Scrolling through Olamide’s instagram, it’s easy to mistake a lot of his posts for photographs; its only when you read the disclaimer in the caption, you realize that you are looking at a hyper-realistic work of art done with pencils and charcoal.
Hailing from Nigeria, Olamide started drawing at the tender age of five, “I discovered that I could draw on any surface and I started by drawing cartoons, like Batman and Spiderman, they were all boxy and full of squares” he recalls. For the most part he uses pencils and charcoal, but of late he has started to mix mediums, combining pencils with acrylics. He tells me that it was near impossible to create different tones by relying only on pencils, and this has led to him mixing his usual style of hyper-realism, with acrylics and colors.
I ask him about his attraction towards hyper-realism, “For me art is all about connecting with the audience, I imagine a painting as a conversation between it and the person looking at it.” This holds true, when you look at his works, for they evoke emotions that lay buried at the depths of one’s soul. All of his subjects are drawn with startling accuracy, and bought to life with such vivacity that seeps out of the monochromatic tones. Despite the fact that his drawings have such an air of photographic accuracy, he is not into photography, “Sometimes I use some pictures from some of my friends who are photographers, but that’s about it” Olamide tells me that his works tell a story of life and culture in Nigeria, he doesn’t provide lengthy back stories for his works, as he believes in the self-expressiveness of his art. “People connect easily with drawings and portraits of people-I think they find something similar to their own selves in it; and that gives them something to connect with” He tells me that sometimes he listens to traditional Nigerian music while working on his art, so that he can connect with them; and in turn portray them more truthfully.
I ask him about his childhood and he tells me that things were fairly easy for the most part, but when he was sixteen, his father the patriarch who supported the family of four, was taken ill. Then it fell upon his mother to support the family by herself, with the children doing their part to help her out. By 2016, he realized that he had to develop his own sense of style, so he dived head first into hyper-realism. He was encouraged by his friends and family in finding his stylistic calling, “Through my art, I started speaking about things that were happening in society, things to which people would normally turn a blind eye” Olamide has been taking commissions since 2010, and he tells me that he has had a good response both locally and internationally, and he has patrons from all around the world ranging from Burkina Faso to Luxembourg.
Owing to the Corona Virus outbreak things are tough all around, especially for gallery owners wishing to exhibit works by talented artists like Olamide. But life finds a way and he found himself a part of a virtual group exhibition, where his work was shown along other Nigerian creatives, the organizers contacted him personally, after seeing his extensive portfolio of works. Such level of perfection in detail is not so easily accomplished, and Olamide tells me that sometimes he has spent ten hours continuously on a single piece, some of his works have taken a month to complete; but in the end, he tells me that it usually depends upon the size of the canvas upon which he is working.
Apart from drawing, Olamide also moonlights as a dancer, actor and a drummer. He pursues these intermittently, as he felt that his true calling lay on the canvas. “It was something that came naturally to me and I decided to develop it. Later on, I realized that drawing also had a therapeutic effect on me.”
For all aspiring artists out there, he tells them to be passionate, patient and persistent, “You have to put God first and practice with determination to achieve perfection. He tells me that he hopes to open his own gallery in the future where he can exhibit works of different people and have people from all over the world to visit.