All photos by Matt Goias
This article is part of MERRY JANE's Jamaica Week. For more on this special series of articles and videos, visit our Editor's Letter here.
The roadscape of rural Jamaica is dotted with a dizzying kaleidoscope of hand-painted signs advertising everything from Gospel revivals, rum bars, and, most noticeably, the upcoming weekend’s bombastic schedule of dancehall parties, aka “dances.” On the main road between the tourist mecca of Negril and the parish of Westmoreland’s capital city of Savannah La Mar, the primary culprit of this circumstantial beautification is 24-year-old artist Rushane Drummond, better known as “Bug."
"Art is a family thing. It runs in my family and it was my older brother who first put a brush in my hand at a very young age,” recounts Drummond about his introduction to painting. “I apprenticed for a respected local artist named Allan Thomas who had graduated from Kingston’s Edna Manley School of Arts, and word got around that I had skills and was serious about the art thing.”
Bug received his first big break in eighth grade when a dancehall promoter named “Bigga" commissioned him to paint the signs for his birthday celebration. “From there it just took off and I’ve been painting at least 20 to 50 party board signs a week ever since,” he says, suggesting his oeuvre includes literally thousands of artworks.
The local artist’s whimsical, hand-painted typography, combined with his prolific output and production schedule, have made the roads of Western Jamaica a virtual gallery of the young artist’s dancehall party sign work. “From the time I discovered the internet, I really gravitated towards a lot of the European graffiti and Japanese manga and anime styles I’ve seen. I have definitely incorporated some of those styles into my letters and characters.”
These outside influences in Bug’s work make for an electric and moving juxtaposition of visuals, setting his signs apart from the area’s other, more traditional sign painting styles. Working primarily with water-based paints on common, usually-recycled ply boards, the artist has also developed a signature screen printing style, reserved for larger events requiring more signs out on the road. In recent months, Drummond has begun creating fine art works on canvas, which have already been commissioned by an impressive roster of influential, private, and foreign collectors.
“No matter what happens, I’ll always probably keep doing party signs,” he tells MERRY JANE. “That’s where I got my start and that’s where I love getting creative and trying out new ideas."
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