My name is Rayfel Zumar Bell, here after the artist R.Zumar and this is The Becomings of a Master.
I’m a self taught artist in VADOC (the Virginia Department of Corrections). This alone tells you that I have a dark past that you will get to learn as time goes by. Of course some of you will Google me but Google only stratches at the surface.
I started sketching at Sussex 1 State Prison close to seven or eight years ago, only started diving into color close to 3 years ago. Give or take a year cause here it all just seems to blur together after a while. We weren’t allowed to have pencils of any type there or normal pens at the time. We had this thing called a security pen, it’s like a 2 1/2 inch clear flexible plastic tube that warps, wobbles, and bends in your hand when you try to write with it. So imagine you trying to draw with this thing.
I was looking at a National Geographic one day because one, I was bored out of my mind, and two, I like nature and animals and all the things of the natural world. So to give you a little insight, a week or so before that I decided to put all of my criminal and nefarious ways to rest. Not because I had a bad experience like some people in here do, though just being here is a bad experience. It was like a switch flipped in my brain and turned on the lights, an epiphany if you will. That everything I’ve learned from my environment was wrong, is wrong. So somehow I had to rewire my thinking and how I reacted to the world. If you continue to do the same thing you can only expect the same results. Well I was tired of the same results. Hence, the national geographic in my hand in the chaos of prison really trying to find my new way of life.
Well I came across a picture of a leopard just looking off into the distance. I’m not much of a cat person, don’t hate them just love dogs more, but I’m fascinated with big cats. Well anyways, something in my mind just said draw this picture. So I took my wobbly security pen and wrapped it in a paper shell to make it sturdier and went to work.
Now this is the second time in my life that I actually took the time to sit down and really try to draw something in detail. The story about the first time is a story to be told at a later date. It took me two days to draw my leopard and when people saw it they asked if I would draw them a portrait of their loved ones. I said yeah and charged them $10 per face. Needless to say my portraits turned out okay enough. Hell, I didn’t have to fight nobody for making their loved ones look like cracked out cartoon characters and was always paid my fee.
At the moment as I sit and write this blog post my leopard sits in a manilla envelope in my locker. It has been with me for eight years from prison to prison. It now has color in and around it’s eyes from when I did get ahold of some color pencils but then left it alone ever since. I’ve always been reluctant to send it out because I don’t want it to be lost to me. Out of all of the work I’ve sent out of these walls this leopard has the most sentimental value to me. This leopard is where my journey began and now you can see how far it has taken me.
I’m the artist R.Zumar and this is The Becomings of a Master.