As a card guard at the Constantia Village Shopping Centre, Erick David Karangwa, often walked past the centre’s art gallery on his break admiring the work on display. One artist’s paintings particularly caught his eye, Tokai landscape artist Andrew Cooper.
“I was in awe of this man. I wanted to paint like him, and I wished I could meet him someday,” said the 32-year-old Rwandan-born Mr Karangwa.
That was in 2005, when he was painting with craft paint, moving on to acrylics the following year and then oil in 2009. Two years later, studying the work of professional artists, he started painting in acrylics.
“I would visit galleries all over the place wanting to know how other artists paint, comparing my work to theirs and even taking some of my paintings to them for a critique,” said Mr Karangwa from his single room in a house he shares with others in Re- treat.
His easel dominates the room, tubes of paint lie on a low table, his work hangs on the walls and his bicycle is in the hallway.
In 2013, he took one of his paintings, a portrait of Madiba, into Constantia Village. Impressed with his work, they offered to host his first solo exhibition. He had three paintings and sold them all within three days.
This led to a newspaper article in which he mentioned Mr Cooper as the artist he admired.
Mr Cooper read this and searched out the fledgling artist, shocking Mr Karangwa who idolised him. The two men chatted for a long time, and Mr Cooper agreed to become his men- tor.
In 2015 another exhibition was held, Mr Karangwa saying his work had improved tremendous- ly.
This weekend, the shopping centre will host his third exhibition. “It will be good for people to see that it was all started from the coins I got as a car guard, proof of where their money goes,” smiled Mr Karangwa.
“Erick is a hugely talented artist. I believe he has great potential, and I’m happy to help him with tips, a few paintbrushes, paint and the occasional canvas,” said Mr Cooper. “To see a student develop as an artist is extremely rewarding, and it’s something more artists should be doing. It takes time to develop as an artist, which is why a mentor can help.”
Mr Cooper teaches Mr Karangwa about light and how it changes at different times of the day, how to blend colours to ach-ieve the ideal atmosphere and the importance of composition.
While this is all wonderfully creative, Mr Cooper also advises Erick about the more serious side of being an artist, like how to market himself, what prices to sell his paintings for, the importance of interpersonal communication and, most importantly, budget- ing.
Mr Karangwa may still have a long artistic journey ahead of him, but what makes him stand out from the crowd is his dedication to his passion. He only occasionally guards cars now, painting from 8am until 1pm and then cycling around exploring the Cape’s surrounding mountains, rivers and beaches to expand on his subject matter. He often paints at night as well, but now he can mostly rely on the sale of his paintings to eat, pay the rent and buy new materials to produce more art.
* The exhibition runs in Constantia Village, from Sunday May 29 to Tuesday May 31, from 9am to 4pm on Sunday and 9am to 5.30pm on Monday and Tues- day.