Markeith Woods is the kind of guy who has talent and vision in overload but perhaps, more importantly, he has drive and an admirable work ethic. So it’s not surprising that the Pine Bluff native warmly embraces Albert Einstein’s mantra — Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration — but ask him and he’ll say only a few years ago that wasn’t how he lived his life.
But that’s all changed.
These days there are plenty of people in the Central Arkansas art world who are recognizing his budding creative intellect, as evidenced by his exhibit “Live or not to Live, that is the Question,” on display at the John Brown Watson Memorial Library at 1998 John Kennedy Dr. on the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff campus.
It runs through the end of the year.
It takes a town
Woods, now 31, came of age during Pine Bluff’s 2000 art scene, first as a Watson Chapel High School student, then at UAPB.
His studies at the university shaped his worldview and his art, he says.
As well, he found a second home at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff. The influence and encouragement he found there “made a difference,” Woods asserts.
He awarded an internship at ASC.
In part, it was the art on display and the staff, but it was also a chance to see the work of and talk with rising artists like Basil Watson, Aj Smith, Kevin Cole and Danny Campbell, just to name a few. Many are now nationally and internationally known.
“Their style is unique and eye-catching, and meeting them and learning about them made me believe in myself. They inspired me and transformed me. Exposure to that rich environment (at UAPB and ASC) changed the direction of my life,” he says.
Getting lost along the way
After a false start of sorts at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway where he played basketball on scholarship, Woods managed to get into a little teenage trouble. It ended his time at UCA and required he pay off a hefty student loan debt before continuing his education at another institution.
Woods buckled down , paid off his bills and pursued an education at UAPB. In 2014, he earned a Bachelor of Science in visual arts.
Afterward, he attended the Memphis College of Art in Tennessee, where he studied painting and drawing. He is currently working on a Masters of Fine Arts. As well, he started teaching art at James Matthews Elementary School, part of the Dollarway School District. All the while, he worked on refining and developing his own art.
In hindsight, he admits, “At one point at about 18 or 19, my life could have easily gone in a different direction, but I realized I was responsible for the outcome of my life and made a commitment to myself, to work, stay focused and manage my time…It’s paying off.”
His own growing success isn’t enough, and he hopes to reach out to the area’s youngsters through his own nonprofit program one day, with a goal of helping them achieve their dreams.
With firsthand knowledge as his guide, he says he hopes to impart his own hard-learned lessons to others.
“It’s important to develop a work ethic, and understanding the importance of dedicating one’s self and time to a goal, to be focused… . It doesn’t matter if it’s in art or another area of life,” he says.
“Whatever your situation, you can change it through individual choices and commitment.”
In his own words
Woods says his “work is an inspired narrative of life where people demonstrate love, respect, compassion, agony, oppositions, confidence, and death.”
He is a perceptual artist.
“Through observation, I aim to re-create my personal experiences by using symbols, words, images and emotions that are familiar. When faced with life’s challenges and confronting pain, it drives out the imperfection that we face such as oppression, health disparities and social issues, unemployment and other issues. These emotions are an inspiration for my work,” he says.
In describing Woods’ work, UAPB says he “paints the faces in his artwork red, yellow, and orange to show a strong will that has been built up over the course of time. Time is the only thing the figures in his work can’t change but they can change themselves and the things around them in the right moment in life. The lines in the skin tones reminds him of his grandmother that it is important to take advantage of time and not let life stop us from confronting our destiny.”
Woods says, “it is only at this point my subjects have an opportunity to find their true identity also one’s talent or gifts. These qualities are portrayed through the use of clouds, dark, cool colors, and vibrant colors to create a conceptual approach in my paintings. Mostly, I use primary colors to express the raw emotions and the struggles that my subjects encounter, which makes them strong.”
He finishes, adding, “I paint family members, friends, famous people and strangers. From this, it gives me a sense of awareness and adds a personal dimension to my work… . I paint because it moves me spiritually.”