IN celebration of our 40th birthday this year, Echo spoke to Syabonga Skosana, the artist behind the first painting for Echo when it celebrated its 30th birthday in 2009.Skosana, from Willowfountain, said he was approached by Dumisani Zondi who was the Echo editor back then, to paint something for the Echo’s 30th birthday. He said he was not told what to paint but he just did what he thought would relate to Echo and its readers.“I know how much Echo is loved and read in the townships, that is why I decided to do a painting based on township life because that is where Echo was and still is distributed. I was so happy when Zondi approached me because that showed that they see something good in my art.“What makes me more happy is that I became the first person to do the painting for Echo when it celebrated its birthday. To this day I am still grateful for the opportunity they gave me,” he said. Skosana said his relationship with Echo started when he was still in high school. He said he used to take part in the arts festivals that were always advertised in a section called Echo Craft Bazaar.The festivals used to take place at the art gallery. “Echo Craft Bazaar used to compile a short article in the form of an announcement as to when the festival is going to start and end. I would go there with my paintings and people would buy the ones they love,” he said. He said every time he checked under the Echo Craft Bazaar section, it also gave him an opportunity to read everything else that was in the paper.“Since then I never stopped reading Echo. That is why it was so easy for me paint his artwork 10 years ago because I already knew Echo and its target market.”Speaking about his career, Skosana said he started drawing in Grade 1 and painted his first picture in 1997. He said his first paints were from a rubbish bin which he found outside a shop. He used those paints to paint a picture of a township robbery. “I decided to go for painting lessons when I was in Grade 9 but when I went to the paint shop I realised it was too expensive and I could not afford it. “When I went outside the shop I found old paints which I used for my first painting, which turned out so beautiful and since then I never looked back. “I believe that there are still a lot of things that I can do to improve my arts and I am planning to work hard in order to achieve that,” he said.Skosana said his dream is to have an art school one day that will not teach art but also teach them make a living through arts.