African Artist David Thuku Creates Portrait Paintings, Drawings, Murals, 3D Assemblages and More

David Thuku in his studio

David Thuku in his studio

African artist David Thuku has two paintings on display at the Kenya National Museum in an exhibition that opened on the 23rd of this month. He will also have artwork in several group exhibitions in the months ahead, including the first exhibition of Portraits Africa artists, and one at The Circle Art Gallery. Then he’ll do the Kenya Art Fair. David Thuku is part of the exhibition planning committee working to organize the Portraits Africa group show.
Portraits Africa exhibition planning committee at their first meeting, October 23rd, 2015

Portraits Africa exhibition planning committee at their first meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on October 23rd, 2015

Here are some views of David at work in his studio that he sent me from a cyber café computer in Nairobi while we chatted.


David is a busy and productive artist who creates paintings, drawings, portraits on commission, 3D assemblages, and murals.


He’d just arrived at the cyber café after completing a commercial mural project, and although he didn’t have photos from that day’s labors, he sent examples of two doors he’d painted for another project, saying, “I was asked to come up with images that suggest ‘ladies’ and ‘gents’ without the usual writing.” He opted to use an ancient Egyptian theme with a “Thuku twist.”

David Thuku commissioned door designs

David Thuku commissioned door designs

David Thuku door design

David Thuku door design

self-portrait, David Thuku

self-portrait, David Thuku

Of his portrait art, David Thuku says that his self-portrait pencil rendering is one of his favorites so far.

While I found another of his portraits reminded me of the Mona Lisa, of which David Thuku said, “He he he, sure, I felt a monalisa.ish effect after painting that one! I love it because when I painted it, I was experimenting on quick oil portraits on different unconventional oily surfaces…this is on paper and it’s one of the few that was successful…timed for 2 strict hours…between 12 midnight and 2 a.m. I love pushing myself to extremes.”

David likes to place restrictions on his drawing, paintings, sketches and personal studies in order to challenge himself. To make himself more resourceful and to keep in practice for when the right time comes. So as not to be “freaked out” when he gets a short notice commission from a client–saying, “you don’t wanna tell them it aint possible. right?”


The second portrait painting we talked about is titled THE LITTLE RED BOOK, the artist described it as, “dear to me,” saying that he loved the pose–“It was modeled by a friend and I love it because of the story it represents…everyone gets a different story after seeing it.”

David Thuku


“The book is the basis of the whole story. I consider myself an anatomist…every whitty detail or process is important to me…the painting is about the small literatures that everybody has and after reading they take you on a reflective meditative journey, either self-written or a favorite publication.”

And David loves to read. “I love literature in all its representation and definition –poetry….and any good fiction,” and “someone keeps describing my paintings as visual poetry.”

In Between, David Thuku

In Between, David Thuku

“My focus is the process, and expression…approach is not of much importance, as far as I have achieved my goal, which mostly comes as a connective communication with the artwork, as sometimes I don’t have a fore planned reason, but the artwork just leads me to its own creation….my favorite approach.”
When David allows the art to take the lead, his painting and drawing practice also results in artworks created by intuitive guidance– working with charcoal on pastel paper, (as the drawing above), and three-dimensional artworks made from paper, such as the (tabletop or pedestal displayed) artwork below.
Die casting checkerboard die cut shadow, David Thuku

Casting the Dice, David Thuku

 Each year, David Thuku sends some of his paintings to the UK for a Charity Auction Ball to help raise funds for the Langalanga Scholarship Fund, and he also produces small artworks for Christmas cards and notelets that are available for purchase online at the store here.
Screenshot 2015-10-27 at 7.35.45 PM
David Thuku accepts commissions. Connect with David Thuku on Facebook here.


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