WORK is life and life is work. This is what Naja Simeon said when I asked him how he balances his work and his life. In my last article, readers were introduced to young artist, Naja Simeon, who has completely embraced his passion, art, as a lifestyle. In this article, we’ll explore more about his work, inspiration, challenges and the rewards of his chosen passion.
Projects, Work and Aspirations
Simeon has shared his talent through numerous exhibitions during his tenure at Grambling State University, earning him award recognition for his work, including the Dr. Lucy Mcintosh Award for his painting, Reflections, a second place award for another painting, Titi, and a scholarship award from Bossier Arts Council in Bossier City, Sheveport, Louisiana (sakeyproductions.com). Upon his return from his tour of London, he collaborated with fashion designer and artsist, Luke Walsh, in a joint exhibition called “Passing Reality”. Lately, Simeon has turned his talent into a business, Sakey Productions,which he claims, “produc[es] everything creative.”
Although Simeon has invested much of his energy into branding and marketing his business, he also hopes to bring his work to the forefront of the St. Lucian audience, not only by creating an art gallery to showcase St. Lucian heroes, but also by literally and figuratively leaving his artistic mark through painting several murals around St. Lucia. Not long ago, he gave back to his alma mater Saltibus Combined, by painting a mural at the school and he has already begun his gallery collection. During my time with him, he pointed out one of them, a painting of the late St. Omer. He’s also started what he calls “a travelling portrait gallery in St. Lucia where [he goes]… to different portrait festivals to do five minute portraits of people.” Further, he hopes to collaborate with a poet from Saltibus, Dante Stephen.
As I have argued, it is a great idea to have mentors or people to learn from. Simeon recognizes the importance of having mentors or individuals to learns from, including those whose work and inspiration live on beyond their lifetimes. When I asked about his personal heroes, he told me that there are numerous people that he tries to learn from, including Leonardo de Vinci, since he touches on his interest in engineering and visual arts. The work of Monet and that of Van Gogh also live on in his impressionist style. His favourite artists are deceased, Jean-Michel Basquiat, a New York graffiti artist whom he refers to as “a rebel in his own way” and Shepard Fairey, a mural artist that he admires for “putting his work outside where everyone can see.”
Challenges and Rewards
Like anyone who aspires to fulfill his or her dreams, or leave a mark on society, Simeon also battles with his own challenges in his life as an artist. In his quest to advance in his career, he recently applied for graduate studies in Research Architecture at GoldsmithsUniversity in London, but unfortunately could not attend for financial reasons. Nevertheless, it would be remiss of anyone to claim that such an obstacle would cause this determined artist’s spirit to dwindle. As an art teacher and artist at heart, he fiercely fights the battle to increase art appreciation in St. Lucia, which he claims, “needs to be turned up a notch” while dealing with the exorbitant prices of art supplies.
Yet, aside from the challenges he faces, he had this to say about the rewards of his trade: “The rewards are few in St. Lucia, but there are still many rewards. First of all, you get the personal gratification when you put a smile on somebody’s face or when somebody admires your hand or your work.”
Advice to young people
I love to give the inspiring people that I interview an opportunity to speak directly to young readers, especially those aspiring to start their own businesses or to boldly take their talents to the next level. I wouldn’t be satisfied with the outcome of this article if I didn’t include some of his final words before we parted. This is what he said: “Well one ─ first of all, have goals and not dreams, because dreams can be fleeting, and even if you do have dreams, set goals to reach that dream. And second of all, be stubborn, be very persuasive. If you set up your mind to do something, do it. So if you want to be a fashion designer, try to … draw every day and study books on fashion and go to school if you have to. Make it a lifestyle.”
His friends and family call him Saki, derived from his middle name, Misaki, a Japanese name meaning beautiful blossom. I find his name fitting. We can certainly expect him to blossom in his career.