Art, it is said, is language. One young man is speaking this language in style. Eric Amofa’s pencil-arts have wowed everybody who sees them, even the president. But it has never been an easy road for him in life. After losing his father everything came to a stand-still for him, including his education. But read on as he shares his journey with the B&FT’s Inspiring Startups, on how he turned his life around to become one of the best pencil-artists in Ghana.
Eric Nana Amofa is a native of Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Life was smooth for his family until the passing of their breadwinner—his father—in 2002. Life was never the same again from that time, and so after completing junior high school Eric couldn’t further his education any more. For him not to add to the pressure on his mother, as he was the third of six children, he decided to wean himself off his mother’s budget by finding something to do for himself to survive.
He moved from one church to the next learning how to play musical instruments, a skill he mastered to use as his profession. However, there was a special talent in Eric that he hadn’t paid much attention to—pencil art.
My love for pencil arts
When he was in the junior high school, he once drew an image from a test book that depicted someone being arrested by a police man while urinating at unauthorised place. The art looked perfect to him and from there he realized how good he was in art.
But Eric somewhat lacked self-confidence. He felt his works were not good enough to catch attention from people, so for many years, he never practiced art. But in 2015 everything changed.
One day, a friend posted a nice picture of herself on Facebook, and Eric joked that he would do a pencil art of the picture for her because it was so nice. Well, his friend didn’t take it as a passing comment; she kept asking Eric about it. So, just to satisfy her demand, he decided to give her a surprise.
Remember that Eric had been battling with low self-confidence about his artwork – so to be sure the art would come out with a finesse finish, he read wide and watched videos on the Internet on how to improve his drawing.
After going through that exercise and feeling adequate to the task, he gave his friend a nice portrait. The lady loved the artwork so much that she shared it on social media – attracting many comments and likes, praising the artist. This boosted his confidence and he decided to focus on the artwork and put his love for musical instruments on hold. Since then, he has started commercialising his work, naming his business Enamof Pencil Arts.
In fact, one of the high-profile works he did was a drawing of President Nana Akufo-Addo (at the time a presidential candidate), which he presented to him personally.
Eric does not want to keep his talent to himsel. He wants to, in the near-future, open a training centre that will train young men and women in pencil-art.
Foremost among the challenges he faces on a regular basis is the lack of appreciation for arts in Ghana. People don’t really value artworks, and so want them for cheap.
“Someone will see a beautiful artwork and ask about the price, and after telling him the price he will remark that it is just a pencil art, so why should it be sold at that price? They don’t appreciate the effort that goes into the work, and so they don’t value it.”
Again, a challenge is inadequate capital to set up fully. As of now, Eric still does his work in his living room. His startup capital is not enough to rent a place that will provide him adequate space and market for his work. For now, the only place to display his products is on social media.
He would welcome any move by people who share his vision and want to partner him.
How education has helped him
Even though Eric ended his formal education at the junior high level, he has never stopped learning. He keeps educating himself informally by reading books and researching on the Internet. This has boosted his confidence, as he is able to communicate fluently in the English language.
The help government must give startups
For Eric, government policies should not be targetted only at startups in the formal sector. He thinks there should be other policies or schemes which identify promising startups with no formal structures, as most of them can be very viable if given the needed financial and managerial assistance.
He feels government assistance to startups should not be limited to only competitions where ideas are pitched and only the winner gets a prize. It should be broadened to help those who have good business ideas and projects but lack the capacity to present them through pitching and other competitions.
“I would advise the youth never to forget their dreams, but pursue them to make it a reality. I, for example, thought I could never do pencil art in such a fine manner; but today, here I am. So, it is very important to keep pushing until you get there. Never give up.”
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