Speyside High School student Israel Melville, 15, just needs a paintbrush, paint and canvas to be happy.
“I eat and dream art,” the form four student told Sunday Newsday.
Last Monday, Melville, originally from Argyle, but currently residing at Delaford, had the distinction of presenting one of his paintings to THA Secretary for Education Zorisha Hackett. The painting is titled Caribbean Constellation.
Hackett visited the school on Monday alongside Chief Secretary and representative for the area, Farley Augustine, as well as other education officials.
Melville said his artistic inspiration began at age seven. He said his cousin Casey Daniel, who is an art teacher at the Roxborough Secondary School, had started a men’s boutique, near his home in Argyle, where she designed the fabrics for sale.
“I was captivated by her work, and she began designing fabric for queen pageants. I was always around her, so I started drawing anything that came to my mind on paper.”
Melville said he always knew art would be part of his future and he took that into consideration when writing his Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination.
“I had the opportunity to further my artistic development when I entered secondary school. Speyside was my first choice for a secondary school because I knew of the reputation they had in art.”
Speyside High School has won six of the seven Chief Secretary Secondary Schools art competitions, from 2013-2019.
Melville said his artistic side thrived in secondary school.
“Attending Speyside was a blessing for me.
"Miss Avion Orr, who is my art teacher, is my favourite art personality. She is always looking out for me, I like her personality and she always encourages me to try new things, and I always come first at exams in her class.”
Melville said he loves abstract painting, but he is not a big fan of competitions. Nevertheless, he entered the Port Mall Christmas competition in 2020 with the piece – Traditional Bamboo Bursting, which placed second in the under-15 age category.
Although art is his passion, Melville participates in a couple athletic events.
"I do a little shot put and discus for the school, but my time is taken up in art. I am always putting my vibes and dreams on paper and thinking of my next artwork."
He said painting offers an incomparable source of joy and relief.
"Art is like a therapy session for me. It’s like a mental health programme. It helps to relax my mind, get away from life stress and delve into my creative energies.”
Melville, who comes from a humble background, hopes to see his art collection at an exhibition in the near future.
“I have done many paintings, and part of my ambition is to showcase my work in an exhibition, where people see and appreciate what I can do, and also sell some of my creations. But the problem is, I don’t have the money to buy the things I need to start.”
Melville's close bond with his cousin and art teacher have shaped him tremendously, and he wants to follow in their footsteps.
“My ambition is to be a teacher. I would like to help students who have the passion for art, to fulfil their goals.
“It is also my way of giving back to society, as an appreciation of what was given to me, and it will allow me to do what I love."
Orr beamed when asked to describe Melville as a student. She said, “Melville is blessed, art comes naturally to him, he loves everything in art. When he has a free period in school, he is always in the art room.”
She said Melville is one of the most talented art students she has ever taught.
“I have been a teacher at the school for 15 years, and I have interfaced with many talented art students, but you always have to push them towards their potential.
“With Melville it is different, there is no static, he is always coming with ideas. He is most talented and willing. I will be pursuing a scholarship opportunity for him.”
Orr said she did not think twice to assist Melville with material for his work.
Alice Frith of Argyle, mother of Melville, told Sunday Newsday, “I am very proud of what my son has achieved, and I see he is getting better.
"I observed his potential from four years old. When most children wanted toys, he was always interested in drawing books and crayon. So I always had to go by the bookstore to buy those things for him."
She said she still assists whenever he asks for help for his art.
She said she is 100 per cent in support of her son's artistic expression.
Melville lives with his father Gerod Melville, who is employed as a mason in the works division of the Tobago House of Assembly, and is also a part-time fisherman.
Gerod said, “Israel is my only child who take to art. He used to do a little thing in Belle Garden Primary School, but since he going Speyside, like his teacher see some potential in him and she really pushing him.
“Of late we have been talking about going into the business aspect of it, because everybody who sees his work, they are surprised by the quality and tell me to encourage him.
“I have seven children to see about, so things little hard, but me and his mother does do we best to give him what he wants to continue in the art, because I feel he could reach somewhere in it.”