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Workshop with Kelvin Okafor

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

Today I had the pleasure of learning from one of the greatest pencil artists I know. Kelvin Okafor is a hyper realist pencil artist. I met him late last summer (see my 'Retrospective' blog post) and after witnessing his skill up close, I was super inspired to pay more attention to my own art career.

This time I was lucky enough to partake in a workshop where he demonstrated his techniques. I had the chance to soak up all the information and take note of ways to improve my own artwork.

- Demonstrating texture on the skin such as blemishes and pores.

It's fair to say I took way too many pictures. I was really eager to watch this unfold as i'd been prepping for this session for so long. Me being such a nerd 🙄

He started off by running through the materials he uses explaining what they do. We each got a little set that we would later use to try out the techniques we had learnt that day. I recalled last time we met he advised me to switch from using graphite to charcoal. The key is to reduce the amount of graphite shine, leading to an overall more realistic appearance.

Charcoal powder was another product that I jotted down on my shopping list. This can be used with a brush especially to lay the basis of a complexion. One lesson I learnt was not to be afraid of adding more depth of tone even when trying to achieve lighter skin tones. This was convenient seeing as I am always drawing darker complexions, giving me me a heads up if ever i'm presented with the challenge of drawing of a lighter skinned person.

The most important lesson for me to learn is related to detail. I struggle with patience so I must admit that this is something I want to overcome. The humble Staedtler pencil eraser acts as a really good way to lift value from the paper.

I was also introduced to a smaller eraser which can be used for the more intricate pores. To mimic the appearance of a spot, a subtle value is added to the bottom of the white space, creating the illusion of a raised surface on the skin. The opposite is applied to create the illusion of a pore. This is an important part of creating texture on the skin. Here is the result of the example he had produced demonstrating all the skills he had taught us. I was itching to give it a go myself.

As the day went on, we watched the master at work. By the end of the session, we had gotten so carried away that we didn't get the chance to try out our new skills, but Kelvin was kind enough to add this to our goody bag so I tried it as soon as I got home with my eager self🤦🏽‍♀️

MY TURN!!!!!!

So this is what I managed to's not perfect but I will say that I am proud that I managed to utilise the techniques I had observed so studiously. Strangely enough, my favourite part is the top right side of the forehead. Purely because I used the small eraser to mimic veins and texture. Something I have never even thought about!

The most inspiring part for me was when he showed us one of his early works of 'corinne Bailey Rae' and he almost cringed.....he then explained how his journey had taken him to where he is now.

I hope my journey will teach me the same.

- Rochelle Ayele

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