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Drawing on a passion…

Reeves Kibet describes himself as an illustrator and whose ultimate goal is to illustrate his own children’s book.

An illustrator is a broad term, he says, just like an artist, who creates some visual to accompany a message.

The visual material can be a photograph, a painting, a sketch, it doesn’t matter the medium just as long as it is not text.

“It’s about communicating a message. It could be from text, you could have some accompanying text or it could be a stand-alone but usually it comes with text. It illustrates what is written. An illustrator always works with accompanying text,” he says.

How did he get started? He laughs and says that he did not get into his work by accident. He was always interested in art.

“I was the guy who was always doodling in books in school. When guys were taking notes I would be doodling around the notes, writing then doodling. I got into a lot of trouble because of that. But my school — I went to an 8-4-4 school — sadly, didn’t emphasise so much on art,” he says.

When he finished high school, he would sit in his room and draw comic books. He did not have any high tech equipment to work with so he did everything by hand, even the writing.

Writing workshop

“It was a pastime that turned into an obsession and finally I had a stack of so many comics. I was just doing it for my own pleasure and then a friend visited and found me drawing. She told me about Storymoja Publishers. I had never heard of Storymoja before that. Then she told me they were having a writing workshop that I would be interested in,” he says.

Reeves attended the 2008 Storymoja writing workshop and loved every moment of it; he went there twice a week for three months.

Although the workshop did not focus on drawing, it kind of fitted his needs as it was for children’s books which of course need illustrations.

“I learnt everything about writing a story for children. It was an eye-opener because I love story books but I didn’t know how they actually come to be from scratch,” he says.

When the people realised that he was good at drawing, as he was sketching, drawing and doodling during the workshops, the publisher gave him his first project to illustrate.

Reeves illustrated, Gamba the Gecko by Doreen Baingana, in three weeks and the publisher was impressed with his work.

He has since done illustrations for five books for Storymoja including one of their bestsellers, Matatu from Watamu by Muthoni Garland.

“My style is basically cartoon but with a twist and a dash of humour, I love humour,” he says.

When he was starting out, he would be given a manuscript, which was good for him as he could create characters without limitations.

Now they the publisher has come up with guidelines on characters, settings and scenes, which is time saving but it limits the artists, who prefer creative freedom.

“I haven’t been to a formal institution of art but I do a lot of research, look at other people’s work, watch YouTube videos, read blogs, and look at what other people are doing then apply it to my work. It was because practice makes perfect,” he says.

His creative process starts with the story; he reads, internalise it and tries to see what kind of story it is, and finally what kind of characters are needed.

He does not start drawing just then, the character designs come to him when he is out and about walking all the while thinking about the story.

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