A reawakened passion for paint has led Teresa Grimes to her first solo show opening in Cayman on the 14th of this month. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull went to chat with the artist to find out what inspired her to produce her show “Mangroves and Moods’ at Calypso Grill.
Having acquired a degree in classical archaeology and attended art restoration classes post-graduation in Italy, Terry Grimes was inspired to create artistic pieces for herself and thus began a lifelong passion for painting. A busy creative period then ensued before Terry moved to Grand Cayman in 1986 with her husband James Mason, where she eventually opened ‘Mango Mames’ in Coconut Plaza, a treasure trove of artistic work which included paintings, jewellery and knick-knacks.
“It was a great outlet for oil paintings, an area of art not particularly well catered to at that time when watercolours really ruled,” she says. “Oils were my favourite medium and I was avidly painting with them.”
Terry sold her own artwork as well as art painted by local favourites such as David Bridgeman, John Broad, Doug Levey, Petrina Wright and Chris Mann, among others.
Fast forward to 1999 and Terry had a brand new artistic project to undertake – to design a restaurant newly purchased by herself and James – Calypso Grill. Working in tandem with James (he is the king of lighting, she says), Terry transformed the original Morgan’s Harbour location into a delightful Caribbean-hued restaurant that continues to draw a faithful local following as well as tourists in their droves.
“Creating and helping to run Calypso Grill took up a huge amount of my time and still does,” Terry admits.
She made attempts to get back into painting during this time but found locating her artistic rhythm again very difficult. Never-the-less, Terry was determined to get her artistic groove back and so enrolled last year in a three week painting course in Italy’s Umbria region, a land filled with rolling hills and patchwork fields and about as artistically inspiring as it gets.
“Painting in Italy was a fantastic experience. The camaraderie you enjoy and the absence of everyday chores is a wonderful boost,” she confirms. “We worked en plein air (outside) which teaches you to look at something, break it down and simplify what you are seeing and then go with your emotions and paint. You are forced to work quickly because the light is only with you for a certain amount of time.”
Back in Cayman Terry says she forced herself to grab time in which she could enjoy her passion once again and thus a series of paintings began to emerge.
Oils were always Terry’s preferred medium in the years gone by; however she recently discovered acrylics which she says fit in better with her busy schedule.
“It was hard to adjust at first,” she explains. “I had to learn the formula of working with acrylics which is quite different from working with oils, and I’m still not sure that I’ve actually found it yet! Oils are slow drying whereas acrylics dry quickly, which actually helps me record on canvas where I’m going quickly, before I lose my train of thought.”
After her first year in Italy Terry decided she needed to translate what she had learnt into something for Cayman.
“We were taught in Italy to ‘paint from your toes’, i.e. ensure that you give a painting the proper depth to give a rounded perspective. I was puzzling how I would get this across in my paintings here when I happened to be on a boat with my family and it suddenly occurred to me that I could paint my view from the boat – ocean, mangroves, bush, trees,, sky, clouds, the lot,” she explains.
From this breakthrough came a series of paintings for her ‘Mangroves and Moods’ exhibition, a collection of unique Cayman views in acrylics with vignettes in water colours. The exhibition will also include paintings from Terry’s initial trip to Umbria and subsequent trip this year to Terni, just outside Rome. They have been a labour of love for Terry who says she has worked on each piece many times before she has been happy with the final results.
“They start out as sketches, then I might create a water colour of the image and then I apply loose washes to the canvas,” she says. “I then build up the painting in layers. I can get a similar finish to oil with the use of glazes.”
The end result is a charming collection that embraces the use of colour and impressionism with a style so cohesive that a Cayman mangrove would sit on one’s wall equally well by the side of a painting of the Umbrian hillside. All are welcome to the show and all paintings are for sale. Terry says 30 per cent of the proceeds will be donated to the Land Reserve Fund of the National Trust of the Cayman Islands, an important cause for Terry.
“Those mangroves hold our island together and the Land Reserve Fund of the National Trust helps Cayman to preserve and stay in touch with that very important fact,” she says. “Mangroves need all of our support and appreciation.”