Well, who do we have here then! For the sake of brevity, because he likes a lot of superfluous letters in his surname, we’ll call him by his first name - Steve.
Who is Steve? As you can see from the picture, he is clearly a big cheese at the cracker factory because he has been snapped in a photo at an Egyptian monument with no other tourists in sight. Go you good thing!
At the risk of getting black banned in the game that is “Google algorithm”, I will also tell you that Steve is sitting at the Temple of Isis, Philae Egpyt.
I’m proud to say I know Steve. Steve has been a big supporter of my art and shift to all things non spreadsheet related. So when he asked for a commission portrait, how could I say no.
I asked Steve to enlighten me on why he chose this photo for me to draw. I am so grateful that he shared his moving story with me, and he has been kind enough to let me share it with all of you.
“A dream come true” - STEVE’S STORY
The story starts when Steve was a little boy. His mother would tell him grand stories of the past, Titanic, Pompeii etc. Obviously, they didn’t all have a happy ending. That is until one day she told him a story of a land far away…
“…an ancient civilisation buried by the sands of time. People who wrapped their dead in bandages, put them in huge buildings called pyramids, preserved for thousands of years.”
Steve says, “This story changed me forever.”
As time went on Steve looked for anything he could get his hands on that contained the word Egypt, being absorbed in the yearly TV Biblical favourites like ‘The Egyptian’, ‘Land of the Pharaoh’s, ‘The Ten Commandments’, and who could forget the saucy temptress ‘Cleopatra’!
Steve even started a library of sorts, with the first item being a treasured book from his late grandfather “A Short Story of Ancient Egypt” printed in 1934. Unfortunately, by the time Steve had memorised its contents, he realised it was 40 years out of date. Nevertheless, the collection and his interest grew.
“While other blokes went camping, fishing and surfing, I attended lectures to listen to well known Egyptologists speak on their latest excavations and restorations.”
Fast forward to Christmas 2009 when, in short, a rather persistent ache in Steve’s lower back turned out to be kidney cancer. Kidney cancer. A few months later, he was minus a kidney, spleen and feeling severely exhausted.
Anyone who has met Steve I’m sure would say he has a healthy sense of humour and definitely takes it all in his stride. So, there he was a few months after serious surgery, making a go of it back at work.
Of course, cancer never quelled Steve’s appetite for all things Egyptian. In 2011 his lovely daughter took him to Melbourne to see the greatest Egyptian exhibition ever held.
However, Steve goes on to say:
“Late 2011 the hospital called about my latest test results. They wouldn’t say what it was over the phone. When we arrived, the oncologist was beating around the bush, until my daughter said, “Can you stop there, does my father have cancer or not?” His reply was simple, yes”.
Tiny particles had spread to Steve’s liver. It was now Stage 4 Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma. Steve said he simply couldn’t believe it: “to put it in one word, I was devastated”. He started straight away on treatment, but the fun didn’t stop there. The treatment made his face break out in a rash, his eyes swelled up and he had to wear running shoes as every step he took hurt.
But a little silver lining came late 2012.
Steve received a phone call at work. It was his work colleagues, Shane and Mark.
Shane/Mark: “Steve, come downstairs we have something important to tell you.”
Steve: “I can’t, I have a meeting.”
Shane/Mark: “You need to cancel.”
Steve: “Oh alright then.”
Down to the coffeeshop Steve went.
Steve: “What’s so important?”
Shane/Mark: (with slight smirks on their faces) “We wanted to do this in public so you didn’t cry.” Mark slid an Egypt travel brochure across the table.
Steve: looking questioning “What’s this?”
Shane/Mark: “Yeah, it’s a travel brochure to Egypt ya ********! Pack ya bags, you’re going to Egypt!”
Steve was at an absolute loss. It took a while for all this to register. Unbeknownst to Steve, Shane and Mark had raised a collection, as he was always banging on about Egypt. So stunned at this magnificent gesture, Steve said he couldn’t accept and slid the brochure back. The brochure was then shunted back, and Steve was told “we can’t give the money back so you’re going”. That was that!
“This gift, although I thought that I didn’t deserve it, put my faith back into humanity. I was, and am to this day, so grateful to those who supported me.”
A few months later, Steve and his lovely wife were strapped in their seats about to take off to the land of the pyramids! Steve said, “it was as though we were about to travel back in time”.
“I always wanted to go to Egypt, sail quietly down the Nile, walk amongst the huge temple columns, meet the locals and if nobody was looking, very gently touch the deeply carved hieroglyphs and dream of those masons who worked on these monuments thousands of years ago. I couldn’t believe I’d made it. I could go on forever, but the land, the people, not to mention the laughter! There is an old saying “If you laugh at Egypt, it will laugh with you.” Meeting school kids on the way to school, loaded in the back of trucks, all with beautiful smiles and waving frantically!
I had waited almost 50 years to experience this, my wife and I took so many beautiful pictures, one of which I have chosen for Candace to put to paper that my wife shot at the Temple of Isis on the Island of Philae. This is the last place that the ancient hieroglyphs and language were ever spoken and written in 394AD/CE until its resurrection in 1822.”
In true Steve style he adds: “it’s just me sitting in a side entrance in which priests would have sung hymns whilst carrying offerings and incense for the gods.”
“Apart from my 2 beautiful children being born by my lovely wife Linda, this beautiful gift and gesture will remain forever in our hearts.”
Well at the time of writing, Steve’s health is doing well, and he is enjoying life to the full.
This is indeed is a beautiful photo and it means so much more when I hear of the moving story behind it. I’m honoured he asked me to draw something so moving and of such significance.
I’m sure Steve won’t mind if I conclude this post in my usual dry style.
What a delight this infinitely detailed photo has been to draw. Steve, I’m so glad you have the habit of slouching like soggy spaghetti at your day job as this added to all the delicious crease detail in your shirt.
To keep my drawing secrets to myself and avoid boring you, here’s a recap of my drawing process for this one.
Step 1 - learn hieroglyphics. More to the point, learn how to spell the word hieroglyphics in order to ask Sir Google about said hieroglyphics. (Steve is it hieroglyphics or hieroglyphs??? I need that book of yours.)
Step 2 - convert the image to black & white. This helps me get accurate tonal values. It also helps us feel like we’ve stepped back in time to the days of the European Mummy Craze, a time when we didn’t have to be so ‘woke’.
Step 3 - start with the main subject. I will usually start with the most important aspect in the piece or potentially the most challenging before moving on. No surprise to find that Steve is both the most important and the most challenging! I start with the darkest value (hat), fill in an approximate mid tone (trouser), and retain the white (aglets) for highlights. (Are you looking up what an aglet is? Can you see them?!)
Final point - draw what you see. I’m sure I will touch on this in future posts, but seeing all these random hieroglyphics is a reminder that drawing amounts to a collection of shapes. Often, the less discernible the object/shape, the less we rely on our misleading memories to recreate the image. In other words, if I tried to draw Steve from memory he would look a little something like this.
For those interested, I’ve included some time-lapse footage of this tambourine tapping, tie-tied little paddle-pop coming together - link below.
“Min diwaei saruri” my friend.
(I offered to include links to Steve’s social media accounts, but the best he could offer was a phone number for a 1980s Xerox fax machine)
Would you like a commission piece?
Feel free to get in contact to have a no-commitment discussion about what you have in mind. Don’t worry, you don’t have to appear in print like Steve, unless you would like to of course - I can assure you I can be most flattering!!
Also, check out my shop for all pieces I currently have for sale.