Same speed: Two minutes to midnight & another day begins

Charles Nir, a humble illustrator with great ideas

Charles Nir and an illustrationFIDELIS SUKINA

An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism

ARMED with a pencil, a biro and an eraser, he sits with the newspapers and takes in the week’s issues. Then he drafts a scene on a sheet of A4 sketch paper.

He needs less than 10 minutes to create an illustration summarising the week’s events.

Charles Nir, 54, lives in Port Moresby and is a freelance illustrator offering his services to news agencies and other organisations that wish to deliver a clear message through art.

“I am from Mendi in the Southern Highlands Province and since primary and high school have been interested in drawing,” says Charles.

“I didn’t do well in school but my talent took me to the Goroka School of Art and Design.

“I had been interested in expressive arts in high school and it was that interest that made me excel in it.”

Since he graduated in 1979 from the two years of art school, he has never looked back.

Charles has been an illustrator for almost 30 years, working with three different companies. He takes pride in his work and wastes no time in producing results.

He goes by the pen name CHESS, to be found within each of his illustrations.

From 1983 to 1990 he worked with Niugini Nius, which was taken over by Word Publishing and then he joined a printing shop which SP Brewery owned where he did layouts and illustrations.

In 1997 he joined The National newspaper leaving after seven years to pursue a freelance career.

A Charles Nir illustrationHe is currently contributing to the Sunday Chronicle newspaper drawing cartoons that each week depict current issues in Papua New Guinea.

“I just read the week’s news and come up with a drawing and show it to the editor for him to approve. So far all my illustrations have been accepted,” Charles says.

“Sometimes I work with non-government organisations. I illustrate booklets and other media.

“I did a booklet on environment conservation for NGO Partners. “They wanted 24 A4 size illustrations and I gave them what they wanted in just three days.”

He basically draws from his imagination after his client explains to him what they want.

As you sit and watch he will finish a drawing in 10 minutes, depending on the number of characters and the scene involved.

“When I was small I used to see drawings from village children hanging in the tucker shop and that made me excited. Hearing the praise the young artists got, I wanted to become like them.”

In a nation with a diverse culture it is often hard to differentiate characters from each province but that doesn’t hinder Charles. He has developed interesting features that help identify people from each region of Papua New Guinea

“Sometimes when I draw, I don’t differentiate but, most of the time, it’s to do with traditional attire, or body features,” he says.

“A person from the highlands will have a bigger beard than a coastal man, and coastal women especially will have grass skirts and tattoos. But it does not really matter as long as the issue is addressed.”

Charles has a talent that speaks a thousand words; pictures that stimulate the minds of readers so they clearly grasp the message.

He’s a humble and simple person, a man of very few words. Maybe that’s because he spends his time thinking more than talking.


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