Interview of Nadia Akingbule by Freya Bennett
Hey Nadia, how are you?
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I’m a 20 year old gal from London, and I illustrate bits and bobs and paint portraits! I’m in the middle of a degree (bore!) so I like to keep myself busy with lots of side projects. Identity is a huge theme that runs through all of my work, I think being of mixed heritage explains why it’s constantly on my mind. My illustrative work is a direct reflection of who I am, colourful and a bit hectic, an extension of my personality!
How did you get started in the arts? What mediums do you work in, and do you have a favorite?
I’ve always really liked being creative; when I was little I refused to touch pencils and would only do scraggly drawings in biro. To be honest, not much has changed! I love a good fine liner pen or a marker, and for more detailed work, like portraits, I usually use acrylic. I love the punchy colour you get from it!
Did you study art formally in school?
Yes, and I still do! I’m midway through a degree in Illustration with Animation at Manchester School of Art. Before this, I did art all through school, and also did a foundation.
What’s a great piece of advice you’ve been given?
Art is subjective; you will never please everyone with what you create, so focus on making something that makes YOU happy!
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Ellen Gallagher, Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley and Faith Ringgold are all artists that I’ve really grown to really love over the last year, especially as I’ve been exploring race issues and the black identity in portraiture. Not only is their work visually appealing, it’s loaded with meaning. I love that!
If you could give advice to someone interested in getting started in the visual arts who is unsure of where to start, what would it be?
It sounds so cliché but you have to just pick up a pen or a paintbrush and go for it. Try to get inspired; channel something that makes you FEEL something!
What inspires your artwork? Are the portraits you paint/illustrate real people, or “made up”?
Nostalgia inspires my looser work, so I often look at weird cartoons or books from my youth for inspiration. I really strive to capture the ‘feel-good’ warmth of nostalgia in my illustrations. However when I do portraiture, I like taking real situations or issues and embed those themes into my work. I recently did a series on afro hair and BAME issues, painting portraits of girls I know from around Uni, and using their experiences as women of colour for inspiration. I always paint real people, and almost always those who mean a lot to me!
You have many different styles you tackle, do you have a favourite?
I really love portraiture, but it takes a lot of time and planning to execute it well. I think when I am doing abstract work I am fully able to relax and enjoy myself during the process, whereas with portraiture, the pleasure comes from seeing the finished product.
How do you spend your time when you aren’t creating art?
Seeing friends and listening to music. I’ve recently discovered Japanese Funk, it’s the absolute best thing! I also really love travelling, I went to Mexico last year and it was honestly the best time of my life. I’m planning a trip to Japan next!
What’s something not a lot of people know about you?
I am almost fluent in Russian! I come from a Russian and Nigerian family, and went to Russian school throughout my childhood which was SUCH a drag as a kid (typical 10 year old mind set), but now I really appreciate being able to speak another language.