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#BNCreativesCorner: Mariam Omoyele is a Creative in The Superlative

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Many times, you never know what is dancing, weeping, laughing, worming its way through, or stripping itself naked in the mind of a creative. A creative’s mind is a never-drying pool of ideas, and thanks to creatives like Mariam Omoyele whose “great and weird imaginations” are manifested in bright colours, faces and paintings, and moulded into tangibles, we can always sit back and enjoy great works of art.

I was captivated by anything that had beauty, visually. There was a time I was gathering beautiful spiders. I’m the last born, most of my siblings are older than me, and my age mates did not really share my interests, so I spent a lot of time by myself.

Mariam Omoyele describes herself as a “creative in the superlative.” Her digital artworks are full of vibrant colours and a large part of her work focuses on positive emotions. Mariam has a very fluid approach to creating art, still she has her unique touch – burst of colours, witty statements, the smug look of her characters, and the one-eyedness of many of her characters.

Mariam’s Instagram page is a happy haven for many.

My childhood has always revolved around anything that has to do with story-telling, visual and written form of art. It was a way of keeping myself occupied, communicating what I think and my ideas, and letting off steam as someone who doesn’t really have many friends around.

I gathered anything that was so fine and try to recreate them. I started with writing. I used to write a lot of stories. My mum was so invested in them that she wanted to publish them but I said no.

In my late years in primary school/early years in  secondary school, I started drawing and painting with watercolour. I had a sketch book where I used to draw realistic sketches. The last I remember of those sketches is my cousin tore part of it to recreate them. I was so mad.

Like many, Mariam was that child who did not know what she wanted to become in future,”I did not have a linear approach to what I wanted to become,” she says. But there was something that was constant in her life: art. “I was always moving from one field in art to the other. But constantly, I’m always creating things, approaching problems with the view of solving them in the most creative way,” she says.

As she grew and became better in creating stunning illustrations and artworks, Mariam knew it was time to do something with this talent.

I started digital illustration in mid-2018. At first, it was something I did for fun but when my work started getting featured on global platforms for advertising. I realised it was no longer just fun and it had become a responsibility to myself to pay attention to it and improve myself.

Between last year and this year, I started taking it seriously. It became something I can use to pass messages and make an income. Now, it’s something I’m investing my time in to have a wider platform to showcase what I have.

As tempting as they are, it is not just the promise of fame or money that keeps Mariam going.

One of my motivations are my nieces and nephews who are interested in the art field. I want to encourage them by becoming very successful in the field. There’s this stereotype that artists are forever limited to roadside painting and cannot be successful. I want to show them that that’s not true and they can be so much more. So I want to improve myself in that area.

Although they love us, our family can be a huge hindrance to our creative journey. But unlike many parents who discourage their children from exploring the arts and advise them to take on more worthy causes or get real jobs, Mariam’s parents have always been supportive of her works.

They were very supportive, I wasn’t the only one who writes among my siblings. My dad was our editor as kids. My mum was our cheerleader, she was a teacher then and she was more focused on teaching us mathematics than art, but whenever we created them, she was always supportive. That helped in shaping the way we expressed our ideas and helped in expanding our skill in terms of writing and visual art.

Although Mariam does not agree to be rich rich (who does?), being an illustrator had paid off in many ways – even more than creating artworks, and it is safe to say that in the last few years, she has had a good career as a visual artist.

Financially, for illustrations, it has paid off because I’ve worked with brands and individuals in terms of creating app and website illustrations. Also illustrations for campaigns and products.

I’ve held off selling my art so far until last month when I decided I’d start selling prints and my artworks. People keep asking when I’m going to sell. People were also using my art without my consent, so why not make money off it?

Let’s backtrack a little, you say what?!

It’s very common for people to use artists’ work, paste it on their product, use it to promote their work, post on their articles without attributions, it’s something that happens a whole lot, and I have a bad habit of not appending my name to my work.

Being an artist does come with its own truckload of problems, and copyright issues, as big of a deal as they are, are not taken so seriously in this part of the world. People stealing her work is not the only challenge Mariam has had to face. If you are a creative living in this part of the world, you will understand the once-viral statement, “problem full my bodi.”

