Tell me a little about yourself. Growing up, what was your childhood like?
My name is Renike. I’m a Visual Artist and an Illustrator. I studied Visual Arts in University, and a lot of people know me as an Illustrator. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. Growing up, my childhood was basic, I was a normal kid like every other kid. I’m mostly grateful that I have parents who were comfortable enough to provide a good education for me.
Have you always wanted to be an artist? If no, what changed your career path and why?
I’ll say no. This artist thing just happened. Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things. At some point, I wanted to be a Detective – I still want to be one lowkey, then I wanted to be a Banker, then an OAP. I really wanted to do something in the media and still want to as a matter of fact.
Becoming a professional artist was something I just woke up one morning and decided on. This was because I already had the skill and the talent. I studied Visual Art in school to become a designer and not an artist because I had majored in Graphics design.
During my third year in the University – that is, my IT year, I was an Intern with this agency and my Supervisor, who was into digital art asked if I knew anything about it. I said I didn’t, and he went ahead to show me what it was, and from there, I picked it up, practiced my life out, and here I am today.
After I graduated, I did a 9-5 job as a designer for about three years. One day I just realized that being a designer, living on the mainland axis, and having to work on the island axis in Lagos was too much for me, so I decided that I was going to stop working, and so I started my journey as a freelancer. That is still one of the bravest decisions I have ever made because I was working full-time as a designer and doing my artist thing on the side with a very small client base. That meant that a steady flow of income wasn’t guaranteed after quitting my job. I’m glad it it all worked out at the end of the day. I became a full time freelancer during the pandemic last year and its been great so far.
How has the journey been so far as an artist in Nigeria?
It is a bit stressful, to be honest. This country is set up to make creatives fail. I’m constantly trying to manoeuvre the challenges and hurdles that come with being a creative on this side of the world. Especially when it comes to receiving payments from clients in the diaspora. Shout out to the tech and the fintech industry who are doing pretty well to make things easier for us. I mean, looking at the Paypal + Flutterwave collaboration, I’m really excited to see what that means for ease of financial transactions.
Overall, I can say it’s been pretty interesting and challenging as well.
It’s safe to say that you have successfully carved a niche for yourself as a Visual artist and an Illustrator in the Nigerian art space. Tell us about your victories and your challenges so far.
Challenges are all Nigeria’s wahala.
Victories – I’ve gotten to work with brands that I never imagined that I would work with. I’m talking brands like Penguin Random House, Routledge, Hulu, Dark and Lovely, and some other brands I’m working with at the moment that I can’t disclose.
Becoming good at what I do is also a victory, I know I’m not the best yet, but I’m definitely working hard to become the best. The fact that I’ve been able to practice and grow myself to this level is a huge victory for me.
Who are your biggest influences?
I don’t have influences, but I have people that inspire me. Female artists in Nigeria, both digital and traditional like Chidinma Nnoli, Tonia Nneji, Chigozie Obi, Adanna, Janice Song, Lois. A lot of these people inspire me, when I see their work and because they are also women in this field doing great. It makes me strive to be better and be excellent at what I do.
And of course, Beyonce! She might not be a Visual artist, but her work ethic and excellence inspire me. It pushes me to make sure that the quality of work I put out there is excellent and the best.
What projects have you worked on? Which one was your favourite and why? What inspired this piece/idea?
Mostly, films, book-related brands, and personal projects. My favourite personal work is, ‘She will not be silent – inspired by women standing up for women. Women are being raped, killed, and silenced. It’s infuriating, but it’s a present and continuous thing but, one thing amazes me all the time. When one woman goes down, a hundred other women speak out and fight for her. It’s what gives me strength, and it’s so beautiful to see that women of my generation are fighters.
How do you cultivate a collector base?
I am mostly a digital artist, and just doing the traditional thing on the side, I do not commercialize my traditional paintings yet except prints. I’m yet to allow anyone collect my original traditional pieces yet.
What Does Your Artwork Represent?
My artwork represents Black Women living their best lives, discovering themselves, embracing their skin, their body, their hair – just feeling beautiful and being themselves.
I paint women who are often underrepresented e.g dark skinned black women, fat women and albino women. My goal with my artworks is to make all black women feel beautiful.
I also create artworks of women in contemporary dance positions. This is influenced by my love for dance and how it brings me so much peace. I have curated my space to be surrounded my peace, joy and growth and it shows in my artworks.
Most of my artworks also have a sun-kissed vibe to them. Have you seen a black woman in the sun? Such glory and beauty! I feel like the sun was created to bless the skin of black women.
What are the elements of art you enjoy working with most and Why?
Lighting and Shadows.. I enjoy exploring lighting, and how it bounces off skin.
If I want buy art by Renike, how do I go about it?
You can check the link in my bio on Twitter @iamrenike and Instagram @iamrenike. You can also send me a mail – [email protected] for customized pieces.
What 3 things does anyone starting in this industry need to know?
- You have to be consistent and you have to be hardworking because being an artist in Nigeria is hard. Even though it’s been challenging for me, I think I’ve still had it easy because I can afford my tools. With Nigeria being the poverty capital of the world, so many people cannot afford to buy the tools needed for their work. It just makes things harder so it would require a level of dedication and consistency to actually do art in Nigeria.
- You have to be sure that this is what you want to do and stick by it. When it doesn’t work out the first time, you have to be okay with that and not beat yourself up.
- Practice, watch Youtube videos, try to reach out to artists that inspire you, and ask questions. Always be willing and open to learning. Keep your confidence high, don’t be intimidated by other people who are doing better than you. Instead, try to learn how they’re doing it and how you could improve yourself.
What would you do differently if you were starting in your industry now?
I don’t think I’ll do anything differently. I think I’ve been doing pretty well for myself.