Kgabaetsile creates comic art

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Drawing comic characters is usually disconcerting for an adult. It is usually associated with kindergarten, but not when it earns you money and causes your work to be displayed nationwide.

What started as a pencil drawing exercise for Kago Kgabaetsile, evolved into comic character creating for package and promotional materials.

On top of getting paid to do that, he would have his comics on the new products, which will be distributed countrywide in the near future.

Interestingly, the young artist had long narrowed art to his pencil drawings until late last year when the comic opportunity came up.

This was after he met a businessman who needed comic drawings for a new local brand.

 “They needed someone to do comic drawings and asked if I could do that. I almost said no because I feared I would fail to do it, but I then realised they believed in me and I could not let them down,” Kgabaetsile tells Arts & Culture.

Unlike many children, the Gaborone-based artist hardly watched cartoons during his childhood.

In fact, he reveals television is not his thing. But after getting this job, he started watching lots of animated movies, cartoon channels and browsing through comic books to get some inspiration.

That paid off when it was time to present the comics he had created.

“They were overwhelmed by what I came up with. I had drawn by hand before we transferred it onto the computer. They loved the colour combinations and how it matched with the lettering, the simplicity of shapes which they felt would attract a buyer,” he says.

 Buoyed by his success in the comic arena, he has gone on to venture into graphic designing, a move that has given birth to his budding clothing line.

“I have done t-shirt branding and comic designing.”

The clothing label Rep God Over Beats, a project he is doing with Otsile Motswagole, is taking shape.

“This is our way of taking the gospel to the streets,” he says.

The passionate artist, however, stresses that he will never throw away pencil drawing as he considers it his first love.

“I’ll always choose pencil drawing over everything because I believe this is where my strength is.  I don’t see myself being good with anything else as I am with drawing so I have no intentions of quitting it any soon,” says the talented artist.

Even when it was time to watch Cartoon Network and animated movies, he continued browsing through his favourite artist’s works from time to time.

He believes art, for most local artists, is the typical paintings and drawings.

But for Kgabaetsile, even applying cow dung on a floor, using seeds or collection of dithokolo tsa podi (goat dung) to make a lovely pattern out of is artistic in a big sense.

“The most important thing is for it to communicate and have emotional power,” he explains.

He adds: “Nowadays we have even more developed art forms that are digital and computerised to create works that incorporate sound and image”.

He had to use popular software Art Rage, a natural painting and drawing software that can be used on a computer, tablet or smartphones, when he was exploring the other side of art.

He knows social media is a powerful tool for promoting one’s work and has taken to Facebook with his page ‘Drawn by Kago’.

He took part in the Thapong Artist of the Year exhibition where he displayed a drawing of his with two family members. Although it did not win him any award that did not deter him.

He went on to try his hand in Cubism, using paint on canvas.

“I’ve been too open to learning art. I have a piece I’ve done and intend to enter it for the President’s Day competition,” he says.

This time, he is confident he will land an award and feels it is not too early to do the piece with the competition months away.

 He has previously scooped prizes in art both at primary and secondary school. 

He recalls times when he would have done his best on a drawing, but failed to win a prize and says that did not deter him.

Interestingly, as all his elder siblings grew older they strayed from art, leaving him as the only active artist in a family of artistically gifted people.

The 23-year-old wants to become Africa’s best at what he does.

And judging by his ingenuity, the first Lora Arts Award winner has the world on his fingertips..The votes-based competition saw his Barack Obama piece garner over 750 votes, earning him the P10,000 prize.

Kgabaetsile has also been exploring other forms of art using water paint and coloured pencils.

 “I must admit I’m not perfect with this but with the help of my fellow artists and research on the internet I will certainly get good with this,” says a determined Kgabaetsile.

Besides drawing and being creative on paper, he is also into poetry, word play and rap music.

His rapping skills were honed in 2009 after he finished his Form Five studies.

“We had nothing to do at home, then bought music recording equipment and made a recording booth at a friend’s house where we would practice,” he says.

It was then that he learned how to write rhymes and rap. It, however, never got too serious because of his dominant passion for fine art.

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