Gloria Eberechukwu Mmaduako is an award-winning artist based in Abuja.
The painter and first-class graduate of fine and applied art from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, married to a self-taught artist – Clement Nmaduako, said excellence drives her to succeed in the industry though she is yet to know her style of art.
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How long have you been painting?
I have been painting since my third year at the university. I did not plan to end up as an artist. When I left secondary school, it was my desire to study Law. I was doing a pre-degree in Law when I discovered that there was something else that was driving me more than law. I did not take art as a subject in secondary school so I did not sit for it during WAEC but my passion for art intensified when I saw some sculptures. I was surprised. I was wondering how people could do things like that, it was as if the sculptures were made by a machine. But my brother told me that they were done by artists. At that moment, I decided to study art. So, I changed my course to Fine Art without telling my parents. I knew they would not agree easily but I’d made up my mind. Though they initially disagreed, they later accepted my choice. I was offered admission to study Fine Arts at the Institute of Management & Technology (IMT) Enugu.
My first year at IMT was strange because I did not have the basic knowledge of art. I thought of pulling out at some point but my mum encouraged me and insisted I must study art. I was in a class with people that offered art in secondary school, as such we were not on the same level. Then I started learning but I did not want to show anybody that I was a novice so that they don’t take advantage of me. Also, I don’t like being the last, so to ensure I got to the top, I started learning from my seniors in the department. I was really interested in getting the necessary knowledge and improvement. After my first semester, I was not doing so well but at the end of my national diploma, I was the only one that got distinction in my class in 2015. I proceeded to the university through direct entry. I always strive to be the best. I love excellence and that does not mean that I do not make mistakes or that I don’t fail but I ensure I put in the required work to succeed. I graduated with a First Class in Fine and Applied Art from UNN in 2019. I left school, did the National Youth Service Corps in Abuja, got married and I am still painting.
You are passionate about excellence, how do translate this into your works?
I always strive for excellence in whatever I am doing. I want the best. I did not really know that I will graduate with a First Class because my results were terrible in the first year. I know I was trying my best and First Class came but school and real life are different. When you are in school, you are trying to please the lecturers and do things, in most cases, their way. I am digging more to find out what I actually want. I do not have a particular style like some artists. Right now, I cannot say I am the best, I am just trying to develop myself regardless of my class of degree. I am still developing myself and I don’t think there is any point that I can stop doing that.
But how have been able to develop your own style?
There are works that I started newly that are completely different from what I used to do. I am using intricate designs on the face and on the body. It is one of the things I want to be identified with. I want my work to speak for itself. I want my work to connect with the audience. I want to be a full-time studio artist. It could be tasking because you have to think at every point to bring out new ideas. These ideas facilitate what you are doing to keep being relevant. I really love that, but I am still searching for my style and it is not that I am desperate.
How does excellence drive you to succeed in the industry?
When I meet others in the industry, I feel so inspired. My husband’s work inspires me even before he became my husband and so many other artists. When I see all those artists, I know that I can do great things like them. It doesn’t have to be the way they are doing it but I know that I can do things that can inspire people, change lives and resonate with our culture. The idea of culture is what I want to portray and you will see it in some of my works. My art shows those things that are happening. Things that are expected to happen or they are happening but not the way I wanted it to happen. I just try to do what I think I can do to create positive impacts on others.
What informs your interest in culture?
I have always been interested in culture. Art is culture – the traditional pottery, drawings on the walls, bodies. They are different things about tradition, the food we eat, and how we have been known that are disappearing completely. When you use imagery to portray that on a canvas, it reminds us of who we are. It is like looking at your photographs taken when you were younger. That idea keeps coming back. Even the coming generations would look at it and see what they did not meet. Art is like history; the knowledge has to be transferred. Art has a very big role to play when it comes to culture, especially sculptures, paintings, and other aspects. Art helps in propagating culture so that our ways of life do not disappear.
Do women find it difficult to survive in the industry?
I don’t think it has to do with whether you are a guy or lady except for the perspective of a biased client. It has more to do with what you can offer. If you are good, you will be located, and if you are not good, you might not be located whether you are a guy or a lady. Most people feel that female artists are not good enough. At times, people think that you cannot do it maybe because you are a lady. I don’t really know why some people feel that way.
What should be done to address the misconception?
The misconception is just from the clients. They have to stop thinking that a lady cannot do this because it is all about creativity. When someone is good, the person is good you don’t have to be a male or female to be good at what you do. When you’re good, you should be accorded that respect and honour. Some of my uncles told me that I cannot do art. People should know that it doesn’t have to be a guy or lady thing.
How would you describe your earnings from art?
The first money I made was N18, 000 from a commissioned portrait with a pencil in 2015. My first portrait was of a couple. I was surprised that I got N18, 000. When I delivered the work, the client was as surprised as I was. That was my first money, I was really happy. When I was in school, I was doing more portraits but now I am doing my own thing, though I love portraits and it has a connection with what I do now. I still have that flair for portraiture and I still do abstract, expressionism, and mixed media.
Why do you enjoy art?
I enjoy everything about it. I enjoy the freedom. The freedom that I am doing what I love to do. Not that I am not stressing myself to create something amazing but it is fun that I am doing it out of my will and not being compelled to do it.
What are some of the challenges you face in the industry?
Sometimes you need materials and you don’t have them or money to get them. There are times you do some works that are exceptional and thought it would sell but you have to wait for a long time and nobody is checking it.
They are quite challenging and discouraging. But the point is, you just have to keep doing what you are doing. You just have to keep producing to sustain your passion and happiness even when things are not going the way you want them to go.
How do you sell your works?
I sell basically through referrals and also on social media.
What’s your encouragement to a female who wants to become a painter but is facing difficulties?
You may have to rethink if you actually wanted to become an artist. I get the perception but art has nothing to do with being male or female. At some point, it was difficult stretching the canvas but I got used to doing it. If you limit yourself, you would be limited in what you can do but when you are out there learning, you can do anything you want to do.