Eli Waduba, the 26-year-old Kaduna-based hyperrealism pencil artist, whose art work recently caught the international attention, tells The Interview why he chose the profession…
At what point did you decide that you would be a hyperrealism pencil artist?
I stopped drawing for a while, but I picked up hyperrealism four years ago when I saw some hyperrealism works online, it intimidated me at first so I stopped looking at them and started working on myself.
Knowing that art does not court much patronage in this part of the world, what was your motivation for choosing that path?
This is true. Even my dad was not in agreement with it. He wanted me to study a more professional course, like medicine or law. Once something is your passion money will not be your prime focus, I had to do free works for people, and even collect less than the actual price, it all about passion for me.
Does anything in your background influence your works?
Not really, I am just a man God blessed with the talent, and although my background as I stated earlier almost made me lose it. It also made me know how much I really needed to do this.
My aim is to compete with the camera. I want my work to be so real that you will prefer my drawing to pictures
Did you get the support of your family when you were starting out?
No. Who exactly makes money from art? In fact, my dad gave me a clear ‘No’, but my mother was really supportive. Before my dad died was when he started to support my work.
What are the challenges you have faced in your career and how do you deal with them?
Aside funds to get my materials, or the market to sell them at a good price, I had a lot of hindrances, especially with my dad. I stopped drawing but I couldn't stay away; it kept drawing me back, until everyone, even my dad saw that there was no stopping me. He had to let me draw; in fact he gave me a commissioned work.
Once something is your passion money will not be your prime focus, I had to do free works for people, and even collect less than the actual price, it all about passion for me
What does being a hyperrealism pencil artist mean to you?
My aim is to compete with the camera. I want my work to be so real that you will prefer my drawing to pictures. Hyperrealism has been a source of fulfillment, I love seeing the shock, surprise on people's faces. It didn't take a day, but I am here and there is still a lot to work on.
How did you feel when Kelvin Hart decided to buy your work and support you?
It's a feeling hard to describe. It was shock, joy, tears, wonder, I didn't know how to take it in, aside the paying for the art, the single fact that he saw it was my joy, I didn't expect him to, even if he would, not as fast as it happened!
Your Kevin Hart portrait shot you to the limelight; it was a major story on Steve Harvey’s show. Has that increased the demand for your works within and outside Nigeria?
Yes it has, a great deal.
Where do you see your craft in the next 10 years?
Stable, full of consistency, train more people, do a lot of exhibitions, own my own studio and have my art hanging in Aso Rock and the White House.