Kelani Fatai Oladimeji born in Ogun state in Nigeria and currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria. Kelani starting painting at an early age and although started out as a hobby, the pieces are now a source of income for the artist. Centering his works on the happenings in his surroundings, Kelani sees himself as an environmental storyteller. We interviewed Kelani to know more about the artist behind the art, his influences, art style and more.
When did you first become interested in art?
I started painting as a child in my Primary 2 and it was mostly me painting characters from cartoons and movies I had watched. My original works then were comic characters.
Who were your biggest influences when you started out?
There were no influences for me when I started. As a child then, no one really believed in art and assumed it was a waste of time. I distinctly remember people asking me how many artists I knew that made a reasonable living from art and were known in the world. Currently, my influences are Van Gogh, Picasso, Michelangelo and Opedun damilola.
How would you describe the art you typically create?
I am an environmental storyteller so I see my artworks as stories put on paper using colours and lines.
What does your work aim to say?
My work aims to give encouragement and generally talks about success. It’s a reassurance that no matter the present situation you are a blessing and will get positive results.
What is your creative process like?
I get inspired on what to create from my surrounding, imagine it, sketch the idea on my sketchpad, plan the colours then proceed to start the actual painting using my sketched work as a guide.
What are the stories behind your work?
My paintings are mostly Landscape but recently I’ve diversified into painting the happenings in my surrounding such as Lagos traffic, women and children in my community.
Have you always operated in the same style/medium?
No, I have tried out a lot of mediums such as oil, acrylic, pastel, water colour on paper and charcoal although, I’ve operated with charcoal for the longest period. The pieces I want to create determine the medium I use but I’m planning to create something that incorporates all mediums in one piece.
How have you developed your career?
By God’s grace my career is growing beyond my expectations. This started out as a hobby and still is but I don’t mind the money, and I just graduated from university even yet to serve (NYSC) but i’ve attended my first exhibition since 2008 and also been involved in a couple.
What emotion do you intend on provoking from the viewer?
For my landscape paintings I expect appreciation from the viewers while my paintings of success are to give encouragement/ motivation and those of black women is to provoke strength.
Do you use photo references or live models or strictly from your head?
I indulge in all. For inanimate objects I take series of photos, transform them using my imagination and paint the reconstructed image. I use live models for human paintings and at times photos- for the kids because it’s difficult having them stay in one position for a long period of time.
How do you title your pieces and how important are the titles to your pieces?
My pieces are titled based on the interpretation I specifically want the viewer to take from the piece. The titles are important to make it easier to interprete especially when the work can be seen as passing contradicting messages.
How do you know when a painting is done?
(He laughs) this is a hard one. Every artist will tell you that a painting is never done until it leaves the studio because, every second you look at your painting an idea pops up to make it better so if it’s in the studio, it’s not finished.
How do you replenish your creativity?
Movies are my go-to for refilling my creative juice. I also listen to music, play with kids and visit a club- the thumping of the speakers are what I like.
What is the favorite part of your work?
Has to be choosing colours cause I love playing with them.
Do you do custom paintings? And what’s the first thing you do when you take up a job?
Yes. I make different sketches of the subject.
Where have you exhibited?
I have exhibited at Dreams in Lagos group exhibition in 2019, Vivid exclusive gallery, Ogirikan miniature art echibition 2018 & 2019, Life in my city art exhibition 2019 and some group shows as well. I had a couple lined up for this year but they had to be postpone because of the lockdown and the new date has not been settled on yet.
How do you set yourself apart from other artists within your space?
I research a lot and try to be unpredictable, when the viewers don’t know what to expect from you it separates you from the crowd so a lot of thinking outside the box. I do this with my colours, I make sure not to stick to a set of colors and keep an open mind.
If your artwork could dance to a song, what song would it be?
It has to be Preacher Man by Asa.
What’s next for you?
Going international. I want my work featured and known in places like Asia and around the world.