LIB Reader encounters Abuja man who sketches people in 6 minutes
Article written Lagos based journalist, Femi Salawu… Read below..
It took me less than six minutes to first notice Cajones Ikeagwuani. In six minutes, Art Jones as he is popularly called, a 49 year old Anambra State born artist would draw a clean pencil sketch portrait of you. His notice on the wall at Next Cafe at Silverbird Galleria, Abuja says so. Six minutes sketch is incredible though my little research told me a British artist, Jason Atomic has a record of 60 seconds.
I watched three excited kids take turns on a sit while this itinerant artist recreate a beautiful replica image of them with his pencil on a white cardboard paper. You could see excitement creased across their faces as they watch a familiar face unfold on paper.
I was visiting the Federal Capital Territory and needed to kill some three hours before my next appointment. An old pal suggested Silverbird Galleria since I was already around Central Area. I found my way to the fourth floor where I spotted Art Jones at Next Cafe sitting just beside the Box Office.
After making an order, I picked a vantage position to soak in the environment while I waited for my order to arrive. I took another look at the notice on a wall that said ‘Sketch yourself. Here In Six Minutes!’
In few hours, I must have seen Art Jones do nothing less than eight on the spot sketches mostly of kids in my short time at the Galleria. One of the high points was when a young couple struck a romantic pose for the talented artist while he sketched away at them. I chatted briefly with an excited mother of three while all her three children got their a tidy job from Art Jones. Their elated mom revealed to me how she would get the art job framed for her kids. She encouraged me to get a sketch for myself. I opted to get one for my woman. The artist calmly explained that it would cost me more and take a little more time since he was drawing from a phone image.
Art Jones sees himself as a Freelance Artist offering his service for a stipend. He has been trading his skills at the urbane Abuja neighbourhood since February 2015. These days, he does a daily average of 20 sketches. But he reckoned that last year was more lucrative as he often did a sketch of up to 30 people per day.
“So, you are from Lagos,” he exclaimed and added, “I would have relocated there were it not for the fuel scarcity crisis.” He is quite optimistic that his art will be better appreciated in the Centre Of Excellence as Lagos is widely known. Art Jones strikes honest conversations easily with his clients and you could tell that he was very passionate at what he does.
When I hinted him about art appreciation in Europe and other developed countries, I had unwittingly opened a window into his background.
Taking his eyes away from his canvass, he tells me, “I learnt this quick sketch art in Paris. The outlines of my woman’s face was already taking shape on the white cardboard paper sitting gingerly on his laps. A smile formed at the corner of my mouth as I watched. It looked surreal and incredible.
Apparently, Art Jones has traversed Europe and North America before relocating back to Nigeria. He explained, “I ran into a lot of trouble with some people and I was deported but I hope to return some day. I have my family in the United States. Hopefully, I will get a waiver and move back.”
Out of concern, I wanted to know if his art takes care of him and his response was quite frank. “Whatever I make here is split with the management of this place. It was their idea that I should come here. They saw me out there and invited me,” he quipped as his eyes darts from me to the image on my phone and to the canvass.
“Never mind, the conversation helps me,” he said when I expressed worry about my chit-chat distraction.
“This is not about the money,” he stressed and added, “one thing I learnt from my white friends is that whatever you do for humanity should not be overpriced. I have learnt not to turn people back because they don’t have much money. If they didn’t appreciate my gift, they wouldn’t even approach me in the first place.” However, he admitted that art appreciation is miserably low in Nigeria.
He continued, “Accommodation has been a big challenge for me in Abuja. I came here from Enugu. Initially, I survive from doing sketches at parties for stipends. I pick some of such locations by listening to the radio or reading the newspaper.”
Has he ever done portraits for celebrity figures? “Don’t even go there,” he said quite frankly. “I would rather sketch people on the streets than to do of the so called popular people. They do not appreciate what I do any better than everyday people. I have done large portraits and presented as gifts to a number of them but I don’t feel appreciated.”
When I pushed for him to mention some names, he mentioned ex-Sullivan Chime, Billionaire businessman, Arthur Eze, Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi as some of his celebrity portrait work.
Before we exchanged contacts and parted ways, Art Jones obliged me of his age when I asked without any airs. “I will be 49 years old on April 14. I would prefer to spend the day with my girlfriend, she knows I like Crunches,” he answered with a smile.
This article is my birthday present to Art Jones and wishing him success in all his aspirations. If you are in Abuja, please, get your Art Jones treatment!
Written by FEMI SALAWU, a Lagos-based journalist.