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Black British artist unveils Beatles portrait on anniversary

TALENT: Kelvin Okafor standing next to his portrait of John Lennon

PENCIL ARTIST Kelvin Okafor unveiled his detailed photo-like drawing of John Lennon last night (Sept 10) to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary since the release of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album.

His most ambitious drawing to date, took a staggering 215 hours to create. Using just graphite and charcoal pencils, Okafor looked to capture the essence of the legendary singer, songwriter and peace activist.

His distinct style combines photo-realism with a powerful emotive quality, which art critic Estelle Lovatt termed ‘emotional realism’. Okafor will spend days analysing a photo, studying his subjects and watching their videos and interviews to immerse himself in their character, aiming to bring it to life in his portraits. For the John Lennon portrait he worked 11-15 hour days and took great inspiration from the star.

The London-based artist said: “It was a joy to draw a man who gave so much through his music and acts, which saw him branded as a ‘Man of Peace’. After an extensive search to select an image to draw, this one resonated the most with me as it was an expression I felt depicted the essence of his personality and his intent to spread peace and love through artistry.”

The impressive portrait will form part of his exhibition showcasing a selection of his drawings from the past 10 years which have contributed to the appreciation of his painstakingly meticulous craftsmanship across the world.

The milestone portraits exhibited earned him numerous awards nationwide, applause from art critics and were key pieces in his journey as a portrait artist. The exhibition titled ‘Retrospective’ will be at the Mall Galleries, a gallery Okafor used to pass on his way to college and dreamt of exhibiting in.

‘Retrospective’ will include a portrait of the late Bernie Grant MP, commissioned by the House of Commons from Okafor and normally on permanent display in Parliament. This was unveiled by Leader of the Opposition, the Right Honourable Jeremy Corbyn MP in 2017. This will be the first time it will be displayed outside Parliament.

The exhibition also includes all of his drawings of his first muse Mia, which have been brought together for the first time ever in the show. Okafor has been drawing, his friend’s daughter, Mia every two years since she was three, with the latest to be unveiled of her at 11 years old, charting her childhood.

The Retrospective exhibition will run from 11-15 September at the Mall Galleries, London.

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