By An Executive Editor
If you are a social media person, you probably have encountered Enock Arts. Dr. Enock Ssebunya (Pictured, left) is the name/hands behind Enock Arts. A medical practitioner, Ssebunya earns from Art so much that he cannot do without art. Having started learning by himself in early primary and o being taught drawing in O level, Ssebunya has been perfecting his skills. His first artwork cost Shs 1, 000. It was a primary school canteen attendant whose portrait he drew. To date, he charges up to Shs 400, 000.
Follow Ssebunya’s story in the Q and A below:
Question: Tell us your Art story. When did you start and how?
Answer: I have been drawing for a while. I think usually you see children drawing, then you see high school children also doing Art as a subject. My father was into engineering. He also had the skill but not probably to the extent of considering it as business but I remember I started drawing when I learnt a few skills from him. Drawing cars and the like. But I didn’t go deep into it until my P7 when, from family issues, money was scarce and so on, again went into drawing and not as a business. I remember my first drawing cost 1, 000. That was from drawing a portrait of someone at a school canteen. After that, I joined Mengo SS. They teach Art. So I actually did Art in my O level (UCE) though after that I wanted to be a doctor. So, I dropped Art and I had to do PCB/Sub Maths. All that period I was not doing Art until about my third year after joining University (Makerere), one of those colleagues who knew that I had the skill in O level prompted me actually by posting some art work and when I commented, he said, oh you used to draw, what happened? So, I found myself trying out on a few occasions. Posting that work on Facebook and other platforms. People found out that I could draw. A few guys gave me the opportunity. By then, still, I was not that concerned about income (Using art as a source of income). But my last year in Medicine, (because I used to go to Kiruddu for internship) and by then I was thinking, what would be my source of income after coming here? I resumed drawing again and my first clients actually were my colleagues at Kiruddu, medical students, and course mates. So, from there, I have been becoming better at the skill because my first portraits are not like what I do now. When I look back, I say, I made poor work for these guys, I wish they could bring it back and I redraw for free. But in brief that’s how I actually came into drawing. I just found myself using it as a source of income. It made me actually a little reluctant to yearn for a good paying job (if I may say), because I first volunteered at certain facilities. They didn’t mind whether I would ask for money from them. So, I was into service not as an income source but I was considering art as my income source. That’s how I have actually maintained that plus of course learning from experience and other artists, but I never, after my O level, went for any studies to do Art. It has been experience (adding in a few skills and details).
Question: Back to your first piece. Tell us more..
Answer: By that time, the challenge was that we were broke. I was in P.2. We had to hustle a little. That’s when I actually started drawing. It was for a school project. I think in my P2 or 3, I made an art piece that was actually exhibited at Plan Uganda. Plan Uganda had an exhibition during that time. I remember doing an art piece for my school and I think the gift they gave me was actually a cup.. Though by that time I was into a lot of stuff – dancing, acting, singing, so I was into a lot of activities but money wasn’t there and I remember shifting from that school because of money issues. My mother could not afford it so I had to go to another school. That’s when I had my first 1K. I think I never got money until University.
Question: 1, 000 for an art piece years ago, how much do you charge for an art piece now?
Answer: By 2018/19, I was charging between Shs 30, 000 and 50, 000 for A3 because many just wanted a sketch and they would frame it. Non-framed pieces cost 30, 000 and 50, 000 for framed ones.
Until 2020 when I increased to 75, 000 and then 2021, I ventured into the bigger sizes, A2 and A1. I charged 100, 000 for A2 pieces and between 200, 000 and 250, 000 for A1. Now the cost is way different. Shs 150, 000 for A3 (I don’t do A4 because I consider it a small size. I usually want portraits to be seen by everyone. Unless someone brings their frame and want me to draw it but income-wise, I would charge maybe 30, 000 or 50, 000) but currently I start from A3 which ranges from Shs 100, 000 to 150, 000; A2 between 180, 000 and 280, 000 and the last size is A1. Rarely do people buy that but I charge between Shs 300, 000 and 400, 000.
Question: Are your charges fixed?
Answer: My costs are not fixed. I am open to negotiation. Only one person, the current PS – Finance (Ramathan Ggoobi). I drew an A3 piece. I told him I charge Shs 100, 000. He decided to give me Shs 200, 000. I was happy.
