The Story Behind 40 works that changed my career ( 21 and 22)

AFRO SERIES Awards charcoal dust exhibition figurative graphite oil on canvas portraits rush hour Sharmina Karim The Story Behind 40 works that changed my career watercolour paper



AFRO XXII, Charcoal/Graphite, 10" x 8", 2009

This is one of my drawings that show the beauty of natural hair. It's one of my favourites! The model I used was a very good friend of mine. Because it was purely one of those pieces that I chose to do, I altered her facial features a bit to suit the purpose of the piece. Sometimes I do this especially if the person doesn't want to be seen as the model or if I don't want the person to be seen as the model, in this case the later was the reason. Again this work celebrates one of my best used techniques when it comes to drawing. It's my charcoal wash technique, which I create on a self-sanded watercolour paper to create textures. I mix charcoal dust mixed with water to start off the piece as if it were a pure watercolour, the charcoal dust acting as a pigment. Once I get satisfied with the forms and shapes in the build-up, I then introduce graphite for the areas where I would like to add more texture and do a bit of writing into the drawing, a technique I call "calligraphic mark-writing into the drawing"-Looking closely at this drawing would reveal words that have to do with the beauty and way I felt while working on this piece.

Funny enough when I posted this piece a while back. Someone made a comment, that the work looks exactly like her. Now that's what happens when faces get altered. I couldn't agree less.



RUSH HOUR I, Oil on Canvas, 24" x 36", 2006

This was a painting that was going to launch me into a world of the unknown! Looking back at this first Rush Hour piece brings me pure joy! I was only out to experiment and this is one reason why artists just need to keep trying new things. This was a time in my life that I was experimenting a lot. Just trying to find out things that were interesting to me and things that gave a buzz! Naturally I always found myself getting intrigued by peoples faces, this is what keeps me sketching people on public transport all the time. But then, I also love to see a variety of faces at once, I love pictures that reveal so many different faces and people in one solid composition. I buy all kinds of books and magazines to influence my artistic appetite and I remember buying this book illustrated by Glenn Farby. In one of his illustrations for a magazine cover for the "PREACHER" Number 56-which can be seen HERE I saw loads of faces of different people all merged into one whole setting, and I was like, "WOW! I love that! I wish could do a painting that would have all those qualities!" So, this image kept on 'haunting' me, and then one day on a hot summers day probably in 2004 or 2005, I was at Clapham Common Station in London and I was approaching the escalators when I saw all these people during the peak of the Rush Hour period. Thank God I had my digital camera, it was the first one I had ever used, a 1.5 mega pixel. I just snapped this- "almost out of focus image" of the scene unaltered. I never knew I was going to use it for a breakthrough painting until I got inspired by Glenn Farby.

I remember painting this piece for close to 6 months, I used to work full time at St Mungos and I had just married 2 years from then and had my first child a year from then, so it was a busy time for me, yet I wanted combine all this with my art, something that I couldn't just leave. So I'd paint a little go to work, paint a little, go to work...and I think this continued for 6 months. When complete, I put it into the Patchings Competition organized by the The Artist Magzine and it won the Daler Rowney Award, which entitled me to £250 worth of Art Materials from Daler Rowney! Now that was so encouraging, and I got publicity in The Artist Magazine but the work didn't sell.

Then a year after I discovered a lady called Sharmina Karim! Now, sometimes you just happen to meet the right people. She was organizing a competition to give exposure to upcoming artists in the contemporary scene. The good thing was that the selected works would be exhibited at the Barclays Headquarters at Canary Wharf! And I thought to myself, "Even if I don't win the any of the Prizes at least I'll get some exposure!" So I gave it a go and the work was selected, and for the first time in the UK, I was going to exhibit a painting that would SELL!!!! The exhibition day came and even before I got to the venue on The Private View Day, the work had a red dot on it! I was happy, I remember going with my wife and my baby son and they so proud of me! I must say I was happy with myself! That first Rush Hour painting sold for £875, It meant a lot to me then but continuing this series has seen some works go as high as £7,500! But there's always a beginning! So, the greatest thing I keep reminding myself everytime-whether I'm up or down is to KEEP ON KEEPING ON! There's a lot of power in PERSISTENCE, I mean real DOGGED PERSISTENCE, I mean sometimes, you want a change so badly, you are ready to sacrifice anything to get the results you are looking for. Well, that's enough said on this piece!

"There comes a time when you will be the only one who can judge your paintings. you can not rely on what has been done in the past or what is accepted now. It is up to you to set your own standards and understand how to judge"-Angela D'Aleo from her BOOK, The Purpose of Painting

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