There are very few people you could ever meet who have as fascinating backstory as Valentino Dixon.
The “Artist of Attica” spent 27 years in jail for a crime he did not commit — he was released in 2018 after the real perpetrator confessed to the murder — and turned to drawing during his darkest days in prison.
When the now 54-year-old was locked up inside one of America’s most brutal maximum security prisons, with only a few Golf Digest magazines for inspiration, he picked up a pencil and began to draw (brushes and canvas were not available, so he worked on simple card).
He spent his time — decades — in Attica prison drawing, perfecting his style over the many, many years. Wonderful, unique depictions of famous golf courses such as Augusta, Pebble Beach and the Country Club in Brookline emerged over the years — as did some of the most famous courses in Dubai, a city that had found a special place in Dixon’s heart.
Five years after his walk to freedom, Dixon first visited the UAE city that captivated him, and now he is at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, drawing the famous Majlis Course in person, a landscape he first glimpsed in his prison cell.
““n prison you live in a dream sometimes. You live in your own world,” he said. “And you look for anything that can give you inspiration. Something that can give you hope, something that can invigorate your spirit. And looking at pictures of Dubai during my time, it had to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life.”
Seeing the course up-close-and-personal came with a dawning realisation for Dixon.
“I started drawing my current piece for the Dubai Desert Classic and Emirates Golf Course while I was still in America, getting some prep work done, but when I got here and I saw the skyline, I was like: ‘Hmmm, I’m gonna need to make some changes. I have had to add and take away from the drawing now I see it all in person. Images only give me so much detail, so to be here and get the overall feel helps me create the perfect picture.”
Like most people this week, the weather also caused a few issues — along with a bizarre technical issue.
“There was a little improvisation as the light changed on Wednesday and it got a lot gloomier, but the good thing is the picture was around 90 per cent completed so I was able to keep going. Unfortunately my pencil sharpener [Dixon has continued to use the same medium and materials from his time in prison] ‘blew up’ and I had another issue. Fortunately, I keep all my pencils extra sharp and I had enough of a point on them to keep going.”
While volatile ‘artistes’ would fly into a rage at such problems, they are just trivialities to the laidback Dixon, who knows better than most what really matters in life.
“The hotel is much better this time around,” he jokes. “I checked myself into a cheap hotel when I first visited here in October, but this time, they are putting me up in the Atlantis on The Palm, with this beautiful view across my favourite city. So, a work-out, a swim and a relaxing time before I get back to my work is on the cards.”