This 11-year-old Nigerian is blowing the art world with hyper-realistic portraits

Mohammed Awal Nov 26, 2019 at 11:30am

November 26, 2019 at 11:30 am | Success Story

Mohammed Awal

Mohammed Awal

November 26, 2019 at 11:30 am | Success Story

Credit: Twitter

Kareem Waris Olamilekan was six when he started drawing with friends. They drew super strikers, comics, newspaper and textbooks illustrations. 

At eight he realized his ideas were getting elaborated, so he joined an academy of arts in Lagos, Nigeria.

Kareem Waris Olamilekan with French President, Emmanuel Macron. Photo credit: waspa_art/Instagram

Three years later, Olamilekan, now 11, is taking the art world by storm with his hyper-realistic portraits and skilled drawings. 

Olamilekan drew the praise of French President Emmanuel Macron during the latter’s visit to Fela Kuti’s New Africa Shrine in Lagos last year after producing a stunningly mind-blowing portrait of Macron in just two hours.

“I am good at drawing, expression painting, and hyper-realism pencil art. But I always wish to be good at every aspect of art just like the old artist (Michael Angelo) am too small to major in one aspect of art, who knows what tomorrow will bring?” he says in a chat with Guardian.

Olamilekan who says he gets his inspiration from fellow Nigerian portraitist Arinze Stanley and Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo describes himself as a “bitty artist.” 

Working from a makeshift art studio in a poor neighborhood of Lagos, Olamilekan hyper-realistic portrayals of friends, family, and notable figures are full of detail and packed with personality, demonstrating talent far beyond his years and reflecting the approach of his two artistic idols —Stanley and Michelangelo, according to Modern Met.

Like Stanley, most of Olamilekan’s portraits are said to be completed in pencil. He nonetheless, also dabbles in paint, pastel, and even ballpoint pen. Similarly, he also explores subjects beyond portraiture. 

Olamilekan recently won Taiwan’s 22nd Fervent Global Love of Lives Award, beating some 2,723 international candidates.

The Fervent Global Love of Lives Award under Chou Ta-Kuan Cultural and Educational Foundation was founded in 1997 and annually invites institutions, organizations, schools or individuals to recommend candidates who are brave, benevolent and diligent fighters in life.

The foundation promotes the ‘Global Love of Lives movement’ and believes that ‘Everyone is Good at Something’.

Olamilekan who was one in the approximately 2,723 other international candidates to participate came out victorious.

Sticking true to George Burton Adams’ saying that: ‘There’s no such thing as a ‘self-made man’, Olamilekan is always quick to appreciate that statement anywhere he finds himself and a classical example was during his chat with Guardian when he was asked about his training.

“I was trained by two professionals, the founders of an Academy of Arts. When I was eight years old I joined their Academy,” he says. “I was taught how to draw professionally and how draw to level of hyper-realism, so am not self-trained I am trained and mentored by the academy,” he adds.

Olamilekan who sees himself as a company, says he felt so happy whenever he drew. “I never get tired of drawing, I am always happy doing it.”

Having to manage schooling and drawing, as the latter is a time-consuming venture, Olamilekan says he has found quite some balance and he’s doing just fine. 

 “Going to school and also learning work is not an easy thing, but I stay patient and focus on the future. Monday to Friday I usually wake up by 6 am to prepare for school then when I come back, I go to the art academy to do some works.

“At times I read at night and also at times draw at night. I didn’t allow school to disturb my art life and I didn’t allow my art to disturb my school. I am one of the best in the academy of art and also the best in my class,” he says.

Addressing the painting of Macron, Olamilekan says seeing a lot of Macron’s paintings done by different artists nearly discouraged him. 

But thank God for my mentors, when they saw the doubt in my face, they told me not to be afraid and never look at their side that I will be known and noticed today. Thereafter I never doubted my work and I pray to God for my work to be acknowledged,” he says.

“Before the work was presented my mind was up, calculating in my mind what’s will be the next thing but after the show, I really feel so excited,” he adds.

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