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Exhibit reward for portrait-loving student

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Growing reputation: Mackenzie Paul, who works on her art every day, with a collection of her portraits @photocredit (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

At 6, Mackenzie Paul was trying to imitate Van Gogh.

By the time she was in her teens, her workload at Somersfield Academy was so “intense” her art had to take a back seat.

She was thrilled when her parents, Ann and Bryan Paul, agreed to enrol her at International Connections Academy last August. The online school offers “lots of different art class options”; her parents saw it as a way of getting her a “more of a balanced lifestyle”.

She thinks it’s been a success because of the grounding she received: “Somersfield taught me to be focused and determined to finish my work. Also I know that because school is important I am not going to slack off.”

Mackenzie is now able to spend two to three hours a day working on her art, mostly portraits.

“I just love the idea of drawing people,” the 16-year-old said. “Every face is different.

“I’m taking a digital art class which is great if you want to get into designing. And homework now takes me an hour at night.”

She paints on canvas and the back of denim jackets. Mackenzie showed her work for the first time, as part of a student exhibit at the Bermuda Society of Arts this month.

“It was my old art teacher, Summer Wood, who encouraged me to enter the BSoA show,” she said. “I really have her to thank.”

Her favourite piece was a portrait of Prince. There was also one of the late rappers, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.

“I was excited and overwhelmed when I saw my work at the BSoA,” she said. “Having my work up in a gallery for the first time, wow, it was surreal almost.

“When you are painting in your room, it is close to your face and you never really take a minute to step back and look at it.

“It made me so happy to see people’s faces light up when they saw my work.”

Her Instagram account, FRM441, has more than 1,000 followers.

She’s loved art ever since she can remember. “Some of my happiest memories are of painting at Kaleidoscope’s art camps,” she said. “My mom still has a Van Gogh painting I did when I was six.

“Given my age it’s not really very good, but she likes it.”

She paints on an art table her parents bought her, in her bedroom.

“I try to keep as organised as possible, but when I am painting the room is something of a mess. I have paints everywhere, canvas and ideas in my sketchbook out.

“After I paint I have to go back and clean. I have a habit of splatter painting my backgrounds, and I sometimes forget to cover my blinds. Then I have to spend a lot of time cleaning the paint off, afterwards.”

Whether her art is something she’ll pursue as a career is uncertain. Mackenzie also loves music and is a member of the Bermuda School of Music Steel Pan Orchestra.

“I’m still trying to figure out my main goal,” she said.

Mackenzie Paul with some of her portraits (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Mackenzie Paul painting a portrait (Photograph supplied)
Home studies: Mackenzie Paul painting a portrait
Mackenzie Paul with one of her jackets (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Mackenzie Paul with one of her jackets (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
The Royal Gazette snapped this photo of Mackenzie Paul at Kaleidoscope at age 7 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)