Known professionally as "Ron Da Don," Athens-based artist Ronnie B. Hull is well-known in the area for his commissioned portraiture work that includes live drawing at weddings, birthday and anniversary presents, and tributes to loved ones who have passed away.
Hull also loves surprising people with his portraits, and when the news came earlier this month that hip-hop artist Takeoff had died at age 28, Hull worked together with the late Migos rapper's family on an elaborate memorial drawing to present to Takeoff's father, Kenneth Ball.
"That's my way of paying respect," Hull told the Banner-Herald. "I like to be exclusive and I like to be personal. The family approved my design and provided me with childhood photos of Takeoff to use for reference, and when I presented (Takeoff's) dad with the drawing, he loved it."
As Hull did in 2020 when he gifted Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper with a portrait of her son, Hull posted a video of the meeting with Ball on Instagram. After a friend downloaded and reposted the Takeoff portrait clip to TikTok, the video went viral and was picked up by websites like Yahoo! News, The Shade Room, Revolt and Hip Hop DX.
Hull said that while it felt good to be recognized for his art and to read supportive comments from strangers on social media, his work is ultimately about healing and uplifting people rather than money. And though he didn't pursue a college education in visual art after high school, Hull said that he showed the Takeoff portrait to his Clarke Middle art teacher Laura Lee Johnson before presenting it to Ball.
"(Johnson) remarked on the fact that I still use Crayola-colored pencils even though I can get more out of professional supplies," said Hull. "Crayola has always been good to me."
Takeoff, whose real name was Kirsnick Khari Ball, formed Migos in Gwinnett County in 2008 with his uncle Quavo and Quavo's cousin, Offset. Quavo and Takeoff were raised together in Athens before moving to Lawrenceville, where they formed the hip-hop group Polo Club with Offset before changing the name to Migos.
Hull's mural of Auriel Briana “Thumpa” Callaway can be seen on the side of Studio 74 Styling Shop at 145 Epps Bridge Rd. Callaway was struck and killed by a stray bullet one year ago at Clarke Garden Apartments. An Athens street was renamed in Callaway's honor that December.
"I just have a love for people," said Hull. "I have been through a lot in life. I like to meet the people I make portraits for and give them a hug. Talk to them, connect with them and be there for when they the see the artwork for the first time. The attention I've received is healthy exposure for me. It's a blessing."
This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Takeoff's family surprised by hand-drawn portrait from Athens artist