The Northern Range is sumptuous and nurturing as she cradles the western corner of the capital city. The rainy season shaped the Range into a palette of greens that is dusted with gold leaf by the afternoon sun. This isn’t a description of an imagined composition painted by Peter Sheppard—who’s known for condensing majestic scenes into miniature art—this is the view from his cozy patio perched on Fort George in Trinidad.
Sheppard was born to be a painter. His parents, Stephen and Margaret, painted and encouraged their children to paint. “I remember Christmas and birthday gifts were usually three small canvases and a pack of paints.” He would cut the 5”x7” gift canvasses in half. Sheppard often toured Trinidad’s mountainous and coastal terrains. “My dad used to drive me around on long drives across Trinidad,” shares Sheppard. The natural splendor of Trinidad he encounters is weaved into enchanting lush landscapes that exist only in his mind.
In Form 4 he studied technical drawing. “I was doing building drawing rather than mechanical drawing; I was attracted to perspective, and box houses were one thing I used in my perspective practice.” Those simple houses helped him develop a comprehension of perspective and sense of depth.
On his first attempt to get noticed by Hilliard Society of Miniaturists in Wells, Somerset juried show, Sheppard’s work was rejected because the surface of his paintings was a distraction. “I paint on canvas paper and the pores of the canvas were a distraction for them,” he explained. The second year he submitted a monochromatic quartet from his “Blue” show—all four sold. “It’s West Indian-themed but the way it was presented was contemporary.”
In 2013 his submission was mounted on smooth masonite board. He lathered them in gold then applied his landscapes. Sheppard describes: “I was painting with a smile on my face. I enjoyed painting the details with the gold luster underneath. I sent them to London with such good energy.” Then he got a phone call with an unofficial announcement that he is being awarded the Sue Burton Memorial Award for Best in Show. Jackpot! Sheppard’s third attempt beat 80 competitors, earned him £1000 and coveted recognition. Proof that it pays to stay inspired.
Isaiah Boodhoo and Carlisle Chang are artists Sheppard admires, but he credits the late Wayne Berkeley, who designed theatrical sets and costumes, with inspiring his technique. The handling of the painting is very delicate, controlled and time consuming. All the things I’m telling you are the complete opposite of my personality type.”
It’s a painstaking process. Sheppard recalls a comment heard: “Dat is mad people work.” But to his collectors, Peter Sheppard is madly in love with creating miniatures that reflect his fascination with “all things to do with the Northern Range.”