Times are gradually changing, and the tides are changing in our society. Unemployment has pushed the youth of our nation into the depths of depression after dedicating themselves to an education system that refuses to reward their hard work. In response to this, youth are learning to create opportunities for themselves, find solutions to problems and discover new ways to earn a living.
We caught up with Dennis Thuita; a 25yr old artist from Nakuru who has a wonderful story of how he found his passion and livelihood in painting and drawing. From dropping out of the university from an engineering course to experiencing a crisis of confidence, his journey is that of inspiration and hope, a tale of conviction and resolve. We spoke to him about his faith, struggles and how he came to be one of the most talented artists in Nakuru if not in Kenya.
Dennis Thuita was born in Bahati Nakuru. He is the firstborn in a family of five siblings; four brothers and one sister. He went to school at Jomo Kenyatta High School in Nakuru where he performed well in KCSE scoring an A-minus. Though he was always quiet and reserved, Dennis was fascinated by art and he loved to add beauty and light to the world. He wanted to pursue a course that would give him a platform to exercise his creative nature and so he chose to apply for civil engineering.
For the next three years, Dennis attended the technical university in Mombasa. Just like in high school, he continued to top his class in university, he was always an A student. Though he was good in class, he realized as time went on that he was not passionate about engineering, but he stuck with it. Three years into the course he realized that the institution wasn’t accredited by the Engineering Board of Kenya.
As a graduate from the institution, Dennis felt like he would never be taken seriously, and he would have likely been viewed as a quack engineer. After months of internal struggle, he finally decided to drop out of the engineering course. Being the firstborn of the family, his parents were very disappointed by his decision. They saw it as irresponsible and reckless. They didn’t feel like he was setting a good example for his younger siblings.
Once he came back home, Dennis enrolled for a CISCO Networking course but dropped out once again because his heart wasn’t at ease. It felt like he had lost all direction in life and started questioning whether he had made the right decisions. He had since moved out of his parents’ home and was living in a small house surviving only from the money, he collected at his pool table business. Times were tough and money was really tight. Fearing that he had become a disappointment to his parents, he fell into a depression and he really struggled to see the light.
During his darkest hours, Dennis fell back to his faith where he got his strength. Dennis is a proud member of the Mizpah House Of Prayer where he is also the youth secretary. During one of his prayer sessions and meditation, he received an epiphany which he believes came from God himself. He felt a voice urge him to go back to his love for drawing which he had discovered in high school. With a strong conviction that God had spoken to him, he retraced his steps and started drawing once again.
Having been a member of the Drawing and Design club in high school, Dennis had picked up some knowledge of art and design. To sharpen his skills, he went on YouTube and researched renowned artists, mimicking everything they did so he could become an artist of that calibre. It would be seven long months of practising before he got his first job.
Using graphite pencils on ivory board, it took Dennis thirty hours to complete his first commissioned piece of art. A friend had sought out his services and paid five thousand shillings for the piece. That was the first time he had earned as an artist, but his fulfilment meant so much more than the monetary reward.
Since then it has been two years of drawing and painting. More than 50 portraits later, this has been Dennis’s main source of income now. Over the years he has grown tremendously as an artist and he keeps working to better his skills as an artist.
Dennis has sent his pieces all over Kenya and has even sent some abroad. It now only takes him around three days to complete a piece of art. Though he majors in portraits, he has also done a couple of pieces in an abstract and semi-abstract style. He believes art cannot be defined, it is always changing so the artist needs to change and grow as well.
Dennis’s parents are proud of what he has managed to do for himself and have been very supportive of his career. Making his parents proud only makes him more determined to challenge himself, create and make the world more beautiful.
His pieces have gained recognition in the art community. He has exhibited twice at the World Youth Alliance. One of his pieces was among the finalists for the 2018 Safaricom contest to pick the pieces which would feature in Safaricom’s 2019 calendar. A competition that involved 5000 artists around Kenya, and though he didn’t make the last 36 spots, his painting was recognized among the 90 best paintings. He has also donated a piece to AMREF Africa which was auctioned to raise money for Fistula treatment and education about FGM.
When asked if Kenyans appreciate the work that artists do, he said most of them do. One of his pieces “Convergence” was sold at eighteen thousand at an exhibition. He prices his art differently depending on size and technique. Pencil drawings range from ksh3000 – 10, 000 while oil and acrylic paintings go for ksh4000 upwards depending on the size.
Dennis believes he will be one of the biggest artists in the world in the next five years. He trusts that God led him onto this path, and he intends to follow it to wherever it might lead him in the future.
Brian Muchiri is a creative mind, passionate about meaningful storytelling that not only entertains but also positively impacts the reader. His style of writing is lighthearted and provocative, leaving his audience with deep introspection. Brian is also a disability advocate and champion for articulating issues faced in the disability community. He enjoys listening to music, watching documentaries and attending concerts.