“Timeless” Graphite Pencil Drawing with Kelvin Okafor
Runner up prize winner Cork Street Open Exhibition 2013


About Kelvin Okafor:


London based Artist Kelvin Okafor rises up in the art world winning awards and appearing on the BBC News for his incredible graphite pencil artworks that are more realistic than a photograph.  Major newspapers around the country are publishing articles about his work along with images of his incredibly realistic portraits of famous people such as Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, Elizabeth Taylor, Mother Teresa, Heath Ledger, Rhianna, Princess Dianna,  and more.

“Heath Ledger” by Kelvin Okafor
Copyright – Kelvin Okafor – No Reproduction Permitted

In this interview I have had the privilege of getting to now more about Kelvin through his answers to my questions. In the interview below you can read about his motivation, what keeps him inspired to show up at the table to work between 80 to 100 hours a week at drawing and how he overcomes any doubts or fears that arise as he draws. Just before we launch into the interviews, take a look at this amazing artists work; these images are not photographs, they are graphite pencil drawings by Kelvin Okafor a 27 year old man from London.

Early Devotion to Drawing

Kelvin first discovered a love of drawing at the very early age of 8 years but it wasn’t until he was 15 years of age that he realised he could draw to a noticeable level. Kelvin was born in London where he lived out his youth in a tough council estate. He had little money in those days, so he often spent his teenage years drawing instead of going out doing the usual things that his peers were doing. kelvin has no regrets, he says he preferred to draw instead.

His goal was to continually improve both his artistic skills and himself personally. Totally devoted to his love for drawing he was honing his technical drawing skills as he taught himself in the quiet of his bedroom in his parents home, then went on to study art at university. The story of Kelvin’s rise to fame proves that loving family support, hard work and dedication to what you believe in really can pay off.

Kelvin is represented by the Albemarle Gallery in London and will be holding an artists talk at the Cork Street Open Exhibition in London on August 9th – 16th for more details about his exhibitions, talks and art demonstrations press here www.kelvinokaforart.com

Behind The Scenes with Kelvin:

In this interview I have asked Kelvin about his rise to fame and what has motivated him to pursue and sustain his love of drawing. Kelvin shares that the most important thing that helps him on a daily basis is his motivational quotes that he has pinned to his wall in front of him. Kelvin is a true inspiration and an absolute rising art star, a well-spoken and respectful young man…one of the greatest living artists of our time. He has a huge future and I wish him well. Enjoy learning more about Kelvin behind the scenes in this interview I had with him (through the written word);


“Melvin” by Kelvin Okafor
Copyright – Kelvin Okafor – No Reproduction Permitted


Interview Cont’d With Kelvin Okafor:


Q: When did you first realise that you really loved drawing? Were there any instances that you can recall in particular that made you choose to concentrate on creating art?

A: I was 8 years of age when I first realised that I really loved drawing but I was 15 during my studies at St Ignatius College when I discovered I could draw to a noticeably skilful degree. It became apparent to me that I had a talent or skill to draw by the reactions of my teachers and peers. Being able to produce and create art for people to engage with. To prompt and arouse emotions, making people feel inspired and encouraged is what gave me great joy and satisfaction in my early school years, and in turn inspired me to keep creating. These instances and moments happened during school breaks, in classes and at home.


Self-Taught Artist


Q: Did anybody teach you drawing techniques when you were young?

“Elizabeth Taylor” Graphite Pencil Illustration by Kelvin Okafor
Copyright – Kelvin Okafor – No Reproduction Permitted

A: My drawing techniques were self taught. I would draw what I see and imagine. I would draw tirelessly until I felt satisfied with how accurate and precise it looked.


Q: Did you study art in secondary school and where else did you study art techniques?

A: Yes I did study art in secondary school. I also studied art in a year course at City & Guilds Art School and graduated with a B.A. Honours in Fine Art at Middlesex University.


Q: In one of your interviews you mention that when you were going through your teenage years, you didn’t go out and do all the things other teenagers were doing, you were drawing instead…what influenced that decision?

A: My decision was influenced by my need to self improve. I wanted to progress artistically and I understood that it would take discipline and a lot of focus to do so.


Connecting Through Drawings


Q: What subjects do you mostly like to draw and paint about and why?

A: I mostly like to draw subjects which inspire, captivate, challenge and mystify/bewilder me. The reason for this is, I want to connect deeply and emotionally with the subject/person, solve puzzles or give meaning to their expressions. Character, essence, personality and mood are all emotions/feelings expressed by my subjects. Those expressions are what attract me. I feel like I personally know people I’ve never met in person after drawing them, and I feel an even closer connection with people I already know.


"Adam" Graphite Pencil Illustration by Kelvin Okafor

“Adam” Graphite Pencil Illustration by Kelvin Okafor
Copyright – Kelvin Okafor – No Reproduction Permitted


Q: What is the primary motivation for why you create art?

