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My longest painting took 2 years – Omonu

Omonu Salisu is a skilled artist with over five years experience in painting. In this interview, he shares his journey, inspirations and perceptions of life.…

Omonu Salisu is a skilled artist with over five years experience in painting. In this interview, he shares his journey, inspirations and perceptions of life.


Was being an artist always your intended professional path, or did you discover it along the way?

Art is something I found myself doing. Growing up, I wanted to be an engineer (I was loosening and repairing everything in the house). Also, our wall was my sketchbook/canvas. Everyone in the house wanted to work in an office (civil servant), but I wanted to be different; I wanted to create things, fix things and sing. I love singing too.

What’s your favourite medium, and why do you feel at ease using it?

I love using acrylic colour on canvas, the outcome is always fresh, glossy and smooth. It’s so amazing that I can bring out my art work of 5 years and it’s still fresh and glossy like it was made yesterday.

Acrylic paint is one of the most versatile mediums, and one of the least toxic. It is water-soluble when wet and yet because it is a plastic polymer, dries into a flexible, water-resistant, and durable surface to which subsequent layers of paint can be added without disturbing the underlying layers. One of the biggest benefits of acrylic paint is that it dries quickly. I like to say that it dries at the speed that works for me.

Where do you get your ideas from?

My ideas are from my environment, music, situation and nature. Some songs are so inspiring, they just help to bring out that idea you have been wanting to develop, just one line lyric and I will be like exactly where my next painting needs to focus, that’s really the situation, thus lyric is so natural. Also, an event or situation or something I want to talk about. I will pen it down, sketch it and boom, paint it.

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Omonu’s painting of “Heads”


When do you think is the most productive time to work?

Anytime is a productive time. You write down some ideas, sketch the idea and you paint the idea. Like we have the morning peak—usually before lunch, that is the best time to handle analytical tasks that require logical, focused, disciplined attention.

The morning person, it just means your timing is a few hours earlier than the normal person. You probably find out that your best time to work is in the early hours of the morning.

Afternoon Trough—The slump (and it’s not always about lunch), where it’s better to have mindless, busy-work. Evening Rebound – Kicks in about 4pm, this is an ideal time for creative thinking, brainstorming, out-of-the-box ideas. The night owl, though your Afternoon Trough is the same as everyone else, your Morning Peak and Evening Rebound times are swapped. Yes, you are more creative in the morning, and you are more laser-focused in the evening.

At what point do you believe an artist may consider himself successful?

Successful artists take the time to develop their creative, career and financial art business plans. They also master the art of discipline to integrate proactive weekly, daily, and hourly activities that will produce results. At the point when collectors (art lovers) start coming down to your studio from all part of the world. It feels good you know, seeing different collectors, curator and artist wanting to own your art pieces. Sometimes, success is less about knowing when to say “yes” to opportunities and more about saying “no” to things that are holding you back.

How significant is art education?

Art education is good because it introduces you to the art community early and gives you an opportunity to develop and master your art, although I didn’t study art in school and have not been to any art institution, but the art and craft village Abuja really groomed me and introduced me to the art community. Also, art workshops have helped me to master my art.

How do you balance managing several projects?

Managing a project to me is always one step at a time, initiation, planning, production or execution is the most exciting part! Monitoring, controlling and closing or finishing are last in line. Always follow the process, if you need more hands, get the right hand. Don’t cut cost, let your projects speak greatly about you.

Has there ever been a time you failed to reach a goal?

Several times, I have achieved some and some are just there. The main thing is they are still my goals and with time, it will come to pass. The main goal is to be happy, be able to share your thoughts with others, live life till death, stay focused and don’t miss heaven. Na God be the goal.

How do feel when others commend your work?

It feels sweet. When people comment on my works, I always feel happy about it and it makes me want to do more because I love to always stay happy. No sad mode here. Artists want to know that their work stand out from the crowd. An artist wants people to connect with their work. A short, simple compliment can go a long way.

What’s your opinion on constructive criticism of your work?

An art critique is a detailed analysis and evaluation of a work of art. When you criticize my work, you are telling me to improve. Sometimes, I send a new work out to some art masters for criticism before I finish it up. You just need other people’s opinion. Even in writing, you need editors. So, criticism is like editing. When I am done painting to my satisfaction after much changes, different layers of colour and I sign it, criticism has no effect on it again.

Does your art address any societal issues, or is it purely an expression of your views?

My art addresses a lot about the society we live in and some are expressions of my viewpoint. Paint it the way you say it and the way you see it; I use my art to talk about what’s has happened to me, what’s happening around my community, what I have imagined would happen and how to go about some of these things.

Which is your favourite, and why?

Self-portrait 2018, colourful and speaks to me about myself and I. The work has a pouring of different colours and defining the figure with my brushes bringing out all the details like I was telling a self-story. It was a sweet one putting myself on the canvas and representing myself with acrylic colours and brushes. I love art because of its ability to express emotions, moods, and stories. Stories are a large aspect of the artist in me and that was well represented on my canvas material.

What was the longest project you ever worked on?

Heads, 7 x 5 ft, took me over 2 years. Anytime I visit the work, there’s new idea to put on the canvas because the work gives me joy. The size is something I have not tried before. I stretched it on a wooden board, took me a long day to stretch and prime it. The drawing took me like a month, I wanted every figure to be well represented. I had to make sure every colour was carefully placed and well applied.

What do you do if your creative juices aren’t flowing?

Listen to music, see a movie and try to sketch. Sometime I just play instrumentals on my phone and vibe on it, just to clear my body and soul. Then pick up my pen and write down some interesting part from the music.

What other professions would you pursue if you weren’t an artist?

I would have liked to pursue engineering or become a trader. I love creating things that speak to me and other people out there. People want to express themselves, to let other people know who they are, what they think, what they are feeling. I like telling other people what I’m feeling and I like thinking in a more straightforward and less symbolic way.

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