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  • Writer's pictureEli Africa

Fast Faces

Updated: 2 days ago

I remember being four years old and drawing a face on a chalkboard, and I remember it filling up the whole space. I remember being at home with my family – and when I was done, I ran away crying. They asked me, “What’s the matter?” I answered, “My drawing is scary!”

To me, my drawing looked like a monster: big eyes, a gaping mouth, big teeth. I scared myself.

I would find myself many years later sitting in lecture as a young college art student, maybe a little bored and distracted, drawing my classmates. I started to develop a style the more I drew, something between a portrait and a caricature...striving to capture a person’s likeness, using quick, bold lines. Sometimes people knew I was drawing them, but most of the time they didn't. And one day I decided to gift one of my doodles to an unsuspecting subject. In return, they rewarded me with a hot meal and a cold drink as a token of their appreciation. What started as a fun hobby turned into my first paying gig as a young professional.

From then on, I took every chance I could get to draw my friends. And if I was lucky, their friends too. I would eventually be referred to gigs where I drew from photo references, as gifts for  birthday celebrants or to mark something like an anniversary or other milestone. I’d end up being referred to do editorial cartoons, or draw faces for student newspapers and flyers. As a young artist, what really surprised me was when I started doing caricatures at public events: I saw people willing to wait in line to see themselves drawn. I observed that it was just as exciting for onlookers to witness the whole process from start to finish, like a spectator sport, like the fascination that one might have when they watch a baker kneading dough through a window. I got the sense that my little setup evoked the same feeling. I could feel people looking over my shoulder, curious, as I sat in my chair and drew. It felt like good pressure, like an adrenaline rush.  I’d think to myself, “I better do a good job.”

So, I got into drawing faces by accident. No one taught me how to do caricatures. But the craft is there; my style and way of drawing faces is a result of many things. Having an art background helped me to make the caricatures that I specifically make. Although I wasn’t taught how to do caricatures in art school, there are other things that I learned that informed how I do mine, giving me fuel to imagine how I see and create. Throughout the years, my path has led me to either creating art in its many forms or inspiring others of their own creativity. I've had many exciting opportunities to create art for print, events and websites, but for some reason, out of all the things I've had the chance to be a part of, work on, or collaborate with, guess what people remember me for the most? - drawing faces.

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