A lot of people in the art space look down on digital art because they believe it is easy and something you can just push a mouse around to do. But the thing is that art is not just about the medium you are using, it is about the concept itself, it’s the idea you’re trying to push. The thought behind the whole thing. Looking down on digital art is like looking down on washing machine and calling you lazy or saying your clothes would not be clean because of it. The result is the thing – you’re creating art and passing across a message. You’re creating a concept people can relate with.

Mariam also has a problem with being fit into a box. Many times, she…

gets frustrated that I don’t have a particular art style. I’m always developing new things and my style is always changing. There’s a demand to have a particular art style and, currently, I don’t have one.

The unspoken requirement to conform to a particular visual style is a huge encumbrance to me as an artist because it means  there are so many spaces I would not be accepted in.  I don’t see it as something to overcome. I’ve chosen that I’m going to continue expanding my style and concept, and improving myself because there is always something new for me to try. I believe I will one day develop a style if I continue doing that. Already many of my friends can recognise my work when they see it even when my name isn’t on it. Some say it’s because of the way I use colours.

And then…

Having to attach meaning to my work. Before, I just created; I didn’t think of a concept or meaning. When I see something striking, I simply just want to capture it visually. But after the Rele Gallery bootcamp I attended, I realised the need to constantly question the motivation behind our work as artists and the need to go in-depth in trying to determine why we’re creating a particular body of work.

Some of my works are deep, but most of the time, I just want people to feel good through my work. I don’t want very serious or deep meanings attached to my work. I just play around with art, but I have realised there is a need to develop an in-depth meaning to your art and try to convey that. What I do is study other artists and see how they are telling the stories around their art and their processes.

When you talk to many artists, you’d realise their finances is one of their biggest challenges. Mariam did not mention this and we were about to hail her as a money bag when she blurts out “…and then money too.” Phew, we could have bet she was swimming in it. “It’s quite tough to sell your art especially when you’re dealing with it alone without help from galleries or having a management.”

But in the spirit of colours and positive vibes only, Mariam has advice for artists.

I know it’s very frustrating trying to push your work online, especially when you do not have followers. It’s hard to get people who appreciate your art enough to want to buy it. It takes a lot of work. That’s one of the reasons the NFT space is so exciting. NFT is giving more opportunities and a wider platform for artists to sell their work, they only need to be up to date in that area and put more effort into marketing themselves.

As an artist, you have to constantly look for opportunities and always put yourself out there. Nothing would drop in your laps.

Applying to things is a numbers game, apply as much as you can to things, at a point, something would hit. The internet is so loud these days, everybody is speaking, everybody is doing this and that, it’s hard to get your voice above that noise, but you have to keep trying. Link up with other artists.

Mariam believes that beyond individual efforts, we must try to build a system where our artists do not have to tussle for international gigs.

What we can do collectively is part of what BellaNaija’s Creatives’ Corner is doing – giving artists a platform and spotlighting them. We should try to create a community of artists where we raise each other up. Successful artists can also come together to create communities so that younger people can learn the ropes and learn how they navigate their way to success.

There are times when artists have gotten tired of creating and just want to give up on art. Not Mariam, “I love every process of making art. From when I’m getting the idea to working on it and the joy I get when I complete it. There are times I have found it difficult to create art but never have I thought of leaving it.”

Want to know a fun fact about Mariam?

I’ve been a teacher, a journalist in a radio station, a fashion designer with a brand, a content developer, graphic designer – and now a visual artist and illustrator.

If you look at everything Mariam Omoyele has done, it is her creating and sharing things. At this point, we all can agree that Mariam did not only choose art, art also chose her.

 

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BN Creatives’ Corner is a series that gives creatives living and working in Africa the platform to showcase their work, talk about their journey, struggles and highlights of being creatives in Africa. We have told the story of Anne Adams who bends clay to create stunning artwork, and Nana Frimpong Oduro whose art explores the many aspects of our split personalities, TJ Benson a writer, Renike, a visual artist,  Okunade Hammed who founded Hingees, and many more. You can read them all here.

Many thanks to Mariam Omoyele for having this conversation with us and letting us share her story. You can visit her Instagram page here see more of her works. 

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