Damola Moshood Ojulari is a 22-year-old hyper-realism artist. He is a final student from the University of Ilorin of the department of Economics and a hip hop scholar. Over the course of our conversation, he was able to express his satisfaction and challenges as an artist. He also shared how he is trying to find himself through his art.
After weaving through a maze of conflicting schedules and dodging the seemingly endless supply of rain clouds, the sun finally fought through the clouds on Saturday, the 11th of July and chased the clouds to the farthest horizon. Damola and I had agreed to meet at an open space by 5 pm. He arrived early and as I approached him I could hear whispers of Kanye West’s music which became more audible the closer I got to him. He was listening to a Kanye West album out loud. He is an avid hip hop fan and I think I was an attempt to calm himself because he is a faithful introvert. I suggested that he left his music playing.
Damola was born in Lagos and raised in Abuja, the nation’s capital. It is worth noting that there’s now a surge of artistic individuals in the nation’s capital. I decided to start with the easy question of when did you start drawing? He replied with a look that expressed ignorance. His palms were opened with his arms to his side signalling that he didn’t know. He then remembered he was supposed to use his words before replying with “I don’t know. I have always been able to draw. I remember representing my primary school in an art competition organized by Omo´ and doing very well. But, I didn’t start taking it seriously until November 2017.” This young artist had a truckload of analogies and hand gestures to go with every answer he gave me. He also managed not a say a single word more than necessary like he was trying to be economical.
I inquired why he decided to take his art seriously and how much time does he spend on a project? He had this to say, “I was home for the holidays and needed to do something so I decided to refine some old skills.” Then he paused and continued by saying “it takes about 60 to 70 hours” nonchalantly. I think he noticed the shock on my face which made him proceed with “there are some artists that spend 120 hours and even more. Some even spend months on a piece.” He went on to cite people like Arinze Stanley, Kelvin Okafor and Oscar Ukonu as an attempt to be modest. I will later find out that they are his role models. Still amazed by his level of dedication I asked him what his family especially, his parents think about how he spends his time. He said “they look at me like I’m one genius. I think they are just happy that I’m not doing drugs” with a chuckle in his voice.
As our conversation drifted between his art and his love for music, I tried to gain some control by asking him if there was a process of how he produces his art. He confirmed to me that “I mostly draw portraits of customers and some famous people. Most of my clients are students at my university. I work with a friend who is the frontman and helps me get customers. I don’t know how to talk to strangers. He gets the job, I execute it and he delivers it. I start drawing by preparing my paper to the requested dimension, drawing gridlines on the page and the reference picture to increase accuracy. I’m in the process of trying my hand on expressionist art. I have some ideas already; I’m still trying to find myself.”
“What is the best thing that has happened to you as an artist?” I decanted in an attempt not to get lost in the music which was still playing on his phone. He sat in silence for a while before confessing that his drawing of Nicki Minaj once trended on Twitter to the extent that people were exchanging banter on his comment section. And recently he made a drawing of Keke Palmer and posted it on his Instagram story and tagged her. She saw his post and replied with ‘wow’ in his DM.
As we got more focused on the discussion of his art I asked him when he knew he could make some money off his art. He confessed he had doubts about how good he was at the time so a drawing of Falz was his last-ditch effort saying, “I made that drawing out of anger. It was an ‘I die here situation’. The worst thing that could have happened was I end up tearing the paper to pieces.” I said in an attempt to poke at his ego, now that you’ve confirmed that so are so good….what are the challenges you face and your strengths? He replied by immediately denying that he is any good and citing the calibre of Arinze Stanley and others. He said “capturing skin tone is my biggest challenge now and that’s because I don’t have the necessary tools. I think my strength is drawing the human eyes. I have been able to master it some level.”
After another tour of his brain and what he thinks music and art are all about. I asked him finally if he thinks he can make a living as an artist and he said “no” soberly and continued by saying “I do it just for fun but, I would love it if I could.”
My conversation with Damola was a rare mix of intelligence, respect and appreciation for all forms of art.