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Rising Stars: Meet Laura Knight

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Knight.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
After college, I went to work in the financial/banking industry as an accountant and I was so excited because, like most of us, we have an idea of how our life is suppose to go; for example, you would get a degree, get a job in that field, climb the corporate ladder and so forth and so on. The only thing is people don’t tell you that after all that work and student loans that it’s very possible that you could actually hate the field that you spent so much time working towards. I tried to adjust for a few years but it just didn’t work out for me, I felt like I was just going through the motions and not really living a fulfilling life. So I quit. I want to say I quit in October and then that same December I was making some Kwanza gifts and the idea struck me to do some paintings for my younger sisters. When I presented them with their Kwanza gifts, they asked me where I bought it from and were in disbelief that I had made it myself. After that, I just started painting more often as it made me feel good. Then one thing led to another, I started getting invited to different events and festivals and now I do it for a living. It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made to date, my only regret is not taking that path sooner.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
That’s almost laughable. It is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life but also the most rewarding and I think that is also what kept me from making the leap for so long. It’s a vulnerable thing to leave your comfortable salary to start in an industry of which you have no experience and no guarantee that you will be able to take care of your responsibilities. On top of that you will have people in your near circle that will tell you that your making a huge mistake (saying that politely as some will tell you you’re being dumb) and that you should stay the course and collect your paycheck because it’s the sensible thing to do. So by far the road has in no way, shape or form been easy but it has been purposeful and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I really enjoy painting portraits, I like to bring life to historical figures and some of our more popular entertainers that have made significant contributions to the culture. I would assume I’m most known for the historical figures though because I get a lot of commissions to paint activist from different places within the diaspora whether it be from the islands, the Americas or Africa itself it all just depends on where the client is from or what resonates with them. I really like this aspect of my work though because outside of my love for art I also have a certain appreciation for history and this way I can learn as I paint because sometimes I’m not familiar with the subject of the portrait and I make it my responsibility to learn about that era or what contributions that person made to make my client want to pay homage to them with a portrait. I think if I know what the person sacrificed it gives more to the painting because now there’s a passion to go with the skill and technique.

I think that’s what really sets me apart from others because you have some artists that try to do what’s popular but art is something that has to have emotion for it to really inspire a person. I think that’s what makes your creations different because if it were just skill every artist that studies art would be successful. I mean my degree is in finance but I believe that what I do makes a difference and that makes my work more desirable. I feel most proud when kids can see their ancestors in my paintings and know that the same greatness is within them. I recently published some of my collection in a poetry book called “The Depth of Still Water” and had some of them distributed to a girl mentorship group and I don’t think any piece I’ve ever sold can compare to the feeling I got when the girls were discussing and asking questions about the images. I’m not even sure that the word proud even adequately describes that feeling but I do know that my heart felt extremely full and I couldn’t ask for more.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
I’ve learned that if you’re not able to adapt you will get left behind. With artists even though a lot of your work gets sold online people only like to really spend big money with artist they know and are familiar with so you have to sort of be out there. Covid-19 put a stop to a lot of events and exhibitions that you would normally attend so you have to find ways to still be relevant and that can be difficult when you’re use to having your events lined up for the year. So its really taught me to go with the flow and stay creative not only with the art but with the way it gets seen as well. Personally I’ve done series where I record the making of the paintings along with a few facts about the activist as well as publish a book. In a way I would have to thank Covid-19 because otherwise I would not have had the time to do those things.

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