City smoke artist Anathi Nkanyuza.Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

ANATHI “Elpee” Nkanyuza is no smoker - but is known by many as the man behind the smoke. He is known for his skill of putting fire on paper without it getting burnt; and instead creating a masterpiece out of it.

Nkanyuza is a smoke artist. Yesterday he said the art was in his blood.

“Art is in my blood and I realised this from an early age as I loved to draw at school to a point where my friends would ask me to do their homework whenever it involved drawing,” he said.

He said drawing was the only thing he remembered about his childhood.

The 22-year-old from the Eastern Cape lives in Sunnyside. He said he never took any drawing lessons all his drawings were from within as he was “art himself”.

Unlike the ordinary art created with paint and pencils, smoke art drawings are created with smoke using different fire-starting tools like candles and lighters.

Although he can draw and paint like many artists, Nkanyuza said he needed something that set him apart from the rest. “I was bored with working with the old mediums that people were used to; I wanted something new so I searched online for different ones I could use and it was then that I got hooked into smoke art,” he said.

It was not easy when he started, he said; he would burn his papers and would not get much done. But with perseverance, dedication and love for art he learnt to master it.

“I used to burn the papers whenever I would try something out, but I then learnt it was a matter of understanding the medium. I realised I needed to pay attention to the time that it takes before the paper could burn so I could move my candle faster before the paper catches fire,” he said.

He told the Pretoria News that from other mediums he had used for his work, smoke art was different.

“With pencil, paint or oil you are in control; you are the leader but with smoke you have to follow its lead. Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to create but the smoke does not put it the way I want, and all I can do is to follow the smoke and manipulate it, so this keeps you on the edge and you never know what to expect.”

The Denver College civil engineering student'sartwork was featured on a VW Arcadia branch advertisement.

Nkanyuza said: “Odd as it may sound that I am studying civil engineering and not visual arts, I have realised that I love civil engineering as a profession but art is within me; nothing can take its place. With art I love the fact that I am able to create, and that fulfils me,” he said.

Much of his latest artwork has a smudge of pink paint to show his support for the Pink Drive campaign for people with breast cancer.

His dream is to open three of his own art galleries in the country. His artwork includes working with candles, paper, make-up brushes and just following the smoke to create something out of the ordinary.