Graphic artist Jehiah Maduro was born and raised in the Virgin Islands. He recalls first creating art at age five, where he would draw at the back of his copybook in school instead of “paying attention,” he jokes.
He got better and better at it and decided to do the CXC exam in Arts while at the BVI High School. Jehiah pursued a degree in Architecture, one of his other passions, at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.
While Jehiah always enjoyed creating art, he actually got into his current graphic design role by accident. Jehiah wanted to be an architect, but his job search for a career with the Government of the Virgin Islands led him to GIS – the Department of Information and Public Relations, a role he has served since 2001.
Jehiah, for the most part, is self-taught but has done some online courses in graphic arts and animation over time.
His favourite art medium, the artist says the basics – pencil drawing. “It’s simpler. When you sketch something, you can go over it and over it until it’s nice and right.”
The artist graduated from pencil to computer graphic design and is now creating art out of aluminum. His recent commissioned pieces for the Department of Culture showcase a ‘Virgin Islands past’. They are eight pieces made with quarter-inch aluminum.
“There is interaction in each piece. They are not static images; all of them are dynamic and tell a story,” shares Jehiah.
One of his pieces, called “Sunday Morning” depicts a family preparing for Sunday church. The mother has her Sunday best on and is ironing the father’s clothing using an iron goose. The goose is a metal iron that houses hot coals, used to press clothing before electricity came to the Virgin Islands.
Jehiah notes that the father doesn’t have shoes on his feet because “you wouldn’t put on your shoes until you reach your destination,”; a common practice for poor Virgin Islanders who would have only had one pair of shoes if any at all.
On a visit to Raleigh Durham, North Carolina, Jehiah saw a display of a dozen life-sized psychedelic colored cows made from terra cotta. He said that he thought the artwork was cool because of the representation of North Carolina’s culture in a festive and artistic way.
After his trip, Jehiah’s brother Jaron, who is into fabricating tools, bought precision cutting equipment for metal. Jehiah used that equipment to create the cultural pieces, which he said he did to “remind the people about the culture.”
“People are so busy in their lives now; it’s nice to celebrate what we used to do.”
Jehiah says he had the idea for quite some time but never thought anyone would be interested in them until the recent VI Culture and Heritage Week.
The artist said it was his first time making so many complicated pieces all at once, but is excited to create more pieces.
“We have so many different cultural aspects I haven’t touched yet – food, flowers, music, architectural history,” adding, “I really love the art, and I hope people love it just as much as I do.”
Jehiah has his own graphic design business, rightly named Mr. Sketch. Contact the artist at (284) 543-1997.