iON Presents PrecisiON
“Not in an egoist sense - I believe it’s praiseworthy”
This artist is a prime example of less is more. Using just a pencil to express himself, his journey has enabled him to revisit the calm and be present. Despite his artwork having gone viral, Kelvin Okafor is one of the most humble and genuine individuals I’ve ever met. We chatted and discussed his childhood, his inspirations and how blessings can often come from brokenness.
Kelvin stencils all of his pictures in only pencil and when I asked why, he says “The fact that I find it a humble instrument, it humbles me. Being born Catholic Christian, I already had an idea of what it’s like to be still, have faith and be meditative. I branched away from ‘religion’ and in that progress of growing spiritually, the pencil was definitely that thing”.
Having developed an interest in drawing at only 8 years old, the unforgettable memories of finding “the aliveness” within the pencil helped him see things differently. The nuances, realism and colour of “creating different tones and textures with just one shade of led” inspired Kelvin to continue exploring with this humble instrument.
A sensitive individual, Kelvin grew up in Tottenham which is anything but delicate. His family lived without the concept of limitation or financial lack, but this abundant lifestyle soon changed when he turned 11.
After travelling to Nigeria to mourn a family bereavement, he and his family returned to the UK to find that their home has been repossessed - homelessness was then their address. Despite this 180 degree turn, Kelvin declares that “this was the biggest blessing in my life. Having that adversity financially, I wasn’t able to go outside and socialise and I ended up finding refuge through my drawing, and that saved me. That whole period of struggle grounded me, it enabled me to see beauty and understand value; and in understanding value, I was able to see beauty in the smallest things."
The turbulence that was Kelvin’s life caused him to revisit the practice of stillness not only in his life, but when reflecting the lives of others. Interludes, is a collection of work that focuses on human solitude, “peace and stillness are the most important things to me. Being still and present enables you to connect with the deeper you." His works, even in their stillness, are incredibly moving and expressive.
Kelvin explains that he’s inspired his family friends Skepta, Julie Adenuga and JME but to name a few. “I’ve been privileged to meet people in the media industry, in the arts and even in the academics. I’ve come across a lot of people who have been able to excel and hone their craft, which is inspiration to me”.
As the goal setting and resolution planning comes to a close, Kelvin’s 2017 priorities are to be more present and find balance, especially as entrepreneurship often causes imbalance and busyness. “I’m very grateful for what I’ve acquired skilfully but there’s so much more for me to do and expand. I think it is good to be content, but not complacent. Being Black British is laudable, not in an egoist sense - I believe it's praiseworthy".