Jonathan Guy-Gladding – Creator of His Own Happiness
Turquoise sea, sandy beaches lined with palm trees and a never-ending variety of exotic plants – small wonder that our artist’s fingers were twitching as soon as he stepped onto the
island nation of Saint Lucia for the first time. No one understands how to capture the beauty of the Caribbean and envelop it in a cloak of vibrant colours like he does. But it is not
just on the island itself that Jonathan, thanks to his works of art, has become a legend.
Jonathan Guy-Gladding spent five years living in what’s probably deemed the most exciting city on the North American continent – New York itself, the city that never sleeps. Here, Jonathan worked as a computer artist
for Sesame Street. Not a bad choice, but for Jonathan it certainly wasn’t the end goal of his artistic career. Then his life took a turn that not even he could have predicted.
From a desire to experience more in life than the volatile, anonymous one offered by the fast-paced American city, Jonathan applied to the Peace Corps as a volunteer and in 1999, was sent to the Caribbean island
of Saint Lucia. He initially spent two years living in the southern part of the island in the coastal town of Laborie, teaching teenagers woodwork. The endless new impressions in the Caribbean couldn’t have contrasted
more starkly to his life in New York. Instead of the hustle and bustle of everyday life in an office, which had so far been the norm for him, here, Jonathan discovered a culture that welcomed him with open arms
and showered him with warmth and sincerity.
The slower pace of everyday life, the simplicity of being and the unique composition of Caribbean colours meant that Saint Lucia became a never-ending source of inspiration. He didn’t need skyscrapers or monuments to
rekindle the desire to paint. Instead, trivial things in his surroundings piqued his interest. The honest smile of a child, an abandoned boat on a secluded beach, school children playing in their bright blue uniforms.
All this moved Jonathan to make art his life’s calling and so he remained much longer than initially foreseen in his service. Jonathan Guy-Gladding has now been living and working on the paradise island of Saint Lucia for
18 years – an unexpected revelation for him as an artist.
“I found in Saint Lucia what artists have always travelled far and near to find – true inspiration.”
The story of an island told in images
It was the Saint Lucians’ pride in their heritage and Creole culture, their sense of community and mutual responsibility that deeply impressed Jonathan Guy-Gladding, giving his work direction. But the panorama
of dynamic green tones and fascinating nuances of blue, the wide palette of warm earth tones and the unique way that light falls on the Caribbean island offer an artist an entirely new source of inspiration every single day.
Jonathan’s work goes far beyond decorative art. Our artist wants to tell a story with his pieces, regardless of whether it’s a tale of the friendliness of the Caribbean population or something trivial such as
the evening light which plays on the silhouettes of the island’s residents. But what makes his pictures so honest is their humanity. His paintings don’t look posed, and instead, offer a real perspective, expressed
with oils on canvas. Often it is these everyday situations that give observers a feeling of familiarity with the country and its inhabitants, without having ever been there. This is how Jonathan offers an intimate
insight that only a few others are party to. He tries to preserve the special feel of the Caribbean and its inhabitants and to express his admiration through his art.
By depicting the people of this island nation, our artist inevitably manages to trigger a feeling of solidarity, so that observers come to know the residents of Saint Lucia in a way that would remain
impossible as a tourist. A technique not mastered by many!
“I believed there was nothing I could do to improve upon what I was seeing there, so the best thing I could do was to paint things as lifelike and realistically as I could.”
From bare canvas to paintings
For Jonathan, each creative process starts with a photo. He then edits it on his computer and uses it as a template for his image. Previously, Jonathan mainly worked with acrylic paints,
but oil-based alternatives permit more flowing transitions. So what simply looks like flat elements are actually precise compositions with fine colour gradations, leading your gaze to get
lost in the painting and discover something new.
Over the years, the style of every artist develops and Jonathan was no exception to the rule. In the past, he was guided by the abstract geometric forms of cubism and it was only later that he found
his true means of expression, with Jonathan himself dubbing it ‘Caribbean realism’. The realistic depiction allows him much greater room to play with his own interpretation of what he saw.
When it comes to choosing colours, Jonathan often works with intensively pigmented shades that reflect reality. Through this colour palette, the artist depicts the joie de vivre and warmth of Saint Lucians
and lends his paintings the paradisiacal flair of an exotic Caribbean island.
Last but not least…
For Jonathan, his life in New York was an artistic dead end. And although the Big Apple is one of the world’s main cultural centres, it failed to inspire him. Yet once he arrived on
Saint Lucia, that was to change forever. Jonathan Guy-Gladding’s portfolio tells exactly this story. It is the tale of a man who discovered an unexpected love of an island.
To him, Saint Lucia is much more than just a holiday resort. The island nation is his daily muse and at the same time, has become his second home. Escaping the cold embrace of New York and
feeling the warmth and kindness of Saint Lucia was an experience that changed him as an artist and drew him on a path to enormous success.
At international exhibitions in the USA, UK and Caribbean, he has already received countless awards, such as first prize at the national exhibition of the Cape Cod Art Association and the ‘Award of Excellence’
and ‘Narrative Excellence’ prizes from the National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society.
But the story of Jonathan Guy-Gladding and Saint Lucia is far from over. The Caribbean island paradise and its residents provide him with inspiration for new pictures on a daily basis. Lovers of his
works can order his pieces from our shop at any time.
Discover more motifs by Jonathan Guy-Gladding