Earlier this year artist Jessica Omitola, debuted her “Pride of Africa’ collection at The Brick Lane Gallery in London. In a recent email interview, we spoke to the British artist to learn about her influence for the collection and about her creative platform Ilatoda. View the interview below:
What inspired the collection?
The collection is based on the viewpoint of a young African girl and how she sees the women in her life. From her perception she has a queen for a mother, a queen for sisters and queens for aunties too. She is not ignorant of their toil or struggles but she is fascinated by their strength and grit and beauty despite everything. I feel I am that little girl and I know many African queens.
Does being based in London play any influence on the style of work that you do?
London is the hub of creativity for me and I enjoyed living 30 minutes outside it when I was working on this collection. The “keep moving” mentality that seeps through every aspect of London life had a great influence on my creativity during that period. People don’t stop for anything. Their focus is clear, their goal is understood, get from A to B, a bit like New York I suppose. This somehow kept me going when I was working 8 hour days in a Post room job then coming home to paint till 2am in the morning. I had no choice but to “keep moving” like everybody else.
Which artists inspire you?
Frida Kahlo, Margaret Keane and Nelson Makamo
Have you faced any challenges with being a contemporary artist?
One of the biggest challenges I had was finding my own style. I am self taught and have never had any professional classes in fine arts so naturally I began with realism portraits. I got very good at it but as a born perfectionist it became very frustrating when I couldn’t get the nose or the eyes exactly right and this stole the fun from creating. I knew what I was lacking is my own inspiration and style. I remember the first time I drew one of my long-necked ladies; I was so unsure of what I was doing, I had no reference picture, I was simply digging deep and I was loving it.
What advice would you give to others looking to pursue art as a career?
I would say be prepared to create your own opportunities. Don’t expect them to simply fall into your lap, you are going to have to do a lot of knocking on doors but it will be worth it in the end.
Can you tell us about your platform ilatoda?
‘Ilatoda’ is derived from yoruba language and it means beautiful lines. It is my online and social media outlet where I share my work. We have a website that sells prints and pop art tees. We are also on instagram, facebook and twitter under the same name where we keep followers updated on latest projects and creative adventures.