When you meet teenager Kurk Darnell you realise there is something different about him. There is a poignant sincerity about the way he observes things and sees life that immediately attracts your attention.
As you watch him work, you realise that he has a rare innate gift, an inner eye, which enables him to express his own thoughts and behaviour, and that of others, with unique precision. Each line tells its own story.
Most days you will find him in his outdoor studio “shed” in Riebeek Kasteel working on one of his designs.
The young artist tells me that in preschool (he is now 18) he realised that the one thing he loved beyond everything, was drawing.
“I would listen a bit,” he says with a smile, “but most of the time I would be looking at faces and actions and turning them into comic book characters – each with a special message.”
It’s a form of contemporary art that has become a way of life for him.
“I let my art do the talking” he says. “I look at the person’s expression, the way they laugh and frown. I love the Japanese Anime style of cartoons – they are so pure. My characters aren’t all good and they are not all bad. But that’s life.”
Making people aware of threatened species, like pangolins, is, he explains, an important part of his creative message. So too is climate change and the environment.
“There is no one who can save human beings from extinction – only ourselves. Art is my enjoyment, but I also try to make it work for others. The recent pandemic is the issue I am looking at now focusing on stopping the virus and changing behaviour.”
Always on his mind, the artist says is the fact that people are hungry. With this in mind he is raising money with a signed limited edition of his drawings, donating a third of his small income to the Goedgedacht feeding programme that supports vulnerable families in the Riebeek Kasteel Valley.
What makes his story even more heartwarming is that Kurk is hearing impaired and has suffered numerous hardships and illnesses during his life, including twice being adopted. But the happiness he gets from his art and his second adopted family, he says, makes up for everything.
“At the moment there are many people, who are suffering. If I can use my art to bring food to the table that will be good.”
For more info on Kurk’s fundraising drawings email him on firstname.lastname@example.org