In a small but sun-drenched studio at the back of her home, nurse, mom and self-taught artist Shyvon Paul is working out a new way to make a difference: her art.
Born in Guyana, Paul immigrated to Bed-Stuy in 1992 with her family where she played double-dutch in the street with her friends and listened to the then-new rapper, Biggie Smalls.
Growing up, Paul always had a love and appreciation of art but never considered taking it seriously until she took a ceramics class while studying to become a nurse practitioner.
“When I took the class, that professor told me I should switch from nursing to art — but I didn’t do that,” she said. Instead, she continued to pursue nursing and still works as a family nurse practitioner today.
Though she remains passionate about her job as a nurse, the pandemic has altered her perspective on the profession and on healing … and has drawn her closer to her art.
“Sometimes there aren’t enough resources for everyone. And, during the pandemic, I think that was made even more so clear. And, unfortunately, the people who have suffered the most are Black and Brown people,” Paul said. She now aims to be an artist full-time.
“I want to be a part of something that helps everyone to the same degree.”
In the summer of 2017, more than a decade after graduating from nursing school and working as a nurse, Paul began making her first works.
“I went out and got paint and supplies and just started creating, and I haven’t stopped creating since then,” Paul said.
“The first thing that inspired me was texture. I refer to myself as a texture queen sometimes, because my thing is texture. And, I can do that with oil paint, I can do it with paper, I can do beads, whatever you give me. I can make texture out of it.”
Paul’s body of work consists of mixed media, including bright oil paintings featuring unlikely materials like buttons, pins and beads. Drawings of exaggerated wildlife also appear frequently in her repertoire.
The artist said her day job does not inspire her work, making a clear separation between the two.
“It’s an escape,” Paul said about creating art. “It’s a place that feels warm and cozy.”
After more than a decade of healing others through nursing, Paul has discovered another healing modality through artistic expression.
“I think it’s time that people rebuild,” Paul said about post-pandemic life and why she has chosen to prioritize making art.
“If you’re young, if you’re old, you know, it’s time to rebuild and kind of take back our lives. And so, I wanted to focus more on this thing that brings me so much joy.”