I can draw your portrait too
1 weeks ago, 07:37
Every day, Ali Hassan, 22, stays up late manifesting his creativity on paper. He is a portrait artist who uses pit charcoal or pencil graphite to draw.
“I grew up watching my maternal grandmother draw. She would embellish her gourds and walls with drawings of flowers or symbolic images,” he says, adding that even though this inspired him enough to start sketching while in primary school, he did not consider it ever being his career.
“I wanted to become a movie director because I was fascinated by films and wanted to learn how they were produced. I performed well in school, and was certain that I would join university after secondary school. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
Before he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams in 2013, his mother had a candid chat with him, explaining that she would not manage to pay for his university education because she had to educate his two younger siblings as well.
“It occurred to me then that I might not realise my dream of becoming a movie director. That is when I began to entertain the idea of becoming an artist,” he explains.
The first portrait he drew was of his school principal. He loved it so much, he paid Sh1,000 for it. After completing secondary school, Ali decided to leave his home in Kericho for Nairobi, convinced that the move would offer him more opportunities.
“A friend agreed to host me, and a couple of months later I re-connected with my father and moved in with him,” he says.
Before moving to the city, he envisioned having many clients asking for his services, but as it turned out, they were hard to come by. Not about to give up, but with no money to advertise his work, he decided to paste his work on electricity posts near the United States International University- Africa (USIU-A). He would draw portraits of popular people which he would then stick on the posts.
The marketing strategy worked, but not how he had envisioned it. Instead of getting clients, he got a mentor, Rony Randa, an accomplished portrait artist, who offered to help him refine his skills further.
“For about five months on weekdays, I would go to Kenyatta University where he was based and he would teach me what he knew. He shared his knowledge with me unselfishly. His selflessness would later encourage me to do the same with others. Currently, I have six young people that I am training free.”
To raise bus fare from Kasarani, where he lived with his father, to Kenyatta University along Thika Road, Ali worked as a dishwasher in a hotel along Thika Road on weekends.
He started off his business with Sh2,800, which he used to buy essentials tools of trade such as ivory board papers, pencils and erasers. Today, he draws about five portraits every week. On a good month, he makes about Sh100,000.
“The cost of a portrait depends on ...
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