THANK YOU FOR TAKING TIME OUT OF YOUR BUSY SCHEDULE TO TALK TO US.
Can you tell us who Oyindamola is?
My name is Oyindamola Oyekemi Oyewumi. I am a graduate of Ladoke Akintola University where I bagged a B.Tech in Pure and Applied Chemistry. I recently completed my NYSC around February 18, 2021.
I am a Ball-point Artist. All of my art is made with a pen on paper. I love to draw women and children because it is my way of expressing true African beauty. I am the first child of three children. I am an indigene of Ogbomosho town in Oyo state.
Is your work influenced by certain themes from your childhood background or socio-economic status?
Well, not necessarily!
If my work were to be influenced by my childhood background, I ought to draw more playful children.
What does art mean to you?
Art is a way of expressing oneself self in a way that you cannot do with words. There are some emotions that we can’t put into words. For instance, I draw female nudes because there are ladies who loathe their bodies, hate their skin tone. I want people to feel comfortable with themselves. I also love drawing children because we all need to have the innocence of a child.
Was there a defining moment when you decided you wanted to make art?
I started drawing at a young age, but I did not take it up seriously.
When I got to the 400 level in the university, my dad became ill. It was a difficult time for us. He couldn’t do certain things for us during this period and I had to hustle. Asides from the earnings, I draw because of my passion for it.
My thought as at then was “God gave me a gift and I can use this gift to fend for myself”.That made me step up and make my artwork professional. Since then, I have started taking commissions. That was one of my driving forces. My parents supported me through this journey, my sisters also act as my muse. My dad bought my first set of art supplies, he loved drawing. Whenever he returned from work, he always drew with me. I had this board where we would draw animals, cartoon characters like mickey mouse, etc. when I just started, my dad helped me although he was ill and that was how my journey into art began.
Have you always wanted to be a ballpoint pen artist?
Funnily, I always wanted to study civil engineering!
Wow! That is a serious diversion oh!
(Laughs) for real, my dad was a civil engineer and I always wanted to follow his path. I applied to the university to study civil engineering but one way or the other, I was not given civil engineering, rather I was made to study pure and applied chemistry.
I never imagined that I would be an artist until the turnaround in 400 level. I just had to use my talents to do something for my family. I knew I was in my final year, I had to do my project and money wasn’t enough. I had to do something to offset the burden from my parents.
I remember Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi (former Minister of youth and sports development) he came across my page when I was in my final year and he loved my works. He appreciated my drawings.
Thereafter, he commissioned me to draw his wife. He paid me more than I charged; I charged him twenty-seven thousand naira and he paid a hundred thousand naira. I was overwhelmed with joy (laughs). The money I got was what I used to pay for my project and sort some of my bills.
There is nowhere I would get to and I would not remember him. He was a big part of my journey.
Honestly, he helped me when all hope was lost. He was an angel sent by God Almighty. Thereafter, I started having commissions from people who loved my works. My mum’s drawing was the first portrait I uploaded online and people liked it.
For any of our audience, who have no inkling of your style of painting “Ballpoint pen Art”, could you tell us a little about it?
Ballpoint pen art is a type of art whereby the medium you use is a ballpoint pen. It is the use of pen on paper. I use a ballpoint pen solely. Some artists use ballpoint pen and acrylic e.g. using ballpoint pen for the face and acrylic for the clothes. I build up my forms using pen strokes. I build it using thousands of strokes. You have to keep shading until you get the skin layer or what you want. Depending on how deep the work is, you are most likely going to use 2-3 pens.
While drawing with a pen, I have learned how to be patient. If you get easily frustrated or angry, I am sure you will tear up a lot of your pieces.
So, in a way, is ballpoint pen art therapeutic?
Exactly! I do say it. I get angry easily, so when I draw in that state, I end up tearing most of my artwork. I just have to calm down and let the anger simmer away. Ballpoint pen art is very unique and that is one of the reasons I love it. Everyone can draw with a pencil but not everybody can draw with a pen.
That is what captivated Charles Hoskinson when I drew him. He was amazed that I could draw with a pen. The last job I had with 22k likes on Twitter that dazzled people was the fact that I was able to achieve such a feat with just a pen.
