Mary Akinlabi Speaks on the Rise of Digital illustration in Nigeria
Digital illustration has become a trend now in Nigeria, Mary Akinlabi, an illustrator takes us through the journey of a digital illustrator.
NOW, HOW DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR ARTISTIC TALENT?
We are artistic in our family actually, most of us that is. However, I started taking art seriously during my earlier days at the university and sort of developed myself from there. It started off as a hobby and later became a part of my profession.
WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO LEARN, IN ORDER FOR YOU TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST?
The most important part just like every other thing is consistency and practice. I’m still a work in progress and I like to think that as a self-taught illustrator, I am evolving constantly. I certainly look at art I admire and note down what I like about the styles, colours. I taught myself digital Illustration as that affords me certain flexibility using Autodesk sketchbook and later Procreate App. I still use my sketchbook for rough ideas and there are also a lot of YouTube tutorials out there that can help any up and coming artist.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR CREATIVITY EVERYDAY?
Several things. My illustrations are inspired by things I enjoy; Black women, fashion, minimal and sophisticated look, beauty, florals, prints, botanicals and culture. I love using a mix of bold and warm colours in my palettes. Pinterest is a favourite place for any creative I think for new ideas.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED SO FAR, AS A VISUAL ARTIST?
Sometimes I fall into the trap of comparison but I have to remind myself not to. Another thing is I’m not a full-time artist / illustrator. Hopefully I would soon but for now I’m learning to juggle my other professional life with this.
DO NIGERIANS APPRECIATE OUR ARTWORK MORE THAN WHAT THEY HAVE ABROAD?
I think it is all about value! Everyone is not my client. There are several ways art is used abroad and it’s not in Nigeria. I certainly can’t compare how much an artist is opened to opportunities abroad unlike how an illustrator’s work can be undermined in Nigeria.
HOW DID YOU FINANCE THE BUSINESS IN ITS EARLY DAYS?
I did have to invest in the gadgets I use in creating my artwork, an iPad and at times my phone. Other than that, it is a service, I get paid before working on a commission.
NOW, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ARTWORK OF NOW AND BEFORE?
LOL. A lot has changed!
SO, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO CARVE A NICHE FOR YOURSELF, DESPITE THE COMPETITION OUT THERE?
For me the sky is big enough for all of us and I have barely scratched the surface. While I’ve not gotten to the stage I am aiming for, my work pretty much speaks for me and it’s important to always put out my work out there. A lot of my clients are not based in Nigeria and a lot of referrals come from friends, previous clients I had worked with in the past. I try new ways of marketing and learning about ways I can create effectively.
DO YOU EXPERIENCE FEAR, THAT YOUR ARTWORK WON’T BE APPRECIATED?
Perhaps during the earlier stages but not anymore.
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