Hi, Anthony! Thanks for taking the time to chat.

Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello! Thank you for the invitation.

My name is Anthony Azekwoh. I am an artist and author. I have been doing this for a while and so far, it has been a great journey.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I have been writing for 7-8 years but artistically, let us say painting started recently, about 4-5 years ago. I was inspired by the urge to improve myself. I wasn’t someone who could draw or write from an early age. There is the joy I derive from outdoing myself.

Did your childhood environment play a huge role in your love/ discovery of art?

Ehrmm, I mean my childhood was quite average. I sought out books and arts when I was younger. I read a lot for my age. Art is something that gravitated towards me as I got much older.

Can you give us an insight into your life as a professional artist during the covid-19 pandemic? What kind of impact did it have on you?

For the first time, it gave me time to be by myself without distractions. It was just me, my work, and my thoughts on how to take it further. I wasn’t worried about anything. It gave me a breathing space that I never thought I needed to think clearly for myself, my work, and my future.

What is it about the art medium you love to use?
I notice that you used digital painting a lot. Why not traditional painting.

Okay, it was borne out of practicality. If you need to learn any craft, you need to train and practice a lot of times. However, when you are training traditionally, it all boils down to you and your funds. As a learner, you have to burn a lot of papers, canvasses, brushes, paints and it is vital to have all this. It is the rule of the trade. At that time, I didn’t have money for all these materials. The digital painting was an amazing alternative, where I had this old mouse I stole from my sister (laughs) and I could just connect it to my laptop as long as it was charged. Gbam! I could paint and draw. The digital painting was a very cost-effective way of painting and learning for me.

We can arguably say that ‘THE RED MAN’ is one of your greatest works. 
Do you agree with this notion?

Yes, so far. It has gotten some of the most responses.

What inspired you to paint such a masterpiece?

It was a mistake really (laughs). By Wednesday, it would be a year I painted the red man. Around this time last year, I could not go outside, there was nothing to do. It was meant to be a study, I intended to paint something in black and white. Along the line, I realized that I liked it and I said to myself, ‘What if I change the background to red’? Maybe it will look nice, I kept adding little perks to it and it looked better. It was around 1 am and I was pretty much tired. I didn’t have the energy to fill in the eyes, so I left it blank. The following morning, I decided to post it so it wouldn’t seem like I hadn’t done any work. After I posted it, it garnered a lot of recognition. It resonated well with people and I was surprised that it happened. 

Is it safe to say that covid-19 influenced “THE REDMAN” painting in a way?

How so?

Well, you said that it was last year you painted “THE REDMAN” and you were at peace. Also, when I asked about the impact of covid-19, you said you were at peace with yourself.

Oh yeah! In that context, you are right!

Normally, when I paint, I place the paintings of my idols {duro arts, dukes art} next to mine so I could reference them. I was trying to find their style. I loved their style but I was pretty keyed into it and it was getting too much. I didn’t go to any formal art training school, they were the ones I learned from. It was getting to a point where I was feeling choked up by the influence. 

The Red Man was the first painting I did as a study of my work. I was like I don’t need to study another person’s work. They are great and they have done their own already. It was a very free open moment for me. 

In digital art, arts in general, there is this conversation about style {how you paint}. It was at that moment I realized that style isn’t what you intentionally work on, it is something that happens like your handwriting. It was a scary moment but I found out what I like to paint and this is how I like to paint it.

How did you come with the idea for “DEATHLESS SERIES”?

The Red Man received a lot of recognition from people. They thought it to be a series and I was like “DAMN”. I was in a sticky situation, a lot was happening at then, and an ingenious idea popped in my head, “What if I played around a spectrum”? I wouldn’t do it in chronological order, I did the Redman then the Jade woman, nobody was seeing it. People were seeing colors; red, green, so I decided to play around with blue then back to orange, etc. it was a fun experiment though. It was exciting for me.

In the end, maybe September or October, I put everything together and people were like wow! It was a spectrum all this while. I was happy. I had them all along.

How did you come about naming each character?

In my mind, it struck me like a family and in a family, there are different characters.

Artistically, I try to do something new with every painting. With that said, if you go through my work, you will notice that there are no two similar paintings.

The Indigo man with the tongue, yeah was a scary painting. Then you have the Orange Father with the cigarette. I said to myself, since the Red Man is smoking, the Orange Father should also have a cigarette since they are closely related. The blue boy was one of the first types of painting I drew like that.

