I was on Facebook when I saw the work of an artist with the signature Theo Pencil. The first of his work I set my eyes on was a picture of Africa’s illustrious son Nelson Mandela. I had to watch the art again to convince myself it wasn’t a photograph. His works are artistically designed with a finesse that shows that the man is adept at using the pencil. Read about him as he shares his journey with B&FT’s Inspiring Start-ups.
Theophilus Boateng Sarpong is the second of four children born to his parents. He is a product of Firm Foundation Senior High, a private school in Sapeiman where he studied visual arts.
Theo, as he’s called by all, decided to move straight into art after completing secondary school. One might ask why he made such a decision – and simply put, his love for art moved him.
Theo Pencil takes off
From infancy, Theo loved art. He would spend time sketching anything he conceptualised or saw. So, he realised it was a God-given gift that he did not have to waste. That love for art inspired him to start his own business.
He began reading wide on the Internet about types of art and the tools and other materials needed to start. He felt particularly attached to hyperrealism, which is a genre of painting and sculpture resembling a high-resolution photograph.
From humble beginnings, he started his work at home. His father operated a shop in front of their house, and so each day Theo would station himself in front of his father’s shop and start his art. Passersby would pause and stand in awe to watch sketches of high-profile personalities that looked exactly like photos when seen from afar.
How his work stands out
Theo Pencil’s work is outstanding for one thing— his attention to detail. Theo ensures that any spot on the skin of any person which is visible to others who know him appears in the final work.
From grass to grace
There is an Akan proverb which when translated into English says: “quality sells”. Recall that Theo started his work at home: but shortly after, he got a space at the Accra Mall – Ghana’s first modern shopping mall. And guess what? It was given to him free of charge.
“I remember I went to the Silver Bird Cinema one day to watch a movie. There, I saw one artist display his products at the mall. I thought it would be also nice to have my work somewhere in the mall too. But I didn’t know how to go about it, because I knew I couldn’t pay.
“Surprisingly, that artist had seen my work on Facebook and sent me a message for us to meet. So, I approached him another time when I went there, and identified myself to him. He warmly welcomed me and I asked how I could get my products in the mall. Then he told me to bring some of my work so we could show it to management of the mall. I did that, and the lady managing the place just gave me a space free of charge – saying my products are superb.”
His work has caught the eye of all who glimpse it—both far and near. For instance, someone from Australia, whom he had never met, contacted him and said he loved his work and wanted to set up a website for him free of charge.
He has also had contracts from people in the United states who saw his work online, and he has been featured in a prominent newspaper in California – all because of his stupendous work.
Theo Pencil art can be obtained at a price starting a just GH₵199 and above, depending on the size and specifications of the client.
Theo feels the main challenge of the art industry is a lack of deliberate effort by government to support the sector. It takes great solo efforts for artists to survive in the industry with no marketing platforms available to exhibit their products.
Also, copyright issues are another challenge confronting the industry. He sees that there are weaknesses in the legal system which makes the art industry susceptible to plagiarism.
The vision is big for Theo Pencil. As Margaret Fuller, an American journalist, once said: “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it”. Theo wants to follow that wise saying. He has plans of setting up an online Art Centre, where he will organise lessons and training for young people interested in art.
He also wants to continue rebranding himself to become an internationally recognised artist.
How can government promote the industry?
As noted in the challenges above, Theo feels government should be strict on copyright laws to protect the hard work of artists in the country, just as is done in developed countries.
He also suggests that government must periodically organise art expos where artists will get a chance to showcase their products to the world.
Advice to budding artists
“I would advise young ones interested in arts to be interested in research. They should read about it and put the ideas into implementation, then they will become successful.”
Contact Theo on 0543457132