Oct. 2, 2005 "My paintings remind people of their childhood days. They bring back memories," Joffre George said. "They are a reflection of my life growing up."
This passionate, self-taught artist creates beautiful paintings that remind people of a simpler time. George's paintings are of West Indian market scenes, fisherman loading and selling their catch, well-rounded buxom women and lean men going about their daily chores or just relaxing, island-style.
George was born in Dominica and came to St. Croix 14 years ago. He recalls life growing up in Dominica. "We used to go to the river and bring back water in buckets. We carried wood for cooking," he said. "There were some who were well off; they had stoves and refrigerators, but we did not." George said that was in the early 60's.
You can find George most days at his store, West Side Designs, on King Street in Frederiksted. "Frederiksted reminds me of home," he said. "I love the setting. I love the atmosphere. It's like I'm home." George said the town of Portsmouth in Dominica is much like Frederiksted. "People come here and say, 'this is just like home,'" he said.
The store has novelties and tourist souvenirs, but dominating the space is George's computer equipment and enlarging machines.
"This was my dream to market my art to the world," he said.
He uses the massive machines to reproduce his artwork. The picturesque paintings are transformed into post cards, tiles, magnets, greeting cards and placemats. "People want different things, I make prints of the paintings, attach them and glaze them," he said. "They can just stick them in their suitcases and take them home."
George has two printers; one can reproduce up to 24" by 36", and the other can make banners and posters up to 36" wide and up to any length. They can make reproductions on poster paper, vinyl, fabric and canvas. During election time legislative and gubernatorial hopefuls come to him to make banners and posters.
"There is a lot of work involved in art," George said. He used to send his work out to be mass-produced, but it became too expensive. He said he looked into getting his own equipment and taught himself the computer programs needed to reproduce his work. "I made my first print in 1994," he said.
George said his brother inspired him to take up the artist brush at age 14. "He is an artist," George said of his brother. "I admire his work." George said his own first attempt at painting was not as good as he hoped it would be. He said he took a few classes in perspective and shading and soon developed his own style.
People recognize the distinctive style of George's paintings. He said once when he was selling his reproductions at a Starving Artist Day at Whim Museum, someone came up to him and told him he'd been a fan of his work for 12 years and was happy to finally meet the artist. Another told him that he saw his work hanging in a home in Michigan.
George beams when he talks about people recognizing his paintings and tells him about seeing his art work in various places all over the globe. "I'm not really looking to be popular," George said. "I just like to know that people appreciate my work and it goes all over the world."
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