You Can Almost Touch It: Kelvin Okafor on Art, Emotion, and Photo-realism.

Meet artist Kelvin Okafor, a virtuoso craftsmen that is redefining the way we view portraits.

The level of detail that is present in Kelvin's work is enrapturing to say the least, but the psuedo-photographic nature of his imagery is the byproduct of his love for the human spirit.

He uses the extensive process (his pieces can take on average upward of 100 hours) as a form of meditation and connection. Kelvin believes that the photo-realism itself helps to immortalize the emotions and inner-dialogues that may be present within his subjects during the moment of creation.

If there is one thing Kelvin would like viewers to take away from his work however, it's for people to explore their potential as human beings:

"I would like for my artwork to encourage one to go within and discover their glory. We all have something magical we possess within us waiting to be discovered and expressed into this physical world. A gift or talent that could touch, heal, inspire and serve the world in a way I feel it was meant."

In this interview, Kelvin tells us more about himself and artistic journey.

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Prox: I’m always curious about the way an artist’s environment impacts their work. How is the landscape and culture of the UK influencing your pieces?

Kelvin: Most of my drawings are of people in the comfort of solitude. London is a very diverse and multicultural city. As populated and as commune as it may appear, lots of people suffer with loneliness and depression. People are not very comfortable with engaging in eye contact and smiles while walking down the street approaching strangers. Understandably. But deep down inside I feel that everyone is connected and appreciates pleasant communications with others.

In my drawings I consciously, and also sub-consciously, depict the beauty of solitude and encourage others to go within to discover a depth and light to who they truly are. I feel that this voluntary solitude offers peace and love with self, and in turn, with others too.   

Prox: What is it about hyper-realism that motivates you to create? How did you develop your talents enough to be able to produce these works?

Kelvin: I’m predominantly motivated by the timely process of creating hyper-realistic art. I get to spend hundreds of hours creating and being present with something I truly love most. Within that time, I’ve spent most of it not thinking or worrying about what is happening in the outside world. It becomes a practice of meditation. 

From around the age of 8 I had always been fascinated with pencils. It impressed me deeply how a single shade of lead can create tones and textures so defined and so abstract that an illusion of colour is formed before you. This notion inspired me to continue to utilise the technical use of a pencil and build upon a skill derived from a talent within - thus enabling me to produce the works I do today. 

Prox: The monochromatic aesthetic in your work is outstanding. How does the lack of color add a new element or depth to your art? Does the neutral tonality help to make the hyper-realism more believable?

Kelvin: Thank you very much! I actually feel there is an element or illusion of colour in my works.

It always amazes me how the viewing public is able to almost perfectly identify the race or cultural background of a subject model in my drawings. I do believe it may be due to the wide array of neutral tonalities that’s displayed. Subsequently, I think that’s what also offers a depth of field creating the appearance of realism.     

Prox: It’s easy to get lost in the accuracy of your portraits but what do you think your pieces represent from a symbolic perspective?

Kelvin: From a symbolic perspective, I feel my portraits represent the feeling of nostalgia. A reminder of the beauty of our human form.

Being that I can be very unforgiving with facial feature details such as pores, chicken pox scars, blemishes and wrinkles, I feel that highlighting these features enables a viewer the opportunity to appreciate the minutia details of our design. Lovely enough, that is the feedback I receive whilst exhibiting my works at shows. People appreciate attention to detail but also the emotional response that arouses.

Prox: Ultimately, what do your want people to take away from your pieces?

Kelvin: I would like for my artwork to encourage one to go within and discover their glory. We all have something magical we possess within us waiting to be discovered and expressed into this physical world. A gift or talent that could touch, heal, inspire and serve the world in a way I feel it was meant. 

Prox: Tell us something about yourself that we may not know that influences your work.

Kelvin: I have extremely vivid dreams and some degree of photographic memory. I’m able to draw quite accurately an image I’ve seen in a dream without reference guide. Most of my recent portrait drawings have been depicted in relation to how I saw my model’s expressions expressed in my dreams. 

Prox: Any artists, books, movies, music, or TV shows you’d like to recommend?

Kelvin: I recommend a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It pretty much talks about living in the present moment which is something I feel benefits us all.  

Prox: What are some your favorite Hobbies?

Kelvin: I love to sing. Music is another love and passion of mine.

Prox: Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?

Kelvin: Create more of what you feel oppose to what you think. Its important for an artist to create whatever they feel inside their hearts and not be discouraged by the opinions of others - which is usually that limiting voice in our heads. Thinking too much hinders you from organically expressing your truth.

There are no mistakes in art so one should not be afraid to express how they feel. I also recommend that artists submit their art into Open Exhibitions. It gives the artist an opportunity to showcase their art tangibly to a viewing public and also the possibility of having a breakthrough as I did in 2013 after winning multiple awards.    

Prox: Any Information on upcoming projects and releases you’d like to share?

Kelvin: I will be touring with my collection “Interludes” in the UK and overseas very soon. Confirmed dates will notified via my website and social media platforms. 

Prox: Final Thoughts?

Kelvin: No final thoughts just my thanks and gratitude to you for this interview.

Be sure to get keep up with Kelvin and his work by following him on Blogspot, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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