A: Progression is the primary motivation for why I create art. The idea of progression inspires and motivates me, not just as an artist, but as a human being. Productivity makes me happy. Being able to produce and create art for people to engage with. To prompt and arouse emotions, making people feel inspired and encouraged is what gives me great joy and satisfaction, and in turn inspires me to keep creating art.


Positive Thinking


Q: What goes through your mind while you draw, is there a calm silence, do you listen to music or do you experience doubt, fear or any emotions at all? If you experience fear or doubt what do you do to overcome these feelings?

Image of Kelvin Okafor signing his 1st Limited Edition Print - Genesis Imagine

Kelvin Okafor signing his 1st Limited Edition Print – Genesis Imagine

A: While I draw all sorts of emotions go through mind. Being that I’ve always been such a sensitive/emotional person, remaining disciplined and focused can be such a struggle sometimes. Although I do listen to soothing music and I do zone out feeling a calm silence, I get distracted easily.  On my bedroom wall I have inspirational/motivational quotes, messages and a list of goals I strive to attain.

Every morning as I arise and every night before I retire I recite them. I’m a firm believer in the words “We become what we think about”.. so daily I try to keep my mind focused on my goals. Self help books such as  “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill has helped me beyond words in achieving my goals, developing a better philosophy about life and overcoming doubts and fears. I have found that listening and reading positive messages drown out the negatives.


Major Moments in Art


Q: Was there any particular moments that you feel launched your art career for you? Has anybody guided you along your career path as an artist and if so who?

A: Winning awards and getting accepted into major and prestigious art competitions were moments that I felt launched my art career. Until the beginning of this year 2013, my own self belief, ambition and determination lead me to where I was. I have been very fortunate to now have a business manager/coach to help guide my artistic path. Her name is Kathryn Roberts. She has been a true inspiration for me and a guiding light in a world of art and business.


Helpful Tips for Artists


Q: Do you have any special unique advice for other artists who are learning to draw in realism at this very high standard that you are drawing at?

A: Any special unique advice for other artists who are learning to draw in realism would be the trial and error advice. Keep practicing and understanding the technical use of your artistic medium. Skills can only be taught or achieved through self practice. There are methods techniques such as circulism and gridding but I will recommend that all artists just go through the trial and error method. I rely on several images when working from reference photos. Reason for this is that studying a subject from all angles gives me better understanding what the subject truly looks like. When working from photo references I usually use digital photos i.e. photos on laptop computer screens.

Ultimately, I encourage artists to study the subject thoroughly before working on it. Visualise the process of creating the work and imagine what final stage of your creation would look like. I find that this method of practice compels you to complete a tedious work of art. It excites and motivates you to better what you envisioned and take good steps in achieving your best capable result.


“Mana” Graphite Pencil Illustration by Kelvin Okafor
Copyright – Kelvin Okafor – No Reproduction Permitted


Kelvin’s Reference Images


Q: Kelvin, I know that you don’t ever just simply ‘copy’ from a photograph. There are many skills involved to create an original artwork from a photograph and your drawings are more realistic than the photograph. Do you actually take the photograph of your sitters yourself (ie: do you meet some of the famous people in your portraits?) or do you purchase the images to draw from?

Image of Neil Lawson Baker with Kelvin Okafor - Director, National Open Exhibition Science Museum

Neil Lawson Baker with Kelvin Okafor- Director, National Open Exhibition Science Museum
2013 – Photo by Freya Robinson

A: Many of the famous people I have drawn were referenced from images I bought or asked permission for. I take my own photos of my sitters and have been fortunate to recently have a couple of famous people sit for me.


Art Awards


Q: Please tell us about any significant awards you have won or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life.

A: Entering the National Open Art Competition changed my life as an artist. It was a giant stepping stone for me last year 2012. It built the confidence and belief I had in the potential of my creations. I chose to enter this competition because I felt it would be a great platform for me. I also chose to enter this competition because of their aim or mission for artists. They aim to provide an open and fair platform for all UK artists to exhibit, sell and promote their work through the medium of an annual National competition with exhibitions in London, Chichester and other venues around the UK.


Cindy: Kelvin, it has been an absolute privilege to interview you and thank you so much for the interesting answers to my questions. I am thrilled that I have had the opportunity to bring your art to the awareness of the people who read this post. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.


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For more information about Kelvin Okafor and his art please see the contact details below:


  • Albemarle Gallery – 49 Albemarle Street, LondonW1S 4JR
  • Gallery phone number: 020 7499 1616
  • Gallery Director: Tony Pontone


About Cindy Wider:

Cindy Wider is the author of the soft cover books:

  • ‘Paint in Your Pyjamas’
  • ’12 Charcoal Techniques’ &
  • ‘Action Painting Workshop’

As well as 37 e-books that form the ‘Complete Drawing and Painting Certificate Course’ at www.dpjwebmst.wpengine.com all available through Amazon.