I used to be able to draw
This is it. The last proof I have that at some point in my life I could draw.

This drawing of Bob Marley was done in 1995 – 23 years ago. Back in those years I loved drawing faces, my favorite being bushmen or any face with a lot of character – an interesting smile or some nice wrinkles. My favorite medium was just plain pencil. I never even really used to use the whole range of B’s available, I just stuck with my trusted B and maybe a 2B every now and again. I can’t even tell you what type of paper I used, it was just whatever sketch pad I had at the time. 

I never considered myself a serious artist and I really didn’t know what to do with it. I would draw for whoever asked and have memories of copying a few of Boris Valejo’s artworks which I was paid R120 for an A2 – back then I felt honored that someone would actually pay me to draw for them. I loved Boris’ work with the realistic way in which he portrayed fantasy scenes – it really let you live yourself into the scene. I started a few of my own ideas but they were never completed.

My mom was my biggest fan – aren’t moms always. She used to boast about my drawings with whoever would listen or look. She got me a few commissions too back then – portraits of people’s family, or rehashes of bushmen I’d already drawn for someone else. I wonder if those still exist or if they were also tossed away at some point – the same as I did with my old art when I packed to move house – the only survivor being the Bob Marley drawing. Why did I keep that one? Maybe because it was the largest portrait I had done with the most detail, and, well, Bob had a nice friendly smile so he got to stay.

Sketching has always been my first love. I never really worked with other mediums other than the odd school project. As far as painting went, I only ever used pretty standard issue paints that we were supplied at school. I have never tried oils or acrylics. I bought a set of watercolor paints at some point in my life but don’t recall ever actually completing a painting with them. 

Somewhere in my early work career (around 1993) – which I may add was actually as a technical illustrator (doing technical drawings for manuals mainly) – I was asked to do artwork for a centennial calendar for a mining timber company. It seems that my boss had remembered my school portfolio on bushmen that I’d presented at my interview and although I had not done anything arty since I’d started working there, he felt I would be the right person for the job. The only challenge was it required colored artwork – I’d only really ever done black and white. So thats when I discovered watercolor pencils! It was the closest to the medium I was comfortable in. Those were fun although quite challenging – there’s no room for error as mistakes can’t be covered up. Somehow I managed to create 12 pages of artwork depicting the company’s history, which consisted mainly of portraits of the significant people in the company along with various mining equipment. Not very exciting but, I guess, looking back, to have been chosen to do that was quite something. 

That was probably the last time I used those watercolor pencils. I actually still have them – Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer set of 24 colors. They’ve been packed in my ‘art box’ for all those years. I see they are still available now and selling for over R700 – the price on the back of my tin says R191,55. And looking inside I can see I never used them beyond one project. Apart from the white and one other one that is missing, the others have hardly been used.

My career changed path and I headed into the field of graphic design and that’s where I’ve been ever since. What I found though, was that as I used my creativity in my work, I had very little desire to draw anymore. Although perhaps it was not so much the desire that was missing but rather the time. My graphic design career engulfed my life and insane hours were spent behind my computer, working. 

And that has been my story. That drawing of Bob Marley has been hanging in a cheap frame on my wall for many years now and occasionally I’ve looked at it and wondered if I could still draw. The year 2011, I’m guessing, was one of those times as I’d pulled out an old sketch pad and pencil and drawn a not so great version of an impala, which still lives in that sketch pad. And again since then, nothing. 

Until recently that is – and social media is to blame for this one. With cup of tea in hand, scrolling through the posts of wildlife photos on a Kruger group that I’m a member of, I noticed comments on a picture, which, at first glance, surely had to be a photo. I was blown away to discover it was a pastel drawing. It piqued my interest and I started looking for other wildlife artists’ work to see what was possible. 

That’s when I started to feel it – that urge to know if I could still draw, and would I ever be able to come close to creating something as realistic as some of those. It was then that Bob smiled at me from the old frame hanging on the wall and whispered,

Go for it, give it a try!