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Ranford Anderson's Realism Art comes to life

Published:Monday | August 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMNashauna Lalah

Every line, wrinkle and blemish on his face is obvious. His eyes tell the story of the 27 years he spent in prison. There is no mistaking the face of the famous freedom fighter and first black president of South Africa - Nelson Mandela. Realism artist Ranford Anderson's drawing of Mandela captures, with stunning precision, the character of the man.

Anderson's drawings have life and personality. They are far more detailed and complex than the run-of-the-mill sketches often sold at craft markets and gift shops. Anderson said of the Mandela portrait: "I titled this piece 'Dalibhunga', which is the name Mr Mandela was given at the age of 16 once he had undergone initiation, the traditional Xhosa rite of passage into manhood. It means 'creator or founder of the council' and it was while working on it that I started having real control. Based on the reviews that I've gotten, it confirms that I'm doing great things that are touching people's hearts."

Mandela is not the only figure Anderson has brought alive through his portraits done on paper using graphite and charcoal pencils. Jamaica's own sprint star Usain Bolt, and entertainers Chronixx, Mavado and Protoje have also received the talented artist's treatment. Anderson has met and presented them with the portraits as gifts. "They all seem to have been genuinely amazed by the level of detail I'm able to achieve. For example, I had shown Usain his piece

sometime before giving it to him. When he finally saw it in person, his exact words were, 'Yow, mi still cyah believe ah pencil you use draw dat. It mad!'" Anderson recalled.

"Haha! I still can't understand how he runs so fast. Big up the sprint king every time. I look forward to working with him again."

The Old Harbour High and Clarendon College past student told Outlook: "I was fond of drawing back in high school, but just sketching, never enough to pursue a career. I wanted a career in the field of information and communication technology. I started drawing again mid-April of 2013. After seeing a spoon being drawn on YouTube, I told myself that I could draw it, and did just that. I then discovered realism art in July 2013. I learned the fundamentals by doing online research then applying the knowledge gained through practise."

So did he completely retire his dream of working in the field of communication technology? "I still love and appreciate technology because it's very much a part of our day to day life. I stay up to date and keep my mind fresh. I don't know what the future holds, but it's kinda hard to imagine my future without art or technology, but art is first," he said.

His pieces are created from photographs and memory. "I use a reference photo to get correct proportions, but the idea is to go beyond the flat photo surface. By adding layers, I create a new reality not seen in the original photo."

Each piece that Anderson produces takes 20-100 hours to create, depending on size and details. He said he gets into a zone when working. "It's kinda hard to explain. Sort of like an escape or therapy a feeling of fulfilment in knowing that I'm doing something positive that is admired by youths."

The 27-year-old told Outlook: "My main source of inspiration is Rastafari because that is what keeps me grounded and believing in myself. I'm motivated by love and the beautiful people that I have been able connect with so far along this journey."

Anderson can be contacted at