Meet Acclaimed Kenyan Digital Artist Brian Omolo
Our interview with Brian has been long overdue but so worth it! Relish what he shared with us
Tell us about yourself, sir.
My name is Brian Omolo, alias obrianstudio, and I’m an illustrator and graphic designer based in Nairobi, Kenya
Tell us about your current art discipline.
My current discipline cuts across different fields I guess, I consider myself an artist, but I also consider myself an illustrator and graphic designer. My work tends to linger between creating illustrations for clients to help them connect with their audience, designing brand identities for businesses and my personal favourite, creating artworks to express ideas and stories. I don’t think you have to only be one thing in life, you can many different creative outlets and ways of expressing yourself, even though the world will pressure you to define yourself as one thing.
Ah, you’re a polymath then, cool. So how long have you been practising your art?
13 years, but I’ve always loved art and drawing since I was a kid
How did you begin practising art?
I started experimenting with abstract and surreal ideas when I was in high school. I experimented with all sorts of medium like watercolour paints, colour pencils, pastels and acrylic. Though dry mediums are the ones I liked the most as they gave me more control. I later on studied Graphic Design in college, that’s when I was introduced to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I spent the next 3 years developing my style- mixing hand-drawn illustrations and with colour effects done on adobe.
Are you a self-taught artist or did you go to school to learn your craft?
I feel like I’m both self-taught and taught in school. Lots of the software skills and tools I had to figure out on my own. However, a lot of my design knowledge, artist development and critical creative thinking came from my experience in university (Coventry University -England), College (Academy of Graphic Technologies) and High school (St. Mary’s School).
So how did you settle for illustration and graphic design?
It came through a lot of experimenting and exploration. I tried a lot of different things- experiments that helped me understand myself, my skills and my interests. Then, I made sure to choose a career path that would involve these things.
Ah, Experimenting and exploration, got it. Can you tell us what it takes for you to create one of your art pieces (e.g software used, a certain ambience, amount of time taken etc)
I start out by drawing my idea on paper, then I ink it with a drawing pen and rub out the pencil marks. Once that’s done, I scan the drawing and add it to photoshop to clean it up and finally place it in Illustrator. Illustrator is my favourite software. I love working with vectors, layering colours and adding texture. The whole process can take between 4 to 10 hours depending on the complexity.
Which art piece did you take 10 hours to create?
My Nairobi Art Piece. The linework and inking too so long I started feeling the strain in my neck 😂. But I was happy with the result.
The detail in that piece is mindblowing! What ups and downs do you face practising your current discipline?
The ups are:
1) Freedom, I can work on different jobs with different clients on my own terms because I’m a freelancer. That freedom can really turn into some amazing works when used properly.
2) The speed and flexibility of working on digital. You can go back and forth so experimenting becomes very interesting.
The downs are dealing with shady clients or clients that don’t value your work. Thus, you have to learn to stand your ground and value yourself.
Shady clients are a global threat. Smh. What influences you to create your art pieces?
A bunch of things. Sometimes life experiences, but mostly I like the challenge of telling stories in unique and interesting ways. I’m also influenced by visuals and things I’ve seen in my formative years in high school, back when I would visit the Maasai market and Nairobi stalls. Also, the mixture of African culture and pop culture I watched on TV. I think the magic is being authentic about how you particularly see things. Expressing ideas through your lens, practising and pushing the visuals as far as you can get them. That is what makes this awesome for me.
What are some achievements you’ve made since practising your current discipline (any showpieces, exhibitions, sense of fulfilment & purpose…)?
I’m proud of the client work I’ve done for purpose-driven organisations like HAART Kenya, Kuona Trust Art Centre and ITC Ethical Fashion. Also, the artwork I created for big global brands like Coke, Mastercard Foundation and Goethe Institut. I’ve had the honour of receiving many awards and recognition in my field. My favourites being the Young African Artist Prize by Mastercard Foundation, Best Digital Art in the Sondeka Awards, Finalist on the L’Artelier Art Competition in South Africa, Survivors Choice Award in the Art 2 End Slavery Exhibition and being selected artist in the Kampala Biennale. These are some of the stuff I feel very blessed to have experienced.
Going by your work, these accolades are well deserved! What is the main goal you seek to achieve as a digital artist?
To continue pushing the boundaries and create work that moves people. This can be challenging at times, but it’s like an interesting puzzle that I come back to time and time again. Art is really powerful, it can communicate in ways words never could. It’s like a superpower, something you can use to help people, to help yourself and to enjoy yourself. To me, that’s AWESOME.
We are glad you’ve found your superpower, Brian. To conclude, in an alternate universe, where you’re not a digital artist, what would you be pursuing and why?
I would be a producer. Producing beats (EDM, Afrobeats). There’s something about sampling and playing with layers of sound that just looks so inspiring and fun 😃. That and working with young people as a coach or mentor, I love their energy, they’re not afraid to experiment and be different.
There’s still time to venture into beat making 😎. How can people reach you online?
That’s all the time we had for Obrianstudio. We hope you’ve learned a couple of new things about his artistry.
Is there any artist you’d like us to feature? 👀 Mention them in the comment section below