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‘Why tree roots inspire my art’

Eleanya Otisi Jezreel is a painter, draughtsman, and calligrapher. He was one of the ten artists who exhibited at the 2019 Kaduna Book and Arts…

Eleanya Otisi Jezreel is a painter, draughtsman, and calligrapher. He was one of the ten artists who exhibited at the 2019 Kaduna Book and Arts Festival. Here, he talks about his attraction to tree roots, his journey as an artist, and more. Excerpts:


You have multiple paintings of tree roots. What is the attraction for you?

The attraction for me comes with the role trees play in nature. A tree has roots as its foundational pillar, which supplies it with food and nutrients. It also gives a tree structure and balance. This can be related to our endeavours in life. Anything that is well rooted has depth and structural foundation. A human being can be likened to a tree.

You describe yourself as a painter, draughtsman, and calligrapher. How far back did you begin to explore these skills and what was your journey like?

I started quite early. At age eight I discovered that I have some attachment to aesthetics; human forms and the natural environment I found myself in. I was so emotionally attached that when I entered secondary school, on discovering that a subject like Fine Arts wasn’t offered I coerced my father to enroll me somewhere else as an apprentice where I received training for five years and was certified as an artist in painting, screen-printing, sketching, calligraphy, plastic and woodcarving. These skills formed the crux of my life given that whatever my schedule was like I always made out time to practice and hone my skills. My family members have played a great role in this journey, and I have enjoyed overwhelming encouragement from friends.

‘Why tree roots inspire my art’

What was the very first artwork you made and what was the experience like?

My very first artwork was a challenge I put up for myself to paint a tree and draw human forms using my first drawing tool-kits as a youngster. In the end, the work lacked depth but the strokes and shapes I was able to form was quite cheering. Overtime, with persistence and constant practice I have been able to build technical skills and confidence towards engaging any form of work.

What inspires you, generally?

Seeing something or a person that fascinates me automatically enables me build a mental picture about that thing or person. I become obsessed with the idea and always seek out ways to translate that into a body of artwork.

Some people don’t necessarily see art as a marketable skill in Nigeria. What do you have to say about this?

Generally, I would say it takes a whole lot of time and effort before one can have his or her place in the art world as far as Nigeria is concerned. It is true that a lot of people appreciate the finer things of life (art) but not all are able to pay for a piece of work as people tend to be taken with the basic necessities of life. However, in my opinion the more an artist creates value in his or her work, the more people would be moved to patronize. Art is something I love doing and I give my all to it. I count money and any other thing that comes as a reward for my creation. The truth still remains that the art industry is still growing in Nigeria.

What is your favourite artwork of all time and why?

The pencil drawing of Will Smith with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith by Kelvin Okafor, a London based pencil artist. It was so finely done and detailed, so breathtaking you could pass it for a photograph. After seeing that work and some others I had to make it a goal to improve on my ability to capture realism with fine details in my paintings.

What is life like when you aren’t painting or sketching?

I am a public servant. I work for a government agency and that has also helped in fueling my passion in the art, although it can be hectic. I work twice as much and requires a whole lot of sacrifice.

How would you say what you studied in school relates to art?

I studied Economics at the University level. Both fields are not related in any way except when it comes to pricing my artwork, analysing market trends and relating it to art.

What art projects and exhibitions have you been involved in so far and what was the experience like?

I have been involved in a number of projects. I carried out community projects during my National Youth Service Corp days by painting a new school signboard for my place of primary assignment and making tags for all the classrooms and offices of the same school. This earned me recommendations and awards, both from the school and the NYSC state coordinator. I have also exhibited at the Kaduna Art Fair 2018, the Kaduna Business and Investment Summit (KADINVEST 2019), and 2019 KABAFEST.

What project are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I am working with fellow artists and other likeminded individuals towards seeing that art exhibition becomes a part of the social events in Kaduna and the north entirely, because the more people see art the more they are inspired to awaken their latent gifts, both in art and other areas. Walking into an art exhibition brings about a feeling of natural order from the usual chaos around. So we look forward to having individuals and corporate entities come and support, partner and even invest in art exhibitions like the 2018 Kaduna Art Fair that we were able to put up at NAF Club.


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