Belizean Creatives - Rhodie Olivarez

By: Mays Alejandra

Have you ever seen someone's paint brush glide so effortlessly over an invisible line, guided by no pencil sketch, making no mistake as it squiggles from left to right, top to bottom. There are no sharp edges on each letter, just a smooth flow from the inception until the end of each word and starting again until the end of the sentence. Where there was once blank, now a beautiful penmanship worth of praise by calligraphy artists and art lovers near and far.


I've witnessed it in one of Rhodie Olivarez’s video posts on her Instagram handle, @Rhodzart. She captions the post by apologizing for her rough video skills - she says - which one soon forgets as the mesmerizing brush creates and ends. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview her over voice call. Rhodie had just come back from a food sale with the "hermanas" at her local church. They had to finish the event before 9 pm so that everyone could meet the Belizean Saturday night curfew. Rhodie was willing to comb her hair for this interview, something we both dislike doing and have joked over during the 10+ years of nurtured friendship. But I failed to tell her in advance that we would not be filming (I am not at that stage, yet), so I think she was happy for the last-minute heads-up. Were you, Rhods?


Before you stop reading and anxiously skip some sentences just to head over to her Instagram page and click the follow button, allow me to introduce this wonderful soul.

Rhodie is a high school English teacher in Belize's Corozal District. Her love for the job has, in my view, stopped her from listening to my persuasion to come and study in Taiwan and enabled her to lovingly guide some of her students from 1st form all the way to 4th form and I guess she does it all over again and again and again as time passes…(kidding ~ she is very young!) On her spare time, however, she cooks up an idea, grabs her expensive, imported paper, colors and brushes and puts her mind on paper, wood or scrapbook and creates.


 

The Early Days

According to her memory, I helped her open the @Rhodzart Instagram page and I posted her first post and even captioned it. I don't even remember what I did yesterday, much less 4 years ago in the glorious 2017 summer days. So you can imagine the smirk pasted on my face as I heard her go into details of her first days as an Instagram hobbyist. As time progressed, she gained more confidence in sharing her work with a growing online audience and lets me know that the year 2020 was when she gained most of her followers. My all time favorite post is "The Mango", her second post dated June 11, 2018. Even back in the early days, she already knew how she would make her calligraphy stand out in a unique way. She uses the Mango's colors as background to her black handwritten "Mango". For extra ump, she places the real fruit as muse to the left, a beautiful yellow bell flower beside it and the markers she used to the top right. Using all those accessories really enables us to appreciate the profound thought put into just that presentation. I just really need to know, where did you buy that juicy mango from, Rhods?


 

Her Art

Rhodie is a self-taught Modern Calligraphy artist, crafter and watercolorist. Her calligraphy works are like those I have never seen before in Belize. Call me ignorant but, do we have more Calligraphy artists in Belize? I have seen many of her written art based on Bible quotes or positive quotes. On this watercolor background she writes "For He will give His angels charge concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91.11" She also captions many of her posts with positive and uplifting messages for her friends and her artwork has a calming and inspiring effect. On one of her chalkboard menu projects, a follower writes, "Suena nice todo mucha" To me, that means that through Rhodie's usage of color, handwriting style and the food itself of course, she has achieved the goal of making everything on the menu even more enticing! May I have a French Vanilla Frappe with sprinkles on the top, please?


Many of her watercolors are vivid and bright with hues of pink, purple, green, and she has a unique style of combining her finished work with the tools and colors she used. Sometimes, a little extra something for that umph really does the trick. This particular watercolor art piece, is surrounded by the Daniel Smith watercolors she used, a dotted feather (did she use that to make the stars on the galaxy?), Princeton velvet touch brushes, a silver star, and places all on top of her wooden table which I suppose was where she did the art itself. Anyone knows what the bottle at the top is? I know because I read it in her caption, but I won't tell youuuuuu....

Rhodie explains on her post, "This was a new color scheme for me. I was getting discouraged halfway but decided I would finish it anyway. After all, it turned out nicely."

It turned out perfect, gial!


Before I delve into my deep admiration for her art, I'd like us (yes, me and you) to do something a little different. Are you up for it?


Here's the Challenge:

If you are up for some interactive reading game of screen navigation, read this part. For those of you who at this exact point in time, would want to play but can't (you know your reasons), head down to the next section.


Still here? Okay, this is what we are going to do to fully appreciate Rhodie’s artwork.

Can you switch screens easily? If yes, let's look at some of her Instagram posts together, shall we? If you are reading on your phone, go ahead and open the your Instagram account and search for @rhodzart. if you are reading from your laptop and are able to view two pages side by side, open your Insta account on your favorite browser and do the same.


Ready?

First: What we are gonna do now scroll 7 times, more or less, to one of my favorite posts: Look for a leaf, sunflower and hydrangea framed, handwritten golden bible phrase. What does it say? swipe right and look at how the gold glistens in the light as her hand sways the page lightly for our full appreciation. Now, heart.heart and comment "@soulexpressionz and @(your handle) were here".

Next: scroll up 5 times more or less to a post with four bookmarks and a pearl hairpin. What else do you see framing the picture? heart.heart and comment "@soulexpressionz and @(your handle) were here." Are you getting the hang of it?


One more for fun sake: Scroll anywhere and choose your favorite(s) artwork and do ya thang.


**For those of you who successfully did it all, Rhodie now knows that you visited those particular posts through this link and your handle will be entered into a Giveaway comprising of one of her artworks (the actual physical one) which you can then use or display, depending what it is.

LIMITED TIME ONLY...we can play up until Rhodie's birthday (October 22, 2021).


 

Her Vision

Rhodie imagines her future self, collaborating with other Belizean artists (and/or foreign artists) to create murals. Nowadays, there are many beautiful murals in every district of Belize. I remember maybe it was two years ago, that she did one for her classroom.

Belizean modern art and expression are slowly gaining momentum, many places are now opening up to the idea of having District/Town names large and visible enough to attract more local and foreign tourists. I have seen some beautiful creations on walls in my beautiful Benque Viejo Town (from pictures of course). I am more than certain that Rhodie's dream can come true!

For all you mural artists out there, if you are looking for someone to collaborate with, Rhodie is your girl!

She also hopes to have a calligraphy workshop in Belize for those interested in learning the art. Since her materials are expensive and not easily obtained (she has to order most from abroad), it would probably be a good idea if some collaboration with a sponsor can be achieved and this workshop can see the light of day.

No worries Rhods, as your November 18th, 2018 post reads, "He who began the good work in you will be faithful to complete it. Phil. 1:9"


As for myself, I am super proud of you, Rhodie! You have come a long way since 2017. I admire that between your professional and personal life, you are able to squeeze in some time to express yourself through your hobby. I am even more happy that more Belizeans are able to appreciate your art through your Instagram page. Whenever your new posts appear on my feed, you never fail to amaze me because you keep learning and it shows through your art. I may have given you that little push back in the early days, and now I can say you have given me the push to do what I love by just being you. May all my readers be able to appreciate you and we all join voices to wish you continued success.

I heart.heart you!


Update: October 26, 2021: We tried to arrange a time during the weekend to find out who is the lucky winner. But, between grading papers and parenting, our times did not sync. We will announce the winner of the beautiful masterpiece very soon. Thank you all who participated in my first giveaway! <3

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