Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | February 9, 2009
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Aeron Cargill - Genius at work
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer

Aeron Cargill

At last July's annual Jamaica Cultural Development Commission National Arts Competition and Exhibition, among the many outstanding pieces of artwork on display, one particular piece entitled 'Roxanne' attracted a bit more attention than the others. It was an exquisitely detailed pencil-drawing portrait that was so outstanding, Minister of Information and Culture Olivia Grange decided to acquire it for Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

The recognition was very pleasing for the creator of that piece, Aeron Cargill, a 24-year-old emerging 'genius' whose work has already been featured in children's books and textbooks.

Producing outstanding work is nothing new for the self-described creative professional, who, in 2001 received the highest scores in visual arts in the Caribbean Examinations Council examinations.

In 2007, Cargill won a silver medal in photography for 'A Dream in Sally's Garden'.

His skill in the visual arts was something his parents first noticed when he was barely out of diapers. "It felt very natural for me, but when I was about three or four, my parents started to notice how my method of drawing was developing," he said.

Early years

The youngest of four children for Cecil Cargill, a haulage contractor, and his wife Zona, a businesswoman, Cargill, in those early years, had already been reproducing images from his favourite comic books and from photographs of family members. He would go on to teach himself how to make superhero costumes and fashion toys from cardboard, including helicopters, and as Batman was one of his favourite heroes, a bat-plane.

"My friends would want to borrow and play with my home-made toys over their more expensive ones," he recalled.

As he moved from St Evans and Dunrobin Prep schools on to Calabar High School, Cargill continued to hone his skills and even earned extra money doing so, drawing images on the schoolbags and portfolios of his schoolmates. His teachers at Calabar, he said, did not try to mould him into what they believed his art should be. Instead, they helped him correct technical flaws that they detected.

He was so focused on his art, some of his other subjects suffered as a consequence. "I remember once, an accounts teacher asked me if I was just going to draw for the rest of the semester," he said as he laughed at the memory. "I told her yes. And that's what I did. I sat at the back of the class and drew for the rest of the semester."


By the time he was done with high school, his considerable skills won him a scholarship to the University of the West Indies - Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts joint degree programme. There, he studied graphic design and was taught traditional black and white photography, using the dark room, by Donette Zacca.

While there, he also taught himself to use Adobe Photoshop, a skill he is also close to mastering. He also claims he was among the first to introduce digital photography as final work at Edna Manley.

While in university, Cargill continued to expand his creative skills and soon, his work began to take on unique characteristics. "It drew a lot of attention," he recalled. "My concepts were more radical than what they were used to seeing."

Cargill explained that students' concepts were usually cultural or erotic in nature, but his usual concepts excited peers and teachers alike. "I wanted to create things that anyone could relate to," he said. His desire gave birth to the concept of using portions of several elements to create a new piece of art. He called it 'chimera', named after a creature in Greek mythology created from the parts of different animals.

By 2001, he began using his technique to create originals. Using his own photographs and his considerable skills with Photoshop, he created pieces like 'The Landing', 'Broken Vessel' and perhaps his most outstanding piece called 'Framed Falls', that he produced in 2003.

Portraiture and illustration

But for all his talent, Cargill's true love lies in portraiture and illustration. One of his first pieces, a portrait of British actress Minnie Driver, was well received by peers who described it as being "alive". Influenced by greats, such as Anthony J. Ryder, Cargill continues to work to master cross-hatching, an artistic technique used to create tonal or shading effects by drawing closely spaced parallel lines at angles to each another.

"I continue to develop my pencil drawing," he said. "There's not too much room to improve, but there are always new ways of presenting."

Cargill is only now beginning to get the recognition his work deserves because it was only two years ago that he began putting his work on display. Before then, recognition came from family and friends who include Robert Paisley, who introduced him to photography, and renowned photographer Howard Moo-Young.

Considering the talent at his fingertips, it won't be long before the accolades begin to come in from far and wide.

Roxanne - Contributed

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