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Kevin Dispatch

A Young Artist Searches For A Style of His Own

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When tribal legends and fairy tales are passed down orally over generations they inevitably change. As they're translated into different languages and spread throughout different countries and eventually continents, they adopt local styles and incorporate various regional nuances. While bussing through Bolivia for example, the rest of the Team and I watched several animated fairy tales that we recognized from our childhood like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel & Gretel. The fairy tales were translated into Spanish with very noticeable changes.

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Energetic colors suggest prosperity. But where are all the people?
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Artists over the centuries, like storytellers, live and die. But fortunately for all of us succeeding them, they leave much behind. By utilizing the artistic conventions of their day as well as those that precede them, individual artists are able to develop their own personal style, adding to the canon of artwork which will be studied by artists of future generations.

It is unlikely that 20 year old Paul Cezanne growing up in Aix en Provence, France in the middle of 19th century ever imagined that his work would one day influence 20 year-old Nathan Ticharwa from Buhera (in Mashonaland East) 140 years later. But Nathan and his fellow classmates are fortunate enough to have many previous generations of painters to study from, like Cezanne, both inside and out of Zimbabwe.

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Painter Nathan Ticharwa, the Paul Cezanne of Zimbabwe
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Nathan is the only member of his family with artistic ambitions. He only became interested in art relatively recently at the age of 13. At that time, he had several friends that were artistically skilled, but his competitive spirit convinced him that he was capable of doing better than most of them. He devoted the following four years to the after-school art club where he began drawing and painting. Of the two mediums, he's always enjoyed painting more but is happy to have developed his drawing skills because they serve as the foundation for his paintings.

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From there, Nathan moved on to the Polytech College where he trained for nine months. He began to study graphic design, which was new to him. Nathan never really took to this type of design and was happy to return to painting upon completion of the training program.

However, the combination of his drawing, painting, and design skills gave him an advantage over most of the 60 applicants with whom he competed for entrance into the National Gallery in Mbare where he now studies. Mbare is a suburb just a few miles from downtown Harare. Aspiring young artists come from around the country to study at this school, which also has its own art gallery. Nathan is now one of the 24 lucky students studying at the National Gallery. There are 13 new recruits for the first-year students, 10 2nd year students and one remaining pupil for the 3rd year. This is due, in part, to the country's desperate economic situation, which frequently forces young artists to search for more lucrative professions. Needless to say, Nathan takes his classes very seriously and hopes that he won't be an additional figure in the high rate of attrition.

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Nathan is all too aware that most would-be artists end up laborers
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Nathan is saddened to think that, "There are not a lot of painting exhibitions in Harare to go to and it makes the life of a student more difficult." He says he often turns to books on art in order to learn more about the artists and styles that interest him such as Cezanne and Van Gogh. He is equally inspired by the abstract style of Zimbabwean painter Luis Mec. He finds studying art history to be fascinating and wishes there were more opportunities to see great art in the big city.

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The vibrant nightlife of Mbare is captured in this painting of a billiard game
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Over the years Nathan has developed himself as a promising young landscape artist but he feels as though he is just beginning. In viewing only a few of Nathan's paintings I'm immediately drawn to his vibrant use of color. He tells me he would also like to try oil painting, but for now he sticks to watercolor because oil and canvas are too expensive. He goes on to explain, "Many people are able to express their feelings very well verbally. For a long time I've felt that I can best explore my feeling visually." Nathan told me that he's still working on developing his technical skills and admits that he's far from creating a style of painting he can call his own. Although he's never felt very comfortable with a camera and photography, he would like to explore styles of realism in his future painting. I suppose in the meantime, we'll just have to wait and see what Nathan eventually comes up with as he continues on his journey of artistic exploration.

Kevin
 

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