Written by: Jessie Moniz Hardy

This summer teenager Ayanna Peniston had her art featured in two different shows at the Bermuda Society of Arts.

The Graphic Design Showcase in July and the Bermuda summer member’s show last month were the 19-year-old’s first exhibitions as an adult artist. She has previously appeared in student shows.

“I have had a busy and productive summer,” she said. “Unfortunately, I could not come home this summer. I had my mom go to the shows’ openings. She did a video chat with me.”

As her mother spoke with her over the phone, random people walking by threw compliments into the chat.

“People would say ‘oh, my God, I love your work’,” Ms Peniston said. “That was a big confidence boost for an up and coming designer.”

Ms Peniston is about to enter her last year of the graphic design programme at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich, England. She could not return to Bermuda this summer, because she was doing an internship.

“It was with a graphic design agency called This is Fever,” she said. “They gave me a branding package to design. I got some good feedback from their mentorship. They also gave their tips and thoughts on me as a future designer.”

She loved the placement, and the intimate feel of the firm.

“They were very close knit and friendly,” she said. “It did not feel competitive. They were all working very well together.”

Ms Peniston has always been interested in art.

“When I was younger I did a lot of sketching, and painting,” she said.

She has won a number of awards for her art. In February 2020, she was awarded best in show for one of her paintings in the schools category of the All Things Hamilton art exhibition.

“I won $250,” she said. “I used that to buy more canvases, brushes and things.”

The next year, she won a competition to redesign the logo of the Ocean View Golf Course in Devonshire.

“I did three people playing golf with the ocean in the background,” she said.

The prize, an iPad, fuelled an interest in digital art. She was encouraged by her computer teacher at Mount Saint Agnes Academy, Lisa Stevens.

“She was a graphic designer at one point,” Ms Peniston said.

Ms Peniston described her style as relaxed and free flowing.

What she creates depends on the assignment and her emotions at the time.

“I like to draw soothing and happy illustrations,” she said. “I like to make people say, ‘hmm, I didn’t think of it that way’.”

She decided to go into graphic art, rather than fine art, thinking there would be more job opportunities available.

“I also like the fact that graphic design has a problem-solving component,” she said.

Now, much of her university coursework explores what it would be like to work with actual clients.

“They prepare you for the work environment,” she said.

She finds the hunt for inspiration to be the most exciting part of the design process.

“I like looking for images online paying specific attention to the typography and colour palette,” she said.

While she is working she likes to listen to music, particularly Japanese low-fi, or classical music.

If things do not go well she takes some time away from the work, maybe half an hour, or a day.

“I think about whether there is anything I could change or do differently,” she said.

She started an Instagram page @Artium_AP in 2019, as a place to show off the work she was doing in high school. She continues to use it as her online gallery.

Building up her Instagram presence has been a slow process.

“I still have a long way to go,” she said. “These things take time. I am now looking to rebrand.”

She got her first graphic design commission this summer and is now working on her second for a local handbag company.

Her hope is to return to Bermuda after graduation to work in her field.

“I also want to keep my international connections and clients,” she said.

Ms Peniston feels the hardest thing about working in graphic design is getting outsiders to recognise its value.

“It impacts everyone’s everyday lives,” she said. “Graphic design includes typography, logos and colour. Everything from menus to stop signs are, at some point, touched by a graphic designer. Branding is the thing I am most interested in.”

Artificial intelligence is now emerging as a major player in the graphic design and art space, with anyone able to design a website, logo, piece of art or promotional piece simply by downloading the right AI programme and typing a few words.

Ms Peniston does not use AI and is unconcerned by it.

“I think we should be fine as designers and traditional artists,” she said. “I have never used it myself.”

She thought that art generated by AI would have a lot of sameness to it.

Her next goal is to enter the Charman Prize hosted by the Masterworks Museum in Paget. The prize money this year is $18,000.

“Another designer, Shanna Hollis, who took part in the graphic design showcase at the BSoA, recommended I enter,” Ms Peniston said. “I thought I would give it a shot. This year, the theme is what it means to be local and Bermuda in the modern age.”

She is both excited and nervous about her prospects in that competition.

“I have done a few sketches for that and I have been playing around with ideas,” she said.

The BSoA Summer Members Show is on now at City Hall in Hamilton until September 12.