This article originally appeared on The Creators Project.
Perhaps because hyperrealistic artists attempt to replicate reality, or at least temporarily fool the eye for effect, many of the works are vibrantly colored. Take, for instance Soey Milk's erotic feminine daydream scenes, or Manuela Landroyo's dreamy and ethereal portraits. Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley, however, takes quite the opposite approach. His drawings, each painstakingly rendered with charcoal and graphite pencils, look like the portraits of a master photographer working in the black-and-white medium. Like Kip Omolade's hyperrealistic paintings of chrome masks, the detail is extraordinary and beautiful, framing the many amazing faces and personalities of his fellow Nigerians. What's even more interesting is that the works-in-progress, which may be missing details on hands or parts of faces, are just as aesthetically captivating as the finish product.
Stanley, who hails from Imo State in Eastern Nigeria but has spent most of his entire life in Lagos in Western Nigeria, was interested in drawing from a young age. One might think that at the very least Stanely received some classical fine art instruction. Not so.
"I've always expressed myself through drawings for as long as I can remember even though I never got any art training," Stanley tells Creators. "I've managed by the grace of God to discipline myself in the art of drawing. I have always loved to make realistic drawings, but my passion became stronger in 2012 after coming across a couple of hyperrealistic artists like Kelvin Okafor, Joel Rea and Emanuele Dascanio."
What Stanley really loves about Okafor, Rea, and Dascanio is the level of discipline they display in their creative process. He is also interested in how they are able to articulate strong messages through art using what Stanley calls the "humble media" of pencil and paint.
"I use very few media, from charcoal pencils to graphite pencils," says Stanley of the artistic instruments in his toolkit. "I experiment with so many techniques like cross hatching and scribbling, but basically it just flows through me into the paper."
"Sometimes it's almost like I'm not in control of my pencil," he adds. "It's sort of like energy transfer: most times I feel like I transfer my energy into a blank piece of paper through my pencils and it becomes art."
Stanley isn't certain how long each piece takes to complete because he often loses track of time during the creative process. But, he estimates that a work takes anywhere from 200 to 300 hours until it is finished.
As Stanley's drawings of his fellow Nigerians attest, he loves highlighting everything about the African existence. Plus, his drawings are an opportunity to explore and showcase values and the "deeper unexplored emotions" of humanity in general.
Ideally, Stanley wants to connect with people, creating a sort of "artist-viewer" bond when the works are shown. He wants viewers' eyes to pour over the details, but also get a feel for each subject's unique expression, which occupy a range of emotions—thoughtfulness, reflection, exhaustion, humor and surprise, amongst others.
Stanley's debut exhibition was in 2016 at Omenka Gallery in Lagos, where he showed work alongside nine other artists working in the area of realism. The exhibition is one of many signs that Nigerian art scene is not only healthy but blossoming at the local, regional, and international levels.
"Art in Nigeria is growing at a very rapid rate, as well beginning to gain some global recognition," says Stanley. "One thing I love most about Nigerian art is the level of diversity in the art. There are so many beautiful kinds of art here from contemporary to local and otherwise. Inasmuch as I can say that art is growing in Nigeria, I still feel there is so much untapped."