With over 42k followers and counting on Instagram, Oresegun Olumide’s rise to prominence occurred when he least he expected it. He became interested in art at the age of four and started professionally creating art in 2005. The 35-year-old majored in Fine Art at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, graduating with a distinction. Drawing inspiration from his community, he is creating pieces that reflect the lives of those around him. In this interview with New Telegraph, the graduate of Yaba College of Technology speaks about his new-found fame and how he is handling the pressure that comes with it.
How long have you been an artist?
I have been doing this for over nine years.
Why did it take this long for people to realise how good you are?
It is possible that people have not been paying attention to my works. Some may not even believe such paintings can come from a Nigerian artist or out of Nigeria.
How did you feel when some of your portraits recently attracted the attention of the public, including CNN?
I just feel fulfilled. I am very happy that I am doing something people can actually reckon with after all these years I have been working. I wasn’t expecting anything; I was just enjoying myself and I felt I should let people see some of my works. I have always put out materials online for people to see. It is a normal thing for me; I must confess that I didn’t expect it to attract so much attention. It was when CNN and other media houses were trying to reach me, I realised the impact the paintings had made. But I am still the same Olumide. Now that everyone knows who I am, it means more work for me.
How do you intend to handle the pressure that comes with fame?
There is nothing I can do about that. I would just continue to be myself and continue to do what I have been doing all this while. I still have my studio in Ikorodu, Lagos and work continues.
What do you call your paintings?
I call it ‘hyper realist.’ It is a side that emanates from being a realist artist for a long time and trying to perfect it. It means doing difficult things an average artist would try to avoid.
It’s like water is a major feature of your works?
I realised that I couldn’t be painting human beings all over the place and still call myself an artist. The only way I can distinguish myself is to do difficult things that people always avoid, which makes me to focus a lot on the use of water. I want people to get familiar with my works. Everybody understands water and water paintings take a long time to achieve. I have been working on the popular water droplet arts for the past five years and I am still trying to perfect it. I ensure all my works now have a 3D or 2D effect and if I am yet to achieve that I am not done with the work. I know what I do is different from any other artist’s and it’s distinct. My passion for the arts is an inborn thing and I developed myself while going to school and after school too. I studied fine arts at the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) and I finished in 2006. In my set, I was the only distinction student. No one could match my excellence, though we equally had good artists with different, unique styles in my set.
Was there a time you wanted to give up?
There was no time like that. I just always feel like getting things done as soon as possible, but I never thought of giving up since it is my passion. Whether I was getting money or not, I was never bothered. I was only interested in getting money for materials to work.
What has the new-found fame changed about you?
Nothing has changed about my person. But certain things have changed really. The places I visit now and people I meet on a daily basis have changed.
You must be rich right now?
I don’t use money to measure my growth because I feel that is it only God who gives money. Besides, money comes and goes.
Artists complain that people don’t appreciate them well enough; is this self-sufficient for you?
It is lucrative for me; I have been making money since I took it as a profession. It pays my bills. I have been doing this with joy and when you do something with joy and money starts coming in, you don’t even know or notice it.
Have you ever staged an exhibition?
Yes I had. I had done two solo efforts and a lot of group exhibitions.
Do you plan to do any one soon?
Yes, I am doing. There is no date yet but it will be very soon.
Your loved ones, family must be proud of what you’ve achieved?
They are happy that I am reaping the reward of my labour; that I am doing great. It is like a plus for me because they’ve been attending my exhibitions and know how good I am. The development makes them happy.
It seems you are media shy or try to avoid the public?
I am not really. As an artist, you don’t make noise; you work indoors. It is when you stage an exhibition that people will know you’ve been working. That’s how all artists work. I have been busy attending to interviews and calls non-stop. Before we started talking, four journalists came to interview me in my studio. So you can imagine how my day has been. I thought of resting but I couldn’t do that because I’ve delayed you for too long.
How was your childhood experience?
Do you know Palmgrove in Lagos very well? If you know how rough the area is, you would be in the best position to explain my childhood. I grew up in the environment like any other kid there, but it was fun and a chapter of my life I can never forget. We all have humble beginnings.
Did your background influence what you do?
I cannot really say if my environment or background influenced me; what I do is something I just do. What I am certain of is that I tell my background and childhood stories in the works that I do. People often forget their past, but I try to reflect it in my works if you look deeply. Apart from my lecturers during my school days, I try to look up to the great artists like Picasso and Michelangelo and I want to be like them. The desire to be like them drives me to work harder. I always think if they could achieve so much in their era when things were not digitalised, I can achieve more in this digital age.
Are there other artists in your family?
There is no artist in my family; all I can say is that my gift is from God.
Do you think you can compete with international artists?
Of course, I can. My works shall speak for me; I don’t need to make too much noise about some of these things.
Have you attended any international exhibitions before?
I have been to international exhibitions, but I am yet to feature in any one. I only attended as a guest. Now a lot of international collectors, galleries and agents are knocking on my door.
What are your plans now?
I would just keep doing what I know how to do best by creating more beautiful and interesting things for people to see. People are not interested in seeing my face; what they are interested in is the work of my hands. They want to see other things I can create and I must not fail. When I am gone, I want to be remembered as the best artist in Nigeria and one of the greatest artists in the world. I try to improve on my paintings and I want to achieve greatness in what I do. Inasmuch as there are professors in arts, economics and other fields, I want to attain a professorship with this too.
Don’t you think the attention given by media could work against you?
It can affect me in a bad or good way, but it cannot take food from my table. I also have a management team that is working with me. They advise me on steps to take and how to go about certain things.
Are you married?
I am engaged.
More women must coming your way now?
It is a normal thing, so it is nothing to me and my wife-to-be understands too.
What did you aspire to be as a kid?
I wanted to go into the media; I wanted to be a newscaster or journalist. But since there was no one around to show me the way or someone working in the media, the dream died. You know when you see things you learn and get inspired to do them. I just fell in love while watching television programmes. I started from drawing things I saw in newspapers, but it was just for the fun of it. Then, I never knew I would become an artist.
How do you wish to contribute to the society?
When the money comes, everyone would see what I am capable of doing. I have many things I plan to work on. I would like to invest in education because I am passionate about helping people, especially the younger ones. Some up and coming artists already send their works to me for corrections and I advise them online too. I do all these for free.
Culled from New Telegraph