Question: Medicine Vs Art. How do you do it, in terms of balancing the two professions?
Answer: I started getting into such preparations when I was still at Kiruddu because I would leave the ward (I couldn’t draw well at the office). I would draw in the evening. Though in the evening too, I would go, buy material at Nasser (Nasser Road) and then draw. It was a bit tiresome because leaving the ward, I was in one of the busiest wards during my internship. I was very busy. I would get so tired and sometimes postpone the work (drawing). But in private practice it is not that tiresome. There is a schedule. You don’t work alone, unlike at Kiruddu. So far what I do here, I utilize my days off –Thursday and Sunday. Previously, I would also draw during work time because it was not so busy. My boss was actually one of my clients. So, after seeing a patient, I just get my paper and draw. It’s not so strict. If I have time, I can draw during work.
Question: The piece you drew for the Health Minister, Dr. Aceng. How did that come about?
Answer: I was still at Mulago (as an intern). I remember I had done a night shift. I left the ward (Emergency ward) and then I was not so sleepy. So, just passing time, I drew her portrait and slept off later. That was it.
Question: Tell us. Do you find a connection between medicine and Art?
Answer: I have passion for both medicine and art. I am passionate about serving. I enjoy portraying something artistically. Medicine is more enjoyable when you see a change in someone’s life. Someone comes to you sickly and then they move out. It’s so good. Art for now, is money. It’s not passion at least changed with money. Those days I could yearn to do projects that would make me busy but for free and I don’t know what happened. I used to take less time. 30 minutes. 15 minutes, for a full artwork. Probably now because I add in more details, I take hours because I used to give clients 3 hours. But nowadays, you have to give me 3 days for planning, drawing and framing.
Question: How long do you spend on one art piece?
Answer: Utmost 6 hours.
Question: About your clients. Where do they come from?
Answer: For the last 2 years, 99% of my clients have been from social media. Initially, it was Facebook but after those issues (ban, the internet and the restriction), now it’s Twitter and Instagram. Others come in through referrals. Most of those clients who come through referrals come with some kind of trust. Some clients want you to first draw then they pay. That’s what I used to do. Though nowadays I prefer deposits. Those who are usually more comfortable are those from referrals. They have been told that, ah, I trust him. So, they pay and wait for their work. I usually get material per drawing. I don’t stock charcoal pencils, papers etc. So, if you need a portrait, I need a deposit and I buy whatever you need and necessary for a portrait then I do the work.
Question: Have you ever thought about stocking materials so that you don’t have to take money elsewhere?
Answer: That was my dream. There are quite more opportunities like framing, boards, and materials. If I had income, I would dwell on having real stationery. But that’s literally impossible. Because I wanted to venture into painting. But it takes a lot of time. Patience. Concentration (Even these, are, as well but I am usually also impatient. I usually want to finish my portrait in time. Anything started must be finished. I can’t afford such (stationery). Many of my clients ask me, where is your gallery? I tell them social media is my gallery. What you see me posting is my gallery. Other clients actually prefer to meet me at the workplace to confirm that it’s really me. That’s the way it is so far.
Question: Does practicing art go without any challenges and will you one day consider venturing in it full-time?
Answer: I don’t have a personal gallery/stationery. That becomes a challenge. The challenge with art is that you can get clients once a week or once a month, depending on the season. It is not something that can be considered a fulltime job. It’s usually easy if someone has a gallery or something attached to the artwork. But the way I do my work, it wouldn’t be considered secure enough to abandon other things for art.
Question: All these that you do can’t go without any achievements..
Answer: Indeed. I have met many people through Art. God, through Art linked me to my wife, Docus.
Question: Interesting. How did you meet Docus?
Answer: We were friends. I made her an art portrait, which created an opportunity for me to meet her. God answered my prayer, the relationship grow stronger and we got married on 17/10/2020 @ Ggaba Community Church.
Question: About the art piece you drew for her. Did she still pay or you gave it up?
Answer: I refused the payment. I instead offered it to her as a gift.
Question: Let’s talk about the future. What are you thinking about?
Answer: I wish to have a personal gallery and do a post graduate studies in medicine, etc.
To support Dr. Ssebunya, get in touch with him on +256 (0)704450972 or check out his work via @EnockArts on Twitter.