Do you think there is a viable market for ballpoint pen artists in Nigeria?
Naturally, the market for arts here in Nigeria is not so encouraging compared to other countries. If I drew a Nigerian celebrity instead of Charles Hoskinson, I doubt if my work would have been acknowledged. Even if it was acknowledged, I might just get a “thank you” and we move on. The drawing I made for Charles Hoskinson was auctioned for $6,300. Where in Nigeria will I receive almost three million naira for my painting. Even if I were to be given, it Wouldnt come as a gift.
The market here for art is just the “Grace of God” and if you are lucky to meet those who appreciate art. For instance, if Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi didn’t appreciate my work, he wouldn’t think of giving me extra.
I have gotten lots of commissions here in Nigeria but when I get clients internationally, the pay is much more.
A client of mine who is based in Dubai received his order and fell in love with the drawing, which prompted him to gift me $100 extra. I thank God that locally and internationally, my art has been doing well.
Who are your biggest influences?
Is there a particular artist that inspired you to pursue art?
Yes! Jacqueline Suowari is one of the reasons why I would like to venture into big drawings. Seeing a fellow lady doing something like this inspires me to do more.
Also, Olatoye David, Kenny Pen freak, and Mostafa Khodeir. These are the reason I draw with a pen.
At a time, I thought they were magicians (laughs).
What memorable responses have you had towards your work?
I would never forget my last sale. For the founder of Cardano and co-founder of Ethereum to respond to my work and sell my drawing for $6,300 just for me. No, be joke oh! (laughs). I used some of that money to set up my art studio. It has affected me positively. Honestly, I won’t lie.
NFT has become a new wave in the art world and it also has the potential to propel Nigerian artists to the International level. How did you come about such a great opportunity?
I really can’t explain how it happened. I would say that it was my luck and God’s grace.
The drawing I made for Charles Hoskinson auctioned the drawing for me. I didn’t have any idea about the platform. Charles Hoskinson auctioned the drawing for me. I didn’t have any idea about the platform but he took his time to explain it to me and also shared links about it with me.
In a nutshell, it sold for $6,300 and he sent every penny to me. After that sale, I had another NFT digital drawing sold by me for $100.
With the recent ban on bank servicing crypto forms, what impact would it have on artworks already placed on the NFT platform?
I really can’t say. Even though they placed a ban, people still found alternatives. I think people are trying to hold on to their coins or maybe it is because I am still new. I believe that my next drop would be more massive.
Are there other challenges you feel artists may encounter using the NFT platform?
I feel artworks are prone to theft. Although there are existing laws and protections people are very smart too. What if the artist does not understand or know anything about the platform? People can pose like they are the real owners of the art and sell it.
Last year was devastating with the covid-19 pandemic experience. How did the lockdown affect your creative output?
It affected me positively. Most of my sales/commissions were made during this period. During the pandemic, I was serving my fatherland. The lockdown measures put in place prevented me from going to my PPA (primary place of assignment) for almost six months. I had time for myself and my work.
In a world dominated by men, there is a saying “what a man can do, a woman can do better”. Do you agree with this notion and does it apply to the world of art?
Yes, I agree with the notion.
It applies to the world of art. I don’t think there is anything a male ballpoint pen artist does that I can’t do.
As an enterprising female artist, you are likely to face series of challenges in the art world. What has been your experience and how have you used this to your advantage?
Sometimes, people don’t want to patronize you rather they want to fraternize with you. Some even go to the extent of telling you that they want you to come to their house to draw them while I can sense an inappropriate sexual undertone.
This is not a common occurrence with male artists but believe me, every line of work has its pros and cons. People get to respect me more. They try to encourage me and they also refer me to clients.
People say she is a lady and she is very good. The fact that I am a lady surprises them because there is a belief that ladies do not like to undergo stress and they all want gifts. People see it as a means to support me.
Your painting “happiness is free”, I love it so much! could you explain the story behind it?
Apart from the happiness written all over his face, I see the innocence in him. He is so free and he holds no grudges against anyone. What prompted me to paint that piece was despite the hardship in the world we live in, I believe that everyone should have the spirit of a child. Be innocent at heart and bear no grudges. If our world could rid itself of the ills and have the spirit of a child, then there would be no conflict and ethnic disharmony.
