1. Your work is heavily influenced by Benin history and the community surrounding it, can you share a bit about that and how you came to explore it.
Osaze: Regarding the Benin influences, first of all, I do not know how to speak the language, I feel like that is a disclaimer I should always be putting out there while I answer these kinds of question, so to give you a bit of context, I have been in Lagos practically all my life, so while I was in university I studied architecture- in our first year of our master’s program we were to design a theme park and my topic was Oba Esighie memorial park who was one of the past Oba’s of Benin who ruled in the 16th century, while searching for case studies and visual materials to guide me in my design, I noticed there wasn’t much imagery regarding Benin art and history asides the bronzes that everyone knew. So it’s like I go to this blog they post a picture of the Festac 77 Head or bronze and another blog just reposts the same thing and that seemed to be what was repeated on social media. I had to go back and do a little bit of research, what I did was wake up and spend most of my day on google just searching on Benin art, I could go to like page 50 something- yeah I went that deep and during my research, there were a couple of names that popped up like Anthropologists and historians that were vast and deep in the field of Benin art and history both locally and internationally, I basically shadowed these people and got a couple of books that were highly recommended and since then I have been gathering data, this started in 2015 and till now I am still gathering data and anything I can pick up on Benin art and history and I try to create or paint images that I feel are relevant to the subject matter. Basically, it is the project I had back in 2015 that informed and influenced the art that I have done around the Benin kingdom including the cards- a lot of the imagery that I put out there is informed by what I have read in a couple of books that I have been fortunate enough to lay my hands on and also check that data with oral tradition and cross that with what Benin artist cast or produce back then in the 16th and 17th century, I take all these things and try to see what is common among the three methods, because it is an oral tradition and there are different versions of the story so what one person says will be different from what another person says. I just try to pick out what is common in the oral tradition, mythology and what they carved back in the 17th century and what anthropologist who visited Benin wrote upon and creating images and paintings centered around it and then add my own twist to it but the core of the message stays the same.
2. What was your entry point into the art world and how did you know that this was something that you had access to and do you feel that you have come into yourself as a creative individual?
Osaze: Well I have been drawing since when I was little, and cannot think of any point that I can say is my defining moment or entry point into art, I have been creating ever since I was little even in secondary school, going for a couple of art competitions- I was pretty much exposed to the art scene if I can say that, so I have just been doing my own thing,putting out works out there although I did stop for a while when I was in school reading architecture- I did pick it up again and since then I have been doing my own thing,
3. Part of being an artist is being able to find some form of discipline to create work - Are you an artist that is able to create anywhere and at any time or do you have a structured routine or studio practice? How do you do it?
Osaze: Being disciplined in order to create anything is something that I feel most artists have a problem with. For me, I can create anywhere but personally, I would just rather just create in my own little space that I amused to and which feels very familiar to me and it calms and makes me feel at home rather than in the middle of a busy market. For a place where I have created some of my best work, I would feel more comfortable there in my studio.I also pretty much have a process or a routine that I go through whenever I create- from getting the brief to doing research- trying to profile and understand the subject matter or the scene I am trying to portray, looking for references and visual cues online, doing my sketches and doodles before fleshing out the final idea. So I do have a consistent routine that I follow and would rather create in my own familiar space but I do still have the flexibility to create anywhere.
4. In addition to your personal art practice, you’ve worked as an illustrator and designer for a lot of different freelance clients. How have you been able to strike a balance between doing commercial work and being true to your voice as an artist?
Osaze: These days I have had the opportunity to choose what I want to do, and asides from that majority of the commissioned work I get are like in line with what I want to do. Initially, when I started out doing graphic design, I just took up whatever work came at me and did not think about it- but somewhere along the line I noticed that there were a couple of projects that I wasn’t just interested in not because their ideas or their vision was crap, it just did not resonate with me personally and I would rather they go to someone that thinks along the lines they had or has their area of expertise aligned with them. I am at a point where I am being drawn to focus and execute more of my personal work than doing commissioned work and that is just what I want to do at the moment. The reality however, is that once in a while doing commercial work gets you returns faster than your personal projects and that is from my own experience, most people do have a different experience from mine and that is OK. Doing personal work requires that you have a particular amount of money that you have stashed up because the truth is that the reason you might find a creative or a designer going for a project they aren’t interested in is just for financial security.Once you get to that place where you have saved money for a couple of months say 3-5 months ahead including miscellaneous expenses you are in a safe zone,when you get to that point you don’t necessarily have to take every project that comes at you. That’s when you get the opportunity to choose what you work on and say this will challenge and build me and still decide if you want to do it or not. It’s basically just saving up enough money to take you through the months when you are experimenting and doing your own personal projects.
