Osayomon, CEO of Musings on Paper had a chat with Abraham Ogunlende a.k.a Painter Abe, a 27 year old Nigerian Artist who expresses his truth and reality through his vibrant art. Unknown to many, Painter Abe has a Bachelors degree and an iMBA from University of Philadelphia, but decided to spend his life doing the work he truly loves. He has worked on various projects with brands such as Lipton and Absolut, and has had exhibitions at exciting locations including Terra Kulture, iDesign Fair, Womens Center Abuja and Sao Muse. He is one of the 6 artists showcasing at the Rele Young contemporaries 2019.
O: It’s really hard to do exactly what you want in a society like ours, and it’s admirable to see people like you who follow their passion and dreams, irrespective of what other people think. You’re an artist with incredible paintings who is just doing his own thing, so I think it makes sense to start by asking you about your art and how you got here?
PA: Thank you for interviewing me and I’m happy to be the first person featured on L.I.V.E. Like you said it’s not easy to do exactly what you want to do in life because the way the society is set up today, people always want to tell you what to do, and being in Nigeria, your parents will constantly tell you what to do! You find that young people are now trying to break out of the mould, and are discovering that what they love is important to them. I can only speak for myself, I was just a regular guy in school who loved art. I grew up in a creative household so I always knew I would do something with art in someway.
I found painting and really got into it. I only became serious about it in 2014 actually and ever since then it’s been challenging but mostly wonderful. The challenges have come from family because they weren’t sure if it was the right thing to do because I was still in uni; they felt like I was like wasting my time. But I had to work harder to show them that this wasn’t the case. This was the case for some friends too. The truth is it’s not easy for a young Nigerian to do what they love, and hopefully we can show that you actually can, It wouldn’t be easy but you can overcome those obstacles and just stay true to yourself and accomplish things.
O: I’m sure there was an element of surprise with regards to you announcing that you were becoming a full-time artist, given that it was a hobby that you picked up relatively late and were already pursuing an MBA. Did the surprise factor throw you off a bit ? I’m sure it would have been hard to read if the reactions were positive or negative.
PA: In the beginning ,I told some of my friends that I wanted to Paint and they just laughed at me. I didn’t even think I could draw, I used to laugh at myself. It really felt like a calling and it was easy to get into it because I had always been around it, I always knew, I just never expressed it. It wasn’t easy but I just worked hard and understand why I was doing it. For me I had to just connect with people through art and express messages, and I just kept doing that and continued moving forward.
O:Did you ever feel like substituting this route for a 9-5 life with a guaranteed routine and salary?
PA: I had a lot of thoughts, but that’s just all they were; thoughts! And they would come at times when I didn’t have a lot of money to spend because I was investing in myself. It was tough. When I started painting, I had a marketing job, and when I was at work I would just think of painting, and that’s all I was rushing home to do. One day I just decided that I wasn’t going to do the job anymore and just concentrated on being a full time artist. The temptation was there to find something more stable, but that temptation had to be overcome by the belief that this was going somewhere , and that I was doing this for a reason.
O: I’m interested to know about the process of you transitioning into a full time artist. When you’re moving into a new space, you’re sometimes so overcome by the challenges that you don’t get to enjoy the process. Over the years, you look like you were enjoying the process of you evolving into PainterAbe and coming into your own. Was that the case or are looks deceiving?
PA: I did enjoy it. I felt like it came organically. It’s easy to focus on the negatives but sometimes you have to take a step back naturally and , see how far you’ve come and how far you’re growing. You were not perfect before you started and you’re not perfect now but you’re making strides. When you’re doing something with a purpose, and doing it on your own terms, you’re actively bettering yourself. So if you look at things that way, then you feel strong enough to overcome any challenges or roadblocks.
O: Speaking of “actively bettering “ yourself, when you’re not living the life you want, It feels like you basically have to accept what is thrown at you, but when you’re living life “ on your own terms” as you said, it feels like you can be much more intentional about the things you do. Even though your work is very creative itself, I know there’s a strong business side that people often overlook. It’ll be interesting to shed some light on the less glamorous side to make people who see creative careers as an easy route, understand the work that goes into everything.
PA: Honestly, nobody told me this and I had to find out for myself. I didn’t know the backend of things, and really, It’s all about how you present yourself. If you’re professional, you have more freedom to express your art in anyway. For a lot of artists, the industry is swarmed with artists. A lot of people can paint better than I can , but they don’t know what to put on their resumes, they may not even know they need a resume or an artist’s statement.or mission statement to outline the reason why they are doing what they are doing. My advice will be whatever you’re doing, take a second to write a business plan or write about yourself and your goals. You’ll just have a clearer mindset and be more focus. More people will want to work with you if they know you’re serious about things.
O: You’ve worked with a lot of big brands as a result of putting yourself out there and taking risks. Did you feel intimidated in the beginning when approaching big brands to showcase your work.
PA: Honestly, It was God that saw me through. I felt like I was being nudged in the right directions and all I had to do was follow those inspirations. When chasing your dreams, I think the one quality you need is to be bold enough to take risks. There’s always fear and anxiety, these are all natural things, but if you can ignore them and take the risk, you’ll see the fear didn’t need to be there, and the more times you do it, you figure things out for yourself . Thats why its also important to know what you want to do, because you have that clear focus. I think thats what helped me, not losing sight of what I was trying to do, and even if I did lose sight , I could revert back to what I had written. You’re going to fail a lot of times. At one point I was receiving emails and all I would see was “Unfortunately” “Unfortunately” “Unfortunately”, but then every now and again, I would see “congratulations”. You just have to forget about the negative things, brush them off and keep focusing on the good!
O: Nigeria is typically a hard place to be express your creativity. We have a very traditional and culture driven mindset, where we dictate that a person must be a certain way. To be taken seriously, you must fit into a certain mould. We live in a society that’s not very progressive, therefore doing anything new can potentially ostracise you from society. How are you so confident in yourself , and able to express yourself irrespective of what people think?
PA: It’s easy to care about what people think and It’s also easy to say don’t care about what people thinks, It all comes down to you. It could be something as simple as you wanting to wear white jeans, and someone telling you not to. That wouldn’t make you happy. You would resent the situation and even the person. You should just try to free yourself from peoples judgement because all that really matters is what you think about any situation in life.
O: I have no doubt that People are going to read your story, and be inspired by your courage to live the life you want. Any words for anyone looking for Inspiration?
PA: Be confident, have faith and work on your will. if you want to do something stick to it and be positive. Through the good and the bad, make sure you’re in a wonderful space, focus on that. Like I said there will be failures, because of your confidence and your faith, you’re able to look past it. I strongly believe that if you do these things, this life thing will work out.