Traditionally, our culture frowns at nudity and tends to be conservative when it comes to women’s dress styles. As an artist that paints nudes, what message do you hope to pass across to your audience?
I don’t want anyone to be a hypocrite. I don’t like when people try to pretend when we know that things done in secret are worse off. Why would you judge someone because of their mode of dressing? Pressures from society have made lots of ladies lose confidence in their bodies.
Take me for instance, I have stretch marks and I am not shy about it. Back then, I wasn’t proud of my body. I wore long sleeves to cover my arm. I was petrified of what people thought and what they would say.
Over time, I developed this level of confidence. People can say what they want to, God created me beautifully and I didn’t create myself. I shouldn’t make to feel bad for a crime I didn’t commit. I am not God, I didn’t commit a crime for being tall, being black. I try my best to draw women in their true forms because black is beautiful.
This is my medium to promote African beauty and culture, for I am an African lady. I want black women to be appreciated. We should accept ourselves the way we are. I am not preaching nudity, I want acceptance from people. Flaunt your beauty, this life is too short. Enjoy yourself to the fullest, let them see the real beauty.
How has the reception been?
People criticize me. They say “of all things in this world to draw, you chose to draw nudes”. I don’t get disturbed by those messages, so long as I have passed the message across to people.
Your Instagram account is a chow for the eyes! Do you think it is important for artists today to be active on social media?
Yes oh! If you are not active on social media, where would you be active? The world has gone digital. How would my international clients have located me if I didn’t put my paintings online? If I wasn’t social, the Charles Hoskinson drawing would not have gone viral. He may not have found me. I would just be restricted to one spot. I studied pure and applied chemistry and getting a job is highly competitive. Even if I got one, it won’t be a well-paying job. How will I make money to fend for myself if I don’t put my work online? Most of my clients get to me online. Every work has packaging. You have to keep working till you are recognized.
Materials are sacrosanct to paintings. If I wander into your art studio, what materials would I find, and why are they fundamental to your work?
The first material you will find is my ballpoint pens (laughs). That is what I am created for. Then you will see my drawing board, easel, paper, and just one pencil. I can’t do without them. It’s just like a baker’s shop and there is no flour, what will they bake? (laughs). They are all important to me because that is what I use to create life on paper.
Which of your projects would you consider your favorite? What inspired this piece/idea?
I have a lot of projects that I love. “happiness is free” is one, then I can’t forget “Ajoke” I did it during the lockdown. I also love “spring of hope” because it speaks a lot to me. When it looked like there was no hope, hope came from nowhere. That inspired me to draw it.
Is this ballpoint pen art a long-term thing for you or do you feel that you might have to practice your major in school?
I don’t think I want to practice what I studied in school. I spent eight years in the university. Lots of strikes.
I am not interested in working as a chemist. I want to be an internationally renowned artist.
Did you ever think of quitting school?
I never thought of quitting school. I did pretty well in school. My parents are both graduates and educated. Why would I go to school and drop out? In whatever you do, I believe education gives you an edge. I understand that some people can’t afford the cost of schooling but if you are privileged to and you feel that because of school stress you cannot cope, that I cannot fathom. You have the skill, so it’s an option for you.
What if I draw and people are not buying? Should I go hungry? I graduated with a second-class upper (honors) degree. I can apply for jobs and I could also further my education and venture into academics.
Where do you get practical advice from?
I get practical advice from my parents, friends, and my fellow artists.
If there is one thing you could have said to yourself when you started as an artist, what would it be?
I should have started doing this earlier. I would tell myself to study fine and applied arts at the university. I am a self-taught artist. If I had learned this in school, my knowledge would be broader.
It is a different ball game when you know both the practical and theoretical aspects rather than knowing just the practical aspect.
What do you do for fun?
I am a boring person!
I don’t do parties, clubs, etc. I have been to the cinema thrice. I don’t listen to music although I have a great love for fuji music like Pasuma.
I love painting and that’s my fun thing.
Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself and your work to our community. One last question!
What is next on your horizon?
Self-improvement. I want to work more on myself, so I can be able to teach lots of people.