Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

Jennifer Irias works with prints of her childhood photos at her Sandy bay studio.

A Tegucigalpa Artists Moves to the Island

There is a long history of painters moving to tropical islands attracted by the embracing light of the warm sun, luscious greens of the vegetations, and the glorious and inspiring sunsets. A bit like Paul Gauguin, who moved from busy Paris to the island of Fiji, Jennifer Irias made a transition from the bustling Honduran capital to Roatan.

When Jennifer moved to Utila in 2016, her paintings became a bit more geometric and much more abstract. Other canvases were quite realistic and portrayed people that she came upon in her life. “Captain O’Keef, he was such a character,” Jennifer recalls, about the American she painted on Utila. Captain O’Keef is painted in realistic style smoking a cigar… with acrylic, sharpie and epoxy resin. “It’s easy to follow trends, but much more difficult to make something that is timeless,” she says. “Art has to be an escape. It needs to evoke good vibes”.

It’s easy to follow trends, but much more difficult to make something that is timeless

In 2017 Jennifer left Utila to establish her home on Roatan. The island has been a home to several self-taught painters, but Jennifer came to Roatan having studied art in Tegucigalpa for a decade-and-a-half. At 12 she was not only studying painting, but already teaching art to younger students.

Her parents couldn’t pay for Jennifer’s lessons, so in return for lessons and art supplies little she would teach basic art skills to children half her age. This is how she spent the time studying and practicing art at the Estudio Carolina Carias in Tegucigalpa. “It’s not so common for parents to support their kids in what you want to do,” remembers Jen. Parental guidance was an important part in Jen’s upbringing. “Please don’t study art because you wont be able to be making a living,” she remembers her mother saying. So Jennifer ended up studying Civil Engineering at UNITEC in Tegucigalpa and graduated with an engineering degree. Her first out-of-school job was in civil engineering, but she found it boring and continued to paint.

Jen spray paints a wooden frame for her mixed media object.

In 2012 Jennifer had her first works show in an exhibition called “Horizontes.” Waves of Art Gallery also featured her paintings in exposition called “Awake.” In June of this year, the Proimi furniture store in Sandy Bay hosted a “Pop-up art gallery” exhibition of her paintings. Her work has a beautiful symmetry to it and often integrates avian themes. “I just love symmetry,” says Jennifer who is also an avid birdwatcher. Jennifer doesn’t just stick to one type of media: she uses acrylics, sharpies, and resin. On Roatan she began experimenting with gold, silver and copper leaf. One media Jennifer doesn’t work with is oils. “I don’t like the smell,” she says. Her mixed media pallet even included a “Hibiscus bus” a project where she painted a bluebird bus that now takes tourists on tours all over the island. “Try to make art that, in 50 years, you wouldn’t know how old it is. In other words: make timeless pieces,” says Jennifer.

Jennifer also continues to educate aspiring artists. She gives classes at her home studio in Sandy Bay to students 3 to 18 years of age.

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