Onyinye Ubah

I was met with cheers, eyes of admiration and hands clapping at what they saw. The heavy applause alone was enough to build anyone’s confidence. An onlooker would be sure that something remarkable had happened in my school that resulted into an outburst of cheers and admiration by the students and teachers. Earlier that week, I got a book from a friend and decided to draw the characters in the book. The book was “My Book of Bible Stories” published by the Jehovah Witnesses. My hands got quite busy as I made sure I drew all the characters there. My drawings were a perfect replica of the actual drawing in the book. The perfection stirred a wild spread applause in the school on that beautiful. That was not the first time I drew, but guess that was the most outstanding as a child. I had been drawing since my Nursery school. Even at that early stage of life, my admiration for anything arts was immense although I couldn’t make arts as of then. The passing of each day made my scribbles more defined. It was obvious I had passion and love for it. Then, one day after some years, I decided to make my first art and the entire school went agog.

My hands did not stop being busy. It kept dismantling radios, coupling bulbs and lights. Somehow, my busy hands got hold of sciences and tilted towards that direction. Who knows, being an engineer might have been my fate I must have naively thought. Instead of towing the paths of arts as most people would expect, I gained admission into a science secondary school. I transferred my expressionist traits into sciences with the hope of studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering in the university. After trying to gain admission for three consecutive years, I gave up on my engineering dreams. The other option I had was to study Physics which I accepted.

Uncertainty filled the air every moment I had spent studying Physics in the University of Uyo. There in school, I picked up the hobby of drawing with charcoal and graphite pencil alongside my studies. My grades began to drop. Arts had waltzed back into life and taken the center stage again. The height of it all was when the head of my department called me aside one certain day to advise me to pay more attention to arts instead of Physics. It was a huge irony for an expert in Physics to advise his student to pick up arts instead. To show his level of support for me, he handed me a contract to draw his family portrait. It was from him I made my first hundred thousand Naira, even as a student. From then, I became famous for drawing popular figures in school. In no distant time, my drawings were already yielding me enough money to pay my school fees and help others in need.

The real world faced me eyeballs to eyeballs after graduation. Deciphering our career path after graduation is usually a distasteful time for many graduates. It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out the way to go. Without any hesitation, I dumped my certificate and became fully devoted to arts. There were no double thoughts about it. I went all out for it and pursued it without looking back. When everyone around me saw I meant business, they had had to take me seriously and respect my decisions.

Navigating the new terrain of merging arts and business was a struggle at first. No one volunteered to show me anything. At first, I struggled and when I felt like it wasn’t getting better, I almost gave up. My expressionist hands suffered more. Getting calls from clients who wanted to cheap services also added to my pains. Those were dark times of my toddler days in arts. The creepy thoughts of doubting my talent and potentials tagged along in spades. Whenever I saw the progress of others, I slipped more into self doubts. Even after that period, these creepy thoughts would one way or the other rear its ugly head and mess up my psyche. The comforting lines I would reluctantly affirm were that ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ During those dark times, I came across success stories of some artist that also had similar stories like mine, I became determined to pick up my drawing tools and draw till my busy hands make me heard.

Yes! My hands finally made me heard on the day I made my first one million Naira from drawing. It woke me up to the realisation and confirmation that I was made for the arts and nothing less. Money has played a huge role in being a motivating factor for me. On some other days, music and the happenings in real life keep my expressionist hands floating seamlessly.

Etuk Unyime – Pencil and realism Artist

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