January 21st First Exhibition of Portraits Africa Artists Opens in Nairobi, Kenya


Portraits Africa announces their first exhibition of artworks from their community of artists to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, 21st January to Friday, 5th February 2016.

Participating artists include Anita Kavochi, Anne Mwairi, Christopher Kiongah, David Thuku, Elias Mung’ora, Elijah Mutua, Jack Birgen, Jay Kimathi, Nadia Wamunya, Nduata Kariuki, Nicholas Odhiambo, Peteros Ndunde, Seth Odhiambo, Sylvenus Semoh, Victor Binge, and, Waweru Gichuhi.

We’ll be sharing more on each of the artists in the weeks ahead. Find out more on the Portraits Africa’s blog here.

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 Langalanga.org store here.
Screenshot 2015-10-27 at 7.35.45 PM
David Thuku accepts commissions. Connect with David Thuku on Facebook here.


Two African Artists Commissioned to Bring Old Photograph Back to Life

Reference photo with visible crease damage

Reference photo with visible crease damage

The reference photo that African artists Seth Sketcher (aka Seth Odhimabo) of Nairobi, Kenya, and Gershon Kwaku Puregold of Accra, Ghana were both commissioned to work from, was a scan of the lost creased and damaged original. The man in the photo is the deceased father and father-in-law of an American couple living in Florida, Kane and Roger. “It was a great photograph of my father-in-law that was lost except for this bad scan of the original image,” said Roger. The couple particularly liked this image and wanted it reclaimed and preserved it in an original artwork. In fact, they commissioned two versions of this photograph–one from each of the two African artists.

To start the process, Roger says, “I commissioned a work with Seth Sketcher.  We started talking together client to artist and I asked him if he would do a nice drawing from a poor scan of a great photo of my father-in-law. He said “yes” and we discussed a price of $300.00 for a medium-sized work plus all shipping costs.” A similar arrangement was also made by contacting artist Gershon Kwaku Puregold.

According to Dr. Keith McFarlane, Founder and CEO of Portraits Africa–“Roger rather insisted on the literalness of these pieces, and on a complete rendering, for example, of the striped shirt. Left to their own devices the artists, Seth in particular would be rather less literal, and so the works illustrate the constraints that a commission can impose. But of course the creative balance of a client and a commission does bring a financial reward.”

Gideon Fasola completed portrait commission for Roger and Kane

Gershon Kwaku Puregold’s completed portrait commission for Kane and Roger, charcoal on archival paper, 54 x 63 cm (21 x 24  inches) Commissioned for $250 + $35 shipping and insurance from Africa to the USA

Dr. McFarlane also spoke of the two resulting drawings–“The comparison is interesting as it illustrates the differing sophistication and abstraction of the two artists (Gershon is the younger and less practiced). It also shows how an old photograph can be “brought to life” in the hands of a skilled artist.”

Seth Sketcher completed commission for Roger and Kane

Seth Odhiambo (Seth Sketcher) created this drawing for $300 + $35 shipping and insurance from Africa to the USA.

Another benefit to bringing an old damaged photo back to life as a drawing, is that the fine art quality of the paper stock that the artists use produces an image with longevity. For his drawing above, Gershon Kwaku Puregold used a heavy paper stock similar to a thick watercolor paper. Both Gershon and Seth Sketcher used Archival grade acid-free non-rag papers on which to create their drawings. These artworks will last for many generations of ownership and preserve the memory of this man within his family for many years to come.

Seth Sketcher at work from iPhone screen reference image

Seth Sketcher at work from iPhone screen reference image

Resulting commissioned artworks may be to any size! Here, in the photo above, Seth Sketcher in Nairobi, Kenya, is at work on the portrait drawing on paper which is 42 x 63 centimeters (16 x 24 inches).

Seth Sketcher and Gershon Kwaku Puregold are just two of the more than thirty artists available to produce your portrait on commission via Portraits Africa.

If you have questions about commissioning a Portraits Africa artist, contact Dr. Keith McFarlane via email:  editor@negativeentropy.net

The service is described in detail in the Portraits Africa brochure, Commissioning a Portrait.