People sometimes ask why my name is Pencilpicasso. Many see it as a reference/catchy name for my creative writing. The truth is I started calling myself Pencilpicasso at aged 12 when it became certain I had a future in visual art. My talent in drawing was undeniable, I told myself, and that was all I needed to pursue a career built on my ability to draw with the “pencil” being my preferred tool of choice before any others.
I had been drawing superheroes, comic books and all manner of imaginative characters since I could pick up a pencil. Even before I knew what “study & research” meant to anyone, I was perfecting my abilities from “how-to-draw” books, comic panels, animation, video games and the works of any other artist I could get my hands on. It came so easy to me, I enjoyed it exceedingly and relished my work being criticised because it was just a way to get even better.
There was no doubt in my mind I would have a career based around drawing. The problem was what specifically to do. I knew the choices available out in the real world, but growing up in Nigeria in the 90’s and early 2000’s, being a visual artist wasn’t viewed as very lucrative. I didn’t see a problem with what I wanted to, it was where that was the issue. Hence began my decision to move 4,000miles from home, make my parents pay in excess of £45,000 over 3 years (with the intention of adding an extra possible £13,000 over 2 additional years), adjust to a new culture, make new friends and brave what to me has always felt like arctic temperatures (I know British weather is not that bad, but back home a 20°C day is cold). To make matters worse, my beloved role model, primary financier and amazing father passed away within the first year of this journey. So safe to say, my dream wasn’t coming by very easy… but I was on track. I was going to see it through even if it killed me, if only to honour my father, support my mother and inspire my siblings.
Then one day, just over half way into the journey, I awoke in a hospital bed with a doctor telling me I may never walk again. It wasn’t until a few days after that it sunk in, “I MIGHT NEVER DRAW AGAIN EITHER!” The thought made my heart too heavy for my chest, I’d break into cold sweats and even fantasise of regaining movement in my hands and nowhere else. Months later I would make the biggest gamble ever and go straight back into university the day I got discharged from rehab. With support from friends, family, Teesside University and Brethertons LLP, I reached my milestone.
On the 24th of November 2012, I graduated from university with a degree in Creative Digital Media. I never would have thought it was possible, let alone, I would do it, “no-hands”. It will forever be one of my proudest achievements and is definitely My Milestone.
This post is part of my contribution to SCI Awareness Day: part of a whole day, week or month dedicated to enlightening everyone about spinal cord injury (depending on your source).
For more information on spinal cord injuries and how to help even in everyday life, why not check out the SIA, the BackUp trust, NSIF and Aspire. Just a shortlist of institutions I am personally aware of. There are many out there and most definitely one active nearby. Just a google search away.