Meet Morenike Olusanya who is drawing her way to stardom one canvas at a time
The art world in Nigeria and Africa at large has been vastly populated by the male counterparts. Recently, there seems to be a growing number of women in the art world and the unequal playing field at all levels of the game. We should also thank the likes of Adenrele Sonariwo, Founder (Rele Art gallery) that has gathered work of art over the years. So, Nigeria is not left out and our very own Morenike Olusanya is at the forefront of the new era.
Recently, YC caught up with Renike as she is fondly called and we had a chat with her.
Please introduce yourself?
My name is Morenike Olusanya. I’m a visual artist. I draw with pencils & paint digitally. I’m also a graphic designer.
Tell us about your journey into Art? How did you discover your talent in art?
I’m not really sure when I discovered my talent in art, I guess it has always been there. In secondary school, my mates and I were asked to pick between physical health education, fine arts, agricultural science and foods, and nutrition. I and 3 other people picked Fine Arts. I guess that was when my art journey began, subconsciously.
What is unique about your art, and how do you get your art done?
I believe that my brush style is unique. I always try to emphasize the beauty of natural hair, be it the afro or dreadlocks or braids. Accessories like adjoining earrings, round glasses. I like to create stuff like that, especially ones that I have never seen before and would like to see sometime in my lifetime.
The expressions I give to the subjects of my art pieces also make them unique. Sometimes a drawing takes me 10 hours and a similar drawing takes me 3 days. It depends on how I feel. Asides that I like to write down and sketch my ideas the moment it gets into my head. When I do that, every other thing falls into place.
Has art been able to pave a way for you and pay your bills?
Yes, it has. Not as much as I want it to, but I know it’s going to happen soon.
What challenges have you faced trying to own your craft and how did you conquer them?
I’ve recently struggled with inspiration, working a 9 to 5 job and trying to stay on top of my skill as an artist. Bening an artist and a graphics designer are two different worlds. They have a completely different mode of expression. Graphic design has all sorts of rules and motives guiding it. Drawing/painting should be very expressive and not boxed in.
Sometimes, at work, I have to box in my creativity to satisfy my boss/client. Outside of work, I have to snap out of it quickly and let it flow. Finding the balance is sometimes difficult, but it’s achievable and I’m learning that.
I’ve also faced a couple of challenges trying to sell my art for a good amount of money. I’ve conquered that by just standing my ground and not devaluing my art because a certain person cannot see the value that I see in it. I have realized that those who love your art will buy your art for what it is worth.
Have you successfully been able to make a business out of your art?
I made my art into a business about a year or two years ago. I didn’t know anything about business or entrepreneurship or how to go about selling my art. I still have a whole lot to learn. I am glad it’s slowly and gradually falling into place though. Considering that I love to express myself by painting digitally and drawing on charcoal, I figured I didn’t want to sell them the normal way; which is just putting them in frames and selling them.
I wanted people to be able to see them everywhere they go and carry them about. That was how I decided I wanted to sell them on phone cases, mousepads, t-shirts, and frames as well. I am currently doing some research on more platforms they can be put on, so that everybody everywhere, in one way or the other can get to experience my art, wherever they are.
You are threading an unfamiliar terrain, any role model/mentors in Nigeria you look up to?
It is completely absurd that I do not have an art mentor yet. I’m very picky and I believe I have to find someone that can understand the way I see things and understand my style before I decide to let them mentor me. Therefore, I’m still in search of an art mentor. I’m a strong believer in mentorship. I’m crazy about Ndidi Emefieli and Polly Alakija as well as Kehinde Wiley. I feel like I’m reaching a point in my life where I’m going to want to explore traditional painting. When I do, those people I have listed are going to be my major sources of inspiration.
Asides Art, what else do you have interest in?
I have interest in photography & interior decoration. I also want to learn a few instruments so I guess I’m interested in music as well.
What is your opinion about the notion that young Nigerians are lazy and how can young Nigerians begin to tell their stories?
That’s a misconception, young Nigerians are anything but lazy. There is this trend going on, on Twitter- #WeAreNigerianCreatives-. This is enough proof that young Nigerians are trying. Thanks to social media and platform like YC, young Nigerians can now share their stories to get themselves out there. As a Nigerian creative, you cannot be worried about whether the mainstream media is following you or not, to be honest. If you do, the soul of your art will get lost. It will get lost in the sense that you stop doing it for the passion but for opinions and shallow reviews.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In 5 years time, I hope to have found my art style and experimented with a whole lot of other styles. I hope to have done workshops and exhibitions with artists that I admire. In 5 years time, I hope that Renike will be a name that people will be able to relate to when they hear it.
What is your advice for young Nigerians who are trying to build their skills?
We are all learners. Don’t stop learning, even when you think you’re already badass. Be humble.The good thing about being a learner is improvement/growth/development is inevitable.
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