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Art Pen Pals Through Social Media

Painters David Lobenberg and Ibe Ananaba share their stories of connecting through portraiture and online friendship.

Painting Across Continents

In the sometimes overwhelming, detached world of social media, making a real connection can —  perhaps ironically — seem difficult. And yet, Pinterest and Facebook were the vehicles through which David Lobenberg (of Sacramento, California) was connected with Ibe Ananaba (Lagos, Nigeria), and a genuine, international friendship was born.

“Ibe suggested we collaborate on a watercolor project together,” says Lobenberg, “and I responded that we could share a photo reference portrait of someone and each do a watercolor interpretation of it. Ibe suggested painting each other. Bingo!” Ananaba felt painting each other instead of a random model would result in a more meaningful exchange. Ananaba says, “We both got to study each other’s personality and appreciate our peculiarities, differences, and similarities.”

Ahmed MusaNigeria (watercolor on paper, 18×24) by Ibe Ananaba

“Art, generally, is a powerful tool of communication and bonding, irrespective of age, location, tribe or race.” — Ibe Ananaba

Musico Mexicano! (watercolor on paper, 11×15) by David Lobenberg

Global Self-Portrait Love-In

It didn’t take a lot of convincing to get Lobenberg on board. He’s already a fan of portraiture. He had started another online project several years ago. “On my blog, I asked artists from all over the world to send in a self-portrait, and entitled the project “Global Self-Portrait Love-In” — a nod to my generation — but with this [new] project, we’re keeping it one-on-one.”

Study of Ibe Ananaba by David Lobenberg, watercolor on paper, 15x11
Study of Ibe Ananaba (watercolor on paper, 15×11) by David Lobenberg
Study of David Lobenberg by Ibe Ananaba, watercolor on paper, 15x11
Study of David Lobenberg (watercolor on paper, 15×11) by Ibe Ananaba

Lobenberg and Ananaba exchanged photos and practiced doing studies of the other one. “He sent me a variety of face-making photos, which added fun to the whole exercise,” says Ananaba. “The white beard has been a major pull.” What’s the takeaway? Ananaba says he’s learned that “art, generally, is a powerful tool of communication and bonding, irrespective of age, location, tribe or race.”

A version of this article originally featured in Watercolor Artist magazine. 

Join the conversation!

3 comments on “Art Pen Pals Through Social Media

  1. Alison B says:

    A very inspirational story and two stunning pieces of artwork. It’s nice to see watercolours used in such a contemporary way. It’s lovely to read about the friendship of two strangers blossoming, if everyone stopped being concerned with the differences between our skin colours, religions, race, wealth etc. the world would be a nicer place. We are all individual and special in our own way, but also sharing our love and passion in something is also special. I hope they stay friends for a long time to come and this inspires others to become art penpals and share their talents. This is truly art from the heart.

  2. Alison B says:

    A very inspirational story and two stunning pieces of artwork. It’s nice to see watercolours used in such a contemporary way. It’s lovely to read about the friendship of two strangers blossoming, if everyone stopped being concerned with the differences between our skin colours, religions, race, wealth etc. the world would be a nicer place. We are all individual and special in our own way, but also sharing our love and passion in something is also special. I hope they stay friends for a long time to come and this inspires others to become art penpals and share their talent.

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