Gecko Season — the span of July, August and part of September when Gulfport goes all-in for geckos — is upon us. Part of the fun includes Gulfport artists making geckos and displaying them at local venues. Gecko supporters (that's "locals and people who really love Gulfport" to you and I) will bid on the geckos, and after Gecko Season ends (with GeckoFest, an all-day and most-of-the-night street party), they get to take their geckos to their new home (think of it as an "adopt a gecko" program). This year, we're asking each of the gecko artists (gartists? geckotists?) seven questions. Next up, Doug D'Souza.
- How did you start making art?
My journey as a maker started with first being a breaker. As a child, I was fascinated with technology and wanted to understand how things worked. I would meticulously take my toys apart to satisfy my curiosity, then try to reassemble them. I was mostly successful and learned early on that my hands could make things. I moved to the U.S. in 1980 to pursue my education and career in engineering mechanics. After graduation I started working for BMW, a job I really enjoyed. Then one seemingly ordinary day, a high-speed rear collision changed the course of my life, and at the same time turned on a creative light that has shone bright ever since. I set out to nurture my creative side with a course in graphic design.
- Your home is filled with jewelry you've made. Are you able to do this full-time and, if so, what suggestions do you have for artists who want to make the leap to "this is my day job"?
I have done this full-time for close to 20 years. Although now I am semi-retired, which allows me to pick and choose what my creative focus will be. I feel more relaxed to experiment and accept new challenges. For artists who want to be in business for themselves, here are a few suggestions: Make sure this is your passion as it involves a lot of time, effort and growth. Stay focused, realistic and true to yourself. When first starting out, you may need a job outside of art to pay the bills. Use it to allow yourself some peace of mind while working hard on your second job — to build your art business. There is much more to being successful than the talent it takes to create a piece of art. Realizing your strengths and weaknesses can be a humbling experience, don't be discouraged. If you don't have business or marketing skills, acquire them through online courses, seminars and workshops and if you just can't stand any of it then hire people to help you. Being in business means no set hours, it's a lifestyle.
- Most people who don't live in Gulfport associate the town with its downtown. Tell our readers about your neighborhood and why you live there.
I live in a neighborhood in Gulfport that is quiet and friendly. Although it is not downtown, it still offers the artsy vibe and friends who support art and culture.
- This isn't your first gecko art. What makes each of your gecko creations different?
My first gecko piece was a wall sculpture made from steel, aluminum, plexiglass and resin. It was over three feet long, and was a little challenging since my typical canvas had been around 2-3 inches for a while.I enjoyed working on it, and was thrilled to find out a dear friend won it in the auction.This year I'm creating a gecko-themed pendant in enamel and mixed metal. It will be a large statement piece based on a historic landmark in Gulfport.
- What's your favorite piece of art you made, and why?
I would have to say it's this art gecko piece. For the the past year I have been experimenting and learning new techniques in enameling. This piece is the end result of all of my efforts and I'm proud of it.
- How could the Gulfport art community best grow?
I think it would be wonderful if there was a collective of reasonably priced studios open to the public, similar to what's happening with the St. Pete Warehouse Arts District, but with its own Gulfport flair.
- Just for fun: You are mayor of Gulfport for a day. What three things do you do?
I would have reggae music piped throughout downtown Gulfport to uplift our community. Downtown Gulfport [would be] a car-free zone. However, the free valet parking will be awesome. Everyone is required to wear name tags, so we can greet and get to know our neighbors.