Labor of love: Local artist makes art out of scraps at Bass Pro Shops

Annie Blanks | The Destin Log

Local artist Joyful Enriquez works late into the evening after driving back from work and school in Pensacola to create charcoal drawings all over the construction drywall at Bass Pro Shops.

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

No one knows this better than Joyful Enriquez, a local artist who has been drawing large and intricate murals on the construction drywall at Bass Pro Shops in Destin for the past month.

The large pieces of drywall that separate the main store from the construction areas, which are part of a large renovation the store has been undertaking since April, were just large white slabs before Enriquez started working on them. Now, thanks to her, they are covered in beautiful charcoal drawings of fish, dolphins, sharks and turtles.

“The sea is kind of mysterious, and a lot of people don’t get to experience it,” Enriquez said of her passion for drawing ocean life. “The ocean is beautiful and to get to show people all of these creatures God’s made, it’s just awesome.”

She said she knows her drawings will likely all be torn down when renovations are complete next month, but she considers her work a labor of love and a good chance to gain new experience on a different medium.

“This is kind of an experiment,” she said. “I’ve done paintings on this scale before, but never on drywall.”

The 29-year-old artist, who lives on Okaloosa Island, is a full-time student working toward earning her masters in studio art and illustration at Pensacola Christian College. She also has a full-time job as an illustrator for Abeka Publishing Company in Pensacola. In her spare time, she likes to practice drawing outside of her studio, which brought her to the large fish tank located inside Bass Pro Shops about four months ago.

“I was just sitting there, sketching the fish in the tank, when a guy who works here came up and asked me what I was doing,” she said. “He said, ‘We have an art rep here’, and he went and got him for me.

“The art rep was really impressed with my work. Three months later he called me up and said, ‘I have an idea’.”

That art rep was Frank Abreu, a local artist who has represented the likes of Wyland in the past.

“I was scheduled to go on shift in an hour when another guy (who works at Bass Pro Shops) came up and told me that I’ve got to check out this artist,” Abreu said. “I said, 'Well yeah, I’ll take a look at anybody’s stuff, this happens to me a lot.'

“So I went and I saw this girl sketching and I looked over her shoulder at her art, and I was just blown away.”

A few weeks later, Abreu had the idea to have Enriquez draw on the construction drywall at Bass Pro Shops as a way to get her name out there and give to the community.

The store’s manager, Ryan Cox, was immediately on board.

“Absolutely, I agreed to that. When Frank showed me some examples of her work, I thought it was amazing, and obviously the nature scenes line up with what Bass Pro is all about,” Cox said. “She started drawing some of the fish in the tank and they looked so realistic. It was a no-brainer.”

So Enriquez began drawing on the walls. Twice a week after coming home from a full day of classes and work in Pensacola, Enriquez takes the extra 15-minute drive across the Marler Bridge to the Destin Commons, where she works from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. filling up the construction walls with her art.  

She started by drawing all the fish in the tank. Then, when she had drawn all of the fish, she started drawing sharks and turtles. She eventually filled up one whole section of drywall adjacent to the tank, and then started working on another construction wall on the other side of the store.

“I know it’s going to be torn down, but I saw this opportunity here to make something beautiful where it wouldn’t otherwise be,” she said. “And this is a chance to invest in this community and in this local business, and build relationships with people.

“Being a student and working for a company, everything I do is for somebody else, and there’s a level of pressure and expectation there,” she added. “This is for me. It’s just for fun, for free, and it’s strictly for the sake of inspiring people and bringing beauty to an area under construction.”

Enriquez said Bass Pro Shops will salvage some of her drywall pieces before they tear them down, and allow her to keep a few drawings for her own collection and also display them at the store’s grand opening next month. She also said the store was so impressed with her work, they have offered her a preliminary one-year contract after she graduates next May to draw marine life pieces to be sold in the gift area of the store.

 “I think she’s phenomenal,” Cox said. “I get comments from employees and customers all day long on how great the stuff looks. She does really good work, and the nature scenes and animals and fish just align with what my customer base and Bass Pro are all about.”

 Abreu said he’s not surprised her pro bono artwork for Bass Pro Shops is leading to bigger and better things.

 "When you give in the community, good things happen to you,” he said. “Next thing you know, Bass Pro wants to sell her stuff and wants to give her a contract.”

 Enriquez is thrilled about her future as an artist, but for now, she is just happy to be able to doing what she loves and sharing that with others.

 “At the end of the day, I believe a lot of the work I do is for other people,” she said. “Doing things like this, interacting with the community in this way, gives me a chance to share my passion with people.”