5. More than anything, I really am excited about the Bini Playing cards, however,I am fascinated by your creative process as you have shared some of your Pre-production notes on the gram, it is well thought out and researched can you walk us through it?
Osaze: The Cards was also one of the ideas I had from 2015 during my master’s program when I worked on designing a memorial park that was when I put it down on my sketch pad and designed it back in 2015- but I just got the release late last year and I was able to finalize and put everything into production. My process for creating the card is how I would approach any design project. I knew I wanted to design a deck of cards even without having designed one ever so I dived into researching who the top dogs in the playing card business were, what considerations to have when designing, and what the standard sizes were. I went back to research and got a couple of visual cues,in my head, I did have a clear vision of what I wanted the imagery to look like from the notes I had from the research I had done about Benin art. The first phases were done traditionally with sketches on paper before I had it moved to digital using Adobe Illustrator then finally printing and putting it out there in the world.
6. Creativity is a courageous endeavor, how have you been able to tow the line between the joy of just making things and the fear that comes from failing?
Osaze: You have to just “Do”, because failure is a thing that is present and will happen, to succeed you have to go through failure in order to figure it out and keep creating and putting your work out there. There are times when you create something and you feel the reception for this is going to be great and it ends up falling short of your expectations and other times you create something and the reception blows you away. You simply cannot just have failure at the back of your head as something you dread if not you will not do anything.
7. Do you get creative blocks?
Osaze: I get these all the time- I think anyone that works in the creative industry, whether a writer, an artist or a musician.Everyone gets those. It comes with the package.
8. When you work on projects either personal or for a client and you feel like what you have in your head and what is in front of you are two different things. Is it difficult for you to scrap it and start all over?
Osaze: Honestly, it is not difficult to scrap and start all over again. I try not to get too attached to the work- it rarely happens these days as I have a very strict process that I follow so more often than not what I have in my head is what comes out on paper or canvas if not totally then close enough. Getting too attached puts you in a tricky position where experimenting or trying out new things becomes difficult.
9. All art is a form of storytelling- some of your work has elements of humor in them. Is this your natural way of processing societal issues or dealing with things that you experience?
Osaze: I would not say that is my natural way of processing things or dealing with societal issues. When I have the idea in my head and I think that using humor is the best way to convey my message then that’s what I go for, it really isn’t something that I have at the back of my head when creating always it just is whatever my brain tells me is the best way to convey that message is what ends up being said.
10. A lot of artists have a very difficult relationship with their own work— it is either they play the role of the tormented artist or are unable to finish or show their work. How do you feel about that and what is your relationship with your work like?
Osaze: My relationship with my work is basically not getting attached to the work, like essentially babying the work, all it does is ensure you overthink things and be saddled with a lot of What Ifs. I try hard to not control a lot and just concentrate on creating and putting myself out there. I,however, can relate to not being able to show your work, because after taking time out to create something- you might get butterflies from the thought of showing it to the world, or might simply become unsure especially of how people react to it. I cannot overemphasize the importance of being visible and showing what you create no matter what people think about it. So, for example, you take 1 yr to create something and the reception isn’t so great you take whatever lesson you can and move on- although this can also be put in context as when creating personal work, the intentions are different and you can ignore what the majority have to say about it, but if the work is commercial and people don’t like it, it just means that you have to go back to your drawing board, take your lessons and try again. Just don’t stop putting your work out there.
11. Harnessing joy in creative work is a personal obsession for us at the creative cheerleader, how have you been able to cultivate joy in your work.
Osaze: I think I have been able to cultivate it by doing the things that genuinely make me happy. I simply just spend time working on creating things that resonate with me rather than doing stuff I have no interest in which only leads to a downward spiral into a dark place. So cultivating joy in my work is simply doing things that genuinely spark joy in me.