MY STORY | Drawing on tissue paper wasn't easy – now it's my signature

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Siphesihle Hlatshwayo with some of his striking pencil portraits, sketched on tissue paper. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Siphesihle Hlatshwayo with some of his striking pencil portraits, sketched on tissue paper. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Talk about fine art. If normal people tried to put pencil to tissue paper they'd likely rip the delicate material – but that's not the case for this teen.

Siphesihle Hlatshwayo is turning heads with his remarkable pencil portraits.

The 16-year-old high school student from Chris Hani in Daveyton, Johannesburg, became a social media sensation after posting a portrait of the late rapper Riky Rick.

Now he's selling his portraits to get himself through art school.

The talented teen started sketching at the age of five. He shares how it developed from there. 

"When I'd come home from school, I'd stop at the shop and buy Dragon Ball Z stickers because they were my favourite cartoon. When I got home, I'd use the stickers to trace the different characters – that's how I learnt to draw and grow my skill.

Because we were facing financial difficulties, we couldn’t even afford drawing paper.

Every time I’d ask my granny to get me some drawing paper, she’d give me tissue and told me to draw on it. Trust me, it was not the easiest.

Trying to express myself on tissue was hard because the paper is so thin but I eventually got it right.

Portraits, art
The teen's tribute portrait of the late Jamie Bartlett. (PHOTO: Supplied)

By the time I got to primary school, I was introduced to drawing paper and other materials that helped me express myself. 

My art is based on my everyday surroundings. It’s my way of communicating what’s happening around me.

My granny passed away before my work took off but I'd like to think that she gave me the tissue paper for a reason, knowing that something great would come of it.

Even though I now have more material at my disposal, I prefer sketching on tissue paper because it reminds me of her.

I want my artwork to inspire others.

What I do might seem simple – drawing faces on tissue paper with pencil – but I hope others love it as much as I do.

My favourite artwork has to be my tribute portrait of late rapper Riky Rick because people started recognising me because of it.

Portraits, art
Siphesihle attributes his rising success to his portrait of late rapper Riky Rick. (PHOTO: Supplied)

I'm inspired by great artists like Nigeria's Arinze Stanley and South Africa's Nelson Makamo, who create portraits in a hyper-realistic way.

There’s always a room for improvement. That’s why I am always finding ways to develop my technique.

I do this by watching YouTube videos, studying the work of other artists and attending art exhibitions for inspiration. It always lifts my spirit.

art, portrait
He's also drawn a portrait of Gauteng department of education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (PHOTO: Supplied)

I’m glad I’m able to generate some income from my work now as people ask me to do portraits of them. The costs range from R400 for an A4 to R2 000 for an A0, the biggest portrait.

I hope that out of all of this, I'm able to obtain my fine art degree at the University of Pretoria.

I urge young, upcoming artists to believe in themselves and to stick to what they love.

Your talent means you are unique.”

READ MORE| Meet the talented Malemesburg teen who's taking the art world by a storm

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()