My Love Affair with Fine Art
February 21, 2017
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If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may know me as a photographer. But like most creatives, I have other skills as well. Some people call it ‘the artist’s curse’ because with so many skills, one tends to get confused about where to focus their energy. An artist may have 5 or more artistic talents and asking them to pick one is like asking a mother to choose her favourite child. (Although some people readily play favourites with their kids). But I digress. 

Photographer with camera.
Ready, aim, shoot!

Unlike others, I consider it a blessing to be multi-talented. I can’t imagine how boring life would be if I had to stick to one thing only. And so I thank God for blessing me with a Fine Art talent. I have been drawing since early childhood (sounds cliché, but it’s true). But I only discovered I could do fine art after high school. My dad offered to take me to Art school during the gap year between high school and university. Previously, I had been drawing cartoons and flowers from newspapers and books. But Art school opened up a whole new world.

Pencil shading 3-D objects.
My first shading lesson photo: 3-D shapes.

The first drawing I was presented with seemed quite intimidating. I was asked to draw from observation and also do the shading. I took up the challenge and the results were amazing, even to me. I mean, I was mind-blown! For someone who had never done fine art before, I had outdone myself. My parents shared the same sentiments and that’s how my love affair with Fine Art pencil sketching began.

Pencil drawing/ shading.
My first Fine Art drawing.

The more assignments I did, the more fun it became. It would take me 2 days on average to complete a drawing. The sketches covered a range of subjects and varied in complexity. Naturally, I found myself preferring nature-related drawings, and why not? The natural world is amazing – full of beauty and so many things for us to learn.

Pencil drawing of birds.
Flying birds- (fairly) easy.
Pencil drawing of a bear.
Bear- moderate.
Pencil drawing of a cat and mouse.
Cat and mouse- complex.

I got to meet a lot of interesting and weird people at art school. For instance, there was this one lady who played the same music playlist every day – every single day for the entire 3 months I was there. Man! It drove me up the wall. One of the interesting peeps turned out to be a classmate at university! I also got to delve into the interesting world of watercolour painting. I found it more challenging than pencil sketching (still do), because blending/ grading colours is much easier with pencil. Or is it the paper I was using? By the way, my paint from 2008 is still in good working condition! One of the few things that actually work well and last long.

Painting of sailboats.
With Christ in my heart I can smile…as we go sailing home.
Painting of a calf.
Hello there!

To wrap up the Fine Art course, we had to take an exam. It involved 2 assignments: a still-life setup and your own composition. I sketched the outline of the still-life at school and did the shading at home. The drawings were supposed to be A2 size – quite the challenge because all along we had been using A3 sketchbooks. But nilijikaza (I did my best). For the second task, I merged part of a photo with a scene from 9/11, and also drew this from home. An artist has to know how to get creative, right? It took me a week for each of the drawings.

Still-life pencil sketch.
Still life exam.
Pencil sketch of cityscape.
Own composition exam.

I passed the course with stellar marks, but didn’t think much of it in terms of continuing with fine art. It had just been something to pass time, which was ironic because during our first year at campus, we did a lot of sketching – a lot. I studied Architecture. Maybe, just maybe if I had revisited Fine Art I would have got better marks in that year, but such is life. Sometimes it hits us long after the event has come and gone.

Pencil sketch of the human eye.
Stare of death.

It was only until my fifth year in campus that I went back to Fine Art and surprise, surprise, I still had the touch. I replicated some of my sketches from Art School with great accuracy. Then I toyed with the idea of selling them. I got someone to do the frames which I then spray-painted black. Getting clients for artwork in Kenya is no easy task though. An artist recently said, “If Kenyans bargain for the price of basic goods that they can’t do without, what do you expect when selling art?” I have sold 5 pieces in 4 years. #TheStruggleIsReal

Pencil sketch of egrets.
This drawing won me the second runners-up position in Mobile Arts School in Kenya (MASK) Competition, 2014.

Last year during my free time (when I was looking for work) I decided to redo some pencil pieces in watercolour. It was an exciting exercise and a great way to ease the frustration of job searching. A long- time friend bought one of the paintings. Thank you Dennis.

Pencil sketch of birds on sunflowers.
Painting of birds on sunflowers.
…Vs Watercolour.

And now for a very embarrassing confession: I haven’t sketched/ painted since August last year. Sigh. I guess I got busy with learning photography, blogging, tours and generally trying to figure life out. In other words, ‘adulting’. Also maybe because of the discouragement that comes with the difficulty of getting clients?

Landscape painting.
Landscape painting.

I may not have called on Fine Art in a long time, but I still love it. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll resume sketching. If you’d like to purchase some pieces, please get in touch on the address in my Contact page.Especially my fellow Kenyans. Show some love for one of your own, ei?

Pencil sketch of landscape.
Pencil sketch of landscape.

Big shout out to all creatives. Don’t let the world dim the light that is the talent within you. Keep doing what you’re doing!

Peach painting.
Tasty peach.

About author

Michelle Ajema

Michelle Ajema is an artlover who is deeply fascinated by the exciting world of DSLR photography. She loves shooting nature, and can often be found stalking monkeys and birds in her backyard.

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  • Gladys Ndungu

    Love your drawings. They look nice.