Artwork gives North Liberty man happiness, peace

'God speaks to people, and I believe he spoke to me'

Painter Randell Samuels of North Liberty looks at a canvas in one of his regular painting locations, the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville. Samuels does the majority of his painting in public locations in the Iowa City-Coralville-North Liberty area. Samuels is a native of Jamaica and moved to Eastern Iowa in 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Painter Randell Samuels of North Liberty looks at a canvas in one of his regular painting locations, the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville. Samuels does the majority of his painting in public locations in the Iowa City-Coralville-North Liberty area. Samuels is a native of Jamaica and moved to Eastern Iowa in 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

NORTH LIBERTY — Randell Samuels didn’t choose to be an artist. That path, he said, was chosen for him.

“I didn’t pick this for myself. It’s just something the spirit has led me to do,” he said. “It might sound a little crazy, but God speaks to people, and I believe he spoke to me. That’s what led me to becoming an artist.”

Samuels, 41, has been in North Liberty just 18 months. He moved to the community from his native Jamaica on the advice and encouragement of friends and family who had also moved to the area. He works at Centro, a plastics fabrication company in North Liberty, but that isn’t where his passion lies.

His true passion is putting color to canvas, painting portraits from photos or creating pieces from his experiences. He has a studio in his home, but he is just as likely to be painting outside at a park or on the side of the road as he is in his studio.

“There has to be a spiritual movement going on within me,” said Samuels. “It doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is, when the spirit compels me to move, to paint, I do it.”

Samuels said art has given him things he didn’t know were missing from his life: Happiness. Peace. Calm.

“Art has changed me in every way — it’s changed my thoughts, my approach to art and to life, and how I view things,” Samuels said. “It’s made me more comfortable in my own mind.”

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Samuels considers himself an impressionist who does abstract art in addition to his portraits. While he is comfortable doing portraits with live models, he said he prefers working from photographs.

“When you’re working from a photograph, you have more time to spend with the photo than you do with the people in the studio,” he said. “With a photo, you don’t have to worry about someone moving or something happening. You just focus on the art, on the details.”

In addition to working to perfect his painting, Samuels said he also enjoys working with children to help them appreciate art, and to teach them to paint.

“I work with them and show them how to create a picture, how to mix colors and get what you’re wanting,” he said.

Most of the time the kids come to him for guidance, especially if he’s painting in a park or somewhere outside, but sometimes he will go to the kids, too, working in studios or in homes.

“I work with them whenever, wherever they come to talk to me,” he said. “I want to encourage people to really appreciate visual art. It can help you feel better, look better and make your life better just by helping you to be happy.”

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