You Just Might be Sitting on a Gem!

I vividly remember a friend in my teen years whose hands were talented at drawing portraits. Since it was a rare doing in the village, he could startle us on how he could, with a lot of ease, make a portrait of anyone in the school. I can remember in particular how he perfectly drew a portrait of our then Agriculture teacher. It was so perfect such that a thought of my friend immediately brings back the memory of the teacher and the portrait, after all those years!

You’re dead wrong if you think I have more stories left of the creative ‘hero’.
All I know he is lost in a drinking den. He grew up in a poverty stricken family and thus couldn’t successfully clear his primary studies, leave alone secondary school. Then came to Nairobi to try his luck which didn’t work. His wife finally divorced him – as he couldn’t cater for her.

As I grew up in the village, those years, I heard of these narratives that painted artists as losers and fellers who lacked ‘something important’ to do in life. An artist to make it in life was like the proverbial monkey tying on a keyboard; it could type Shakespeare but none can bet on it - of course I can't.

It’s this school of thought, I strongly believe, that denied my artistic friend a fortune.

The career advice all around had become obvious: Get good grades, find a good job and never ever quit, then find something to fall back on.

A creative art could only be a hobby. Choosing it as a career is as well as choosing failure – because, well, odds are, you’ll never be successful in life!

Students who take art degrees are despised. In fact, to-date, most people enroll in art courses because they don’t have an option! Yea, art is a fall back plan when you don't pass well enough. It’s when you take an engineering, medicine or law that you matter.

But that’s changing.

The New Art World

If you threw a stone at any direction, chances are you’ll hit an artist, a well doing artist for that matter. More people are now taking art seriously and are reaping.
Credit: Black Swan Media
What can be said of Ben Kiruthi? Is he starving because he chose to be a photographer?

Do you think Daniel Ndambuki, better known as Churchill, is regretting his decision to try comedy?

Isn’t Alex Wainaina a contended sculpture more than many classmates he sat with in an Agricultural Engineering class?

I know Bahati’s music has fallen under controversy at times, but isn’t the guy reaping?

Far from those names that have made to the lime light. We are surrounded by young people who are making it in their small ways – and possibly headed to the lime light; most of them are not employed by anyone, but they are financing their lives, helping others, and in fact employed some – using their art.

This is why it pains me whenever I remember my primary school friend now lost in a drinking den. Suppose he got the story on the other side of the coin? Suppose someone held his hand to foster those drawing skills? How much worth could he be by now? How many more talents would he had nurtured? And, yes, he could have gone to school to educate himself on art, but at least he had skills to start with; he had what it takes. But he lost his gem! He lost everything!

I recently visited a friend. She lives with her niece. I found these A0 plain papers with patterns drawn neatly. I looked around and I could not find a primary school kid.

I asked, “Who’s drawing this?”

To my amazement, her niece answered, “It’s my assignment.”

“What? You in which School?”

“Kenyatta University; first year.” She answered.

I couldn’t believe the very things I used to enjoy doing in my primary school are now done by ‘grown-ups’!

Are you talented? Do you feel art is what you were meant to do? Do you simply want to paint, sing, write stories, act, narrate, film or sculpt?

Don’t underestimate your desire! Unlike the past old days, now there are more avenues to share your works. Be it an Idea for a movie or a book, or an urge to photograph, or a dream to improve lives; go for it.

Stop Working for Free!

Gone are days when artists were perceived to be ‘just existing’, trying to make ends meet and jokers.

You can make a living out of art – and live well. Say no to people taking advantage of your talent.

Don’t be used as an MC without a pay! Not everyone can MC a meeting; I am not good at it.

Don’t go playing a piano or drums at events without a pay forevermore – start charging a fee. 

Don’t accept to be a by-the-way photographer! Nope! Negotiate for your skill, time and energy. That's why it's said 'time is money; make sure you're earning something back from the time you spend doing something. If not money, then it should be learning; if not learning, then let it be confidence and loyalty. But at least you must have a reason as to why you are folding your sleeves. 

Even if you’re in the village, let people know you’re the best at doing that decor art, and more importantly, you charge for that service. Our society is used to free things, especially art. You should not belong there.

People may take a Single hit by a musician to be less important than a new App release, dismissing it as mare luck, but there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Making a great reap off your talent has never been more possible and easier! Find a mentor, sharpen your artistic skills, make yourself a brand, be on demand. We’ll start looking for you, soon - you can take that to the bank!

Do you think art can be taken as a serious career? Can Parents encourage children to follow this path? You can give your views on the comment box bellow.


  1. This is inspirational. People have talent, and such inspiration is about the right way to get them shaking out of their hiding cocoons. Thank you Job Gichana.

    1. Welcome! Glad you got inspired; and thanks for taking time to read and comment!