Self-taught pencil sketcher targets celebrities

It was an unexpected gesture when Thabiso Junior Kefalotse climbed the stage at Bahama Lounge recently to give South African house music crooner Naak Musiq a pencil portrait of him.

The music artiste was in the country to perform at the now popular ‘happening’ nightclub known for attracting the finest music acts both locally and internationally. The 25-year-old Kefalotse who hails from Ramotswa but was raised largely in Gaborone, says he started drawing when he was in primary school and continued at secondary.

He later went to the University of Botswana to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies; he however did not complete his studies and giggles that somewhere along the line he realised that formal education could be overrated sometimes. However, he did not stay home and twiddle his thumbs as he got a job in marketing, working at a gym. In fact, Kefalotse is a gym fanatic and spends a lot of his time working out. Earlier this year he quit his job to take on art full time. He concedes that everyone around him thought he had lost his marbles but he points out that he would rather be happy than chase a pay cheque each month.

He says the interesting twist is that money followed him as he started investing in something that he loves and enjoys. The self-taught artist explains that he decided to focus on the medium as he wanted to be an expert in one thing first. “My expertise is in portraits and I have not yet transitioned to other forms of art. If I can achieve a certain skill in pencil then I would have achieved a lot. With time I will explore other art forms,” he says. Kefalotse says he relies on commissioned work.

He says social media has helped him a lot. “I got my first client from Facebook and have subsequently got a lot of clients through word of mouth. The plan is to grow my brand so that eventually art lovers buy my name,” he says candidly.  One would wonder why it appears that he draws celebrities mostly. He says that is not necessarily the case but well-known faces help him get mileage.

“I usually draw people who know people and have an audience because it brings attention to my work. But it is not entirely free. For example, Prince Kaybee bought the portrait I did of him during his last visit. I have also met up with Khuli Chana as well as Han C. Our plans don’t just end with the portraits – I engage them on future projects and see how we can collaborate,” he says.

The artist says he is not in the same position he was in a few months ago. “I have grown in terms of my skill and reach. I know what I am doing and I can secure clients. One has to start at the bottom and work their way to the top and that is the approach I used.”