Updated: Nov 4, 2019
By Joe Johnson
Ronnie Bernard Hull III always prays before he draws, seeking spiritual guidance in moving his colored pencils across the canvas.
The result is a portrait that honors the legacy of one who died violently and from which the departed’s family can draw comfort and recall happier times.
Hull, a.k.a Ron Da Don, most recently made news locally after his good friend Auriel “Thumpa” Callaway was shot to death in July outside of her home at Clarke Gardens apartments.
The 23-year-old Athens native wanted to use his talent to do something big to memorialize the 24-year-old pregnant woman who was fatally shot while trying to get her 3-year-old son to safety when gunshots rang out from a fight near her home.
He posted on his Facebook page that he was looking for someone to allow him to use an exterior wall of their commercial building on which to paint a mural of Callaway.
Two months after Callaway’s death, the owner of Studio 74 Styling Shop on Epps Bridge Road offered Hull the use of a wall of his business as the canvas for the tribute to Callaway.
“Thumpa’s mural was my first victim mural” Hull said in a recent interview.
“We were close friends. She always would come and get makeup done by me and we always had the best time laughing and enjoying each other.
“When she passed it really hit home because she touched me and I had the honor of experiencing her and growing to love her as a friend,” he said.
Hull said he did not experience any pressure to make the mural turn out well because a divine presence hovered over the project.
“I know that yes, I am good at drawing, but God is the true artist,” Hull said. “I knew it would come out the way it was intended but I guess I looked at it as an obligation and an honor.”
Hull also made a drawing of Callaway that was displayed at her funeral.
Hull is owner of Ronnie B Art & Designz and is a makeup artist who operates Blessed by the Brushes.
He has created all his victim drawings as Facebook Live events, the first coming after the 2017 suspicious death of 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins, whose body was found in the locked freezer of a suburban Chicago hotel where she attended a party.
“I went live on Facebook drawing her and the views started to increase by the minute,” Hull recalled.
“I then thought If I can gather such views then maybe someone out there would help me get it to the family, and sure enough her cousin reached out and I shipped it out and it’s safe with the family right now,” Hull said.
The most recent of Hull’s several victim drawings was that of Kamille “Cupcake“ McKinney, a 3-year-old girl who was abducted on Oct. 2 from an outdoor birthday party in Birmingham, Ala. and before her body was found in a dumpster 10 days later, she had been beaten, raped and suffocated.
“The story hit me in a very sensitive place because the level of evil that caused this tragedy is just so mind-boggling that I strongly felt obligated to keep Cupcake’s memory alive, so once again I took to Facebook,” Hull said.
“I went live drawing her from start to finish and gained over 130,000 views and people from the community where it happened and people from all over the country offered to help get it to her family,” Hull said.
A friend of Cupcake’s family, Thomas King, drove more than three hours from Birmingham to Athens in order to pick up Cupcake’s picture and return it in time for it to be displayed at her funeral on her funeral on Oct. 24.
Hull plans to continue volunteering his talent to honor victims of violent crime.
“I myself have a lot of younger relatives that I care and love deeply and just the thought of the horror I or my family would have to endure is just unbearable,” he said. “Crimes against innocent children or people always touch me but sometimes when the Lord leads me to offer my gift to help ease the grief of a grieving family, I jump at the opportunity and rely on him to make it possible through social media that I am able to present it to them.”
Hull added, “Most times the art you see isn’t the art that was originally planned to be created. I most times don’t believe in myself but after I pray I let God use me the way he sees fit and before you know it there is a beautiful work of art that is great on detail before me and I am most times surprised at myself at how good they come out.”