mom Deborah Yearwood is a primary schoolteacher and aunt Avellon Williams is her manager.

"My daddy would give me shapes on paper and teach me to colour inside the lines. That's all I did for a long time. Eventually, the shapes got small and smaller until I had to be very precise with them.

"He then gave me pictures from the fairytale books that I read and told me to draw what I saw. So I drew all the pictures in the book. I entered my first competition in primary school at Diamond Vale Government School. I believe I was about eight, and I drew Sir Ellis Clarke. I came first. Then I told myself that I can do something with this. After that competition, I continued drawing but I also took some breaks in between. But it was my passion for art that made me teach myself through the years."

She began drawing for people at 14, but started selling her art at 17.

Abigail Yearwood shows her drawing of President Paula-Mae Weekes at her Diamond Vale home. - Angelo Marcelle

Usually soft-spoken, Yearwood's voice lifted when she spoke about her love for drawing portraits.

She said, "People like you to draw them. I like it because it’s very satisfying and when the end result looks like the person, I feel proud when I give it to the person and their face lights up. You can see that they are very happy. It’s rewarding. The mountains can’t say, thank you. I like making people happy.”

With over 50 drawings sold, Yearwood has embarked upon a new project: drawing public figures.

"They are well-known people and may be controversial sometimes. When other people see the drawing they can instantly put a name to it and see the likeness."

Abigail Yearwood works on a drawing. - Angelo Marcelle

She has drawn black-and-white portraits, not only of Dr Keith Rowley and Persad-Bissessar, but also of President Paula-Mae Weekes, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, the late Singing Sandra and Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds.

Hinds and Griffith have already received their drawings and had only kind words for the young woman.

"I wouldn't mind doing work for the police service as well," she said of her interest in doing suspect sketches.

All the other public figures have already been contacted so that Yearwood can personally deliver their portraits.

Drawing of Abigail Yearwood's manager, Avellon Williams. - Angelo Marcelle

It takes the artist approximately five to six hours to complete a piece on a 17x14 space. "That's the biggest size I do at the moment. But I'll do bigger soon. In preparation for the interview, I did two last night."

Her goal is to do art for a living.

She said, "The plan is to make a business out of this talent and continue to buy material to improve the quality of the art. I want to broaden the options for people."


"Public figures inspire Abigail Yearwood’s portraits"

More in this section