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‘Why I make art using typography’ – Adedeji Michael

Adedeji Michael is a typographer who has carved a niche for himself. In this interview, he talks about how he developed the skill, the journey…

Adedeji Michael is a typographer who has carved a niche for himself. In this interview, he talks about how he developed the skill, the journey so far, and more. Excerpts:

How would you describe your art?

My kind of art is called typography. It’s basically about me arranging text in an artistic way that is legible and appealing to the eye. What makes this unique is that it’s done on human portraits so it gives an illusion of the text forming the image of the person. It is quite intriguing.

On human portraits, pictures are usually from the head to the chest areas so as to make the face and text visible at the same time. A lot of people don’t know this but if you look more closely, the text gives way for you to see the image while the text become blurry. A lot of techniques are out there on the internet teaching people how use typography. Mine came from series of trial and error, but it’s still a work in progress and I am still going to introduce newer and better approaches to make my art better.

What motivated your style?

It was the desire to do something different as opposed to the usual.  I didn’t want to follow the crowd and do something everyone is doing. It was becoming boring. Most art lovers are already used to seeing paintings, drawings, charcoal works and the likes. I have always wanted to be different and I want my art to be unique. Once someone asked me a question that changed my thinking and rendered me speechless. He asked, “how many popular artists do you know who are popular for doing only pencil and pen portraits?” That was the moment I knew I had to switch things up and incorporate other things into my art.

How did your journey as a typographer begin?

It started when I was doing research on how to improve my art. Usually, I do pen and pencil drawings, but it can be really hard to know who is better or more talented when everyone is doing the same thing. Sometimes, you see different drawings by two different people and you think there is no difference. That is why I decided to find a way to switch my craft up one way or the other.

Any time I need to be inspired, I use apps like Behance, Dribble, and Pinterest to learn new things. They are really creative apps and it helps me know what other artists home and abroad are doing. I saw some mind-blowing typographies and that inspired me to do more.

How did your loved ones react to your decision to pursue a career as a typographer?

To be honest, my loved ones don’t have a problem as long as I’m doing something legitimate to make ends meet. It makes them happy to know that I do something worthwhile that can also provide for them. I can take care of myself and the family with this. They have always known how artistic I can be and I’ll continue to advance in whatever art style I wish to do.

How challenging has the journey been so far?

It’s been tough but I won’t say competitive. A lot of creative people are out there working hard every day on their craft. There are times I finish an artwork, post it on social media and it wouldn’t get as much engagements and response that I would have loved it to have. I personally fell in love with typography art and that is what has kept me going. Nigerian artists are really underrated, particularly the young and upcoming, because we don’t have government support. Nigerians love to glorify the old ones. Even in schools, the syllabus for Fine Art students still talks about the very old artists when a lot of very good ones have emerged and are doing a lot of exploits. We have few art lovers in Nigeria that turn up for exhibitions and art shows, which isn’t encouraging. Despite the challenges, I will not throw in the towel. The support on my social media pages and referrals from people I have worked with has really helped me grow. God has been awesome.

You have done a lot of work for twitter influencers. Can you tell us about that?

Most of the Twitter Influencers I have worked with are majorly my friends. One of the benefits of friendship is to push and help one another. Since social media has been the major source of my work’s popularity, I know I have to do all I can to get in more of people’s attention on social media.  I choose to do work for a lot of influencers because it is a winning situation for me all the time. I get paid for the work and they help me with publicity and create content for my artwork too. It is one of the most helpful promotional strategies I have used. That is why I decided to work with influencers, so they can help me get more people to engage with my craft.

  Michael with a couple of his clients
Michael with a couple of his clients

What inspires your art, generally?

The anatomy of the human face is one, and then spoken word, symmetry and textures. Paying attention to details of all these in a work of art inspires what makes up my typography. Colors are also really important and that inspires me as an artist. They draw my attention a lot and I believe it’s the same for everyone, even those who don’t appreciate art much.

What is the most challenging piece you have worked on so far and why?

The piece I made to get Chance the Rapper’s attention has to be my most challenging because I had to do a lot of other color combinations in the background of the piece to make it very colorful. It took patience and a lot to put that piece together. It took me about three days to get it done.

Who is your role model?

When it comes to typography art, I am my own role model for now.

What is your favorite part of being a typographer?

My favorite part of being a typographer is when people wonder how I pull it off. A lot of other artists have constantly asked me this question. Even though there are some tutorials online on how to do my type of text art, it still doesn’t look anything like mine. That to me, makes me feel unique and special in what I do.

What advice did you get that has stuck with you?

The advice is this: “look for something you love to do and continue to kill it with consistency.”


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