The pressure for the Red Man was getting to me so I wanted to do something different to shake everything off. This led to the painting of the Jade Woman. The Red Man is this harsh painting so I wanted the Jade Woman to be soft. She had this very soft feel and calm aura. 

The Violet Daughter was this very lonely outcast. She was supposed to be an albino but it didn’t work out for me. So many people were guessing that and I was like NO CAN DO!

A versatile artist you are! I also got to know that you are a writer. You have written five books. The book titled “STAR” was written based on a personal experience or a shared experience?

STAR was the second book I wrote after I had just contemplated the huge failure from the first book which didn’t do quite well. So sad!

At a time, my mother and I had a very rocky relationship and the star was this book that condenses the realization that we good, other times bad but it’s like one day we are all going to wake up to the realization that they are not going to be there.

I felt this experience is something I need to write about. This kind of deep emotion that we know is love but we also know it is temporary in the world. This was last year.

Do you plan on writing a story on the “Deathless Series”?

The way my creativity works, I like telling stories and when I tell those stories, I normally gravitate towards “this is something I want to tell”. I normally tilt to where I feel the story will be the strongest. The “Deathless” series works well as a painting series. It might not have worked well as an essay, series, short stories, etc. Let us say I had released a story titled “The Redman”, I doubt if people would have been interested. I am becoming more patient nowadays. At the moment, I don’t think it’s coming. Things change but for now, I have no plans.

What year was the most challenging in your career and why?

No, covid was horrible but it wasn’t it. Around this time last year, I was low on cash and I was so confused about things. Suddenly, there came this success that suited me and I wasn’t particularly prepared for. Last year involved a whole lot of transitions, one month I am doing this, the following month I am working with this person. Keeping track of all these things along with my personal life, improving as an artist, replying to people, etc. It was challenging due to the changes that came with what I wanted.

Did quitting ever cross your mind?

That is a good question!

For me, I was like if I quit, what would I do. I don’t have any other skills. I am already locked in. Of course, there are times when I need to take a break or just disappear but quitting “as in” stopping this is no option for me at this stage.

There are times when people will be like what if you weren’t doing this? I will respond as I’ll be dead! There is no answer I can give. This is it for me. There is no left or right, it is just here, and basically, I am good.

Running your art business can be overwhelming sometimes where do you look for support and practical advice?

Oh wow!

Most times, it’s people older than you. I look to my family, friends, Olatunbosun, Niyi, people who have been through stages of what I am going through to be able to manage it. A lot of sorting, leasing, trademark even internationally, has been new to take in and handle but it’s something that I need to start getting used to.

Kindly give three pieces of advice to the upcoming artist or anyone struggling to keep their creative idea going

I mean that’s a funny question. I am still an up-and-coming artist (laughs). Nobody can tell you okay this is what you have to do. The way dukes came up is different from the way Duro came up and it is quite different from how I am coming up. For me, what I would tell myself if I was in a similar situation is;

Firstly, you get what you want and nothing more. If you want money, if you want fame, if you want validation, you will get them. Get happiness. You don’t get peace of mind. If you are not trying to invest in people, how would a good social life come? They are all separate entities and they should not be confused together. You can get all you desire but if you are not properly feeding your heart, how would the happiness and peace of mind come? You get what you want but don’t let it blind your focus. There is so much to live.

Secondly, good work transcends everything. You don’t have to stress, it will come to you. You must be honest with yourself to be able to see that this is who you are.

Thirdly, relax!

You only live once. I say to myself, if I die today, the business will go on. I hope the money will go to my family. People will post my work, exclaim that ah! He was a great artist but I will be gone! I just have to understand that my health is important and I have to take care of it.

Is being an artist a long-term thing for you?

Yes, it is.

Putting art aside, what is it you do for fun, or are you “all work and no play”

Oh, God! That’s a scary question. I read, write, watch videos about paintings. I watch Tv shows. I go out by myself sometimes with friends. Most of my time right now revolves around work and getting myself settled.

Thank you so much for sharing a part of you with us today, final question!
What next?

Right now, I have so much work to do and I am thinking of when it will be done. Sometimes, I can’t tell because the project just comes.

For now, just developmentally, I am trying to do better while also trying to enjoy life more.

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