Living Beautifully With Art - Clayton Rhule

 Art filled Staircase in the home of Clayton and Tanya Rhule

Art inhabits the home of artist Clayton Rhule, alive and present within the walls. We begin our “Living Beautifully with Art” series with him, and the home he has made with his wife, Tanya, in Trinidad. The designer couple collects for their love of Caribbean art, as well as to support their fellow local artist community. Clayton Rhule is a born artist himself. In Jamaica, he was raised within a family of painters, designers and ceramicists. Today, Rhule is an accomplished sculptor and furniture designer, owing his talent to the richness of art inherent to Jamaican culture. He and his wife; a Caribbean-born visual artist herself, and their two toddler sons, live among a menagerie of works by Jackie Hinkson, Brianna McCarthy and Paul Kain to name a few.

Clayton, Tanya and children Shiloh and Zayn. Photo Credit: Kelly-Ann Bobb

What was your approach to creating a home filled with Caribbean Art and Design?

We have been living in our home since we got married seven years ago. Before that, I was collecting and building things. I had some pieces that I bought at antique stores and yard sales. I had also made a few pieces, so we had a starting point. Over the next couple of years, we just started collecting things that appealed to our aesthetics, whether art or just objects. Also, we both were creating. My wife is a great painter, she doesn’t share the work, but it's something to behold. 

Our home represents our combined taste. It has evolved a little since our kids were born, but we still manage to keep it feeling like us.

We are very interested to dive into your art collection. Can you share some special works with us and tell us about the artists you support? 

A lot of people buy fancy shoes and clothes. I buy art. When I am in those situations, It feels impulsive. I see a piece of art, I get a feeling about it, and so I buy it. It’s a problem, but a good one. 

We have a small drawing done by Jackie Hinkson. It portrays an old lady with bags on her back. It seems to be pulling her down, but she is resolute. It's one of my favourites because of how honest the pencil strokes are.

Artwork by Jackie Hinkson

There is a large Brianna McCarthy piece that sits along the steps, leading upstairs. Its hand sown, made up of pieces of fabric with different patterns. The fabric combines to create an eclectic collage of sorts. This piece is bold and powerful. I think it's one of the defining pieces from Brianna, and I am happy to have it in our collection.

Artwork by Brianna McCarthy along the staircase 

There is a Paul Kain drawing that is hung on the main wall of our living space. The image is a profile of a man running, with two containers in hand. There is a genuine feel to the subject. The image places you there as an observer. Paul as a way of telling a very detailed narrative with just one frame. 

Bottom- Paul Kain. Top (L to R): Ryan Huggins, Parker Nicholas, Adele Todd, Annelie Solis, Clayton Rhule 

There is a Rodell Warner drawing of a portrait that sits in our boy's room. It's one of the most fascinating flows of line I have ever seen. It feels like a continuous contour, but the sections feel separate somehow. The way he was able to use the line to create depth and texture was the reason I needed to have it.

Drawing by Rodell Warner

There is a ten feet long painting we acquired from Ryan Huggins. It depicts a panoramic landscape with different subjects seemingly resting at separate points of the scene. It's very painterly, and the hues are so uniquely his. I was drawn to the proportions and the mood it created.

What advice would you give to Caribbean people looking to start collecting art? What steps can they take to start?

People collect for different reasons. I think it's important to find out why you want to collect. Be as honest as you possibly can, and just start. Start small. 

I gravitate to things that arouse my emotions, things that excite me. It's not one type of work or artist. It's what inspires me and what I believe will be good company for my family. Your space is an extension of you and the people who reside in it. 

The thing that you surround yourself with is your family, so choose what makes you happy.

You mentioned in our first Zoom call that your favourite painting is by your wife, Tanya. Can you tell us more about this piece and why it is important to you? 

My favourite piece is a portrait my wife did. It sits in our bedroom. It depicts a woman, black as the moon, surrounded by a golden glaze. There is a hint of light that defines her eyes. For me, it's a homage to black women and embodies all that they are. And of course, it is reflective of my wife. It’s a feel-good piece.

Artwork by Tanya Rhule

Tanya is also in the creative industry and is the founder of Designer Island, a leading publication that shares the stories of Caribbean creatives that inspire visions of the future. How has her work inspired you? Do you often team up on projects?

My wife is sensitive to design. Sensitive to its portrayal. She is always trying to create work that stands the test of time. Within this approach, she takes her time. She massages the idea until its true self is revealed. That approach to the work is something that I admire a lot and understand the need for it. I would say that has been the thing, to trust the process and let things simmer. Our home is our never-ending collaboration. As things change we evaluate, plan and execute. 

We also collaborate on visuals for Designer Island, and there is more to come in the future.

How do your children interact with art at home and in the local community? How do you see art and design impacting them?

Curiosity is such an important trait for any human being. We wanted to make sure that we expose our kids to objects that would stimulate their interest, whether it be toys, books or art. 

I love how our boys find use of things in our home, how everything becomes a part of them learning about themselves. They are always pointing at objects that they can’t reach, and they get a sparkle in their eyes. It is magical.

 Shiloh in front of artwork by Paul Kain 
Lithograph print by Clayton Rhule
Left  to right: antique find, Photo by Clayton Rhule, painting Tanya Rhule  
Bottom left: Sculpture by Colin Gill

LES ÎLES Remarks

Clayton draws a distinct connection between Art and Home, revealing that they are brought together by passion, love and family at the core. As a creator, Clayton lays emphasis on staying true to one’s self. As a collector, Clayton's ethos also lies in honesty, advising new collectors to listen to their emotions when they select works. “The thing that you surround yourself with is your family,” he tells us, “so choose what makes you happy.”

We thoroughly enjoyed exploring and sharing the collection of Clayton and Tanya Rhule, a shining example of living beautifully with art. 

Written by Stephanie Ramlogan and Anjeni Ramtahal