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THE T-SPOT: Olawale Kolawole

Welcome to The T-Spot. This series is the official MUSTA Talent Spotlight where we highlight some really talented people, from different creative Industries.

In this episode of the T-Spot, we talk to Olawale Kolawole, an artist who specialises in portraits. The style in which Wale creates his portraits is quite unique— he infuses intricate swirly dark-colored lines into the skin of his subjects. In this interview, the Nigerian artist tells us more about his peculiar painting style, how a boring class spurred him to start painting and the artists he looks up to.

Hi Wale! Please tell us about what you do.

Hey! My name is Wale and I’m an artist who mostly specializes in portraiture.

Where did it all begin?

I had always admired drawing and art but the spark was lit on a very boring Civic Education class when I was in ss3, preparing for my final secondary school exams, WASSCE. I got tired of the whole chatter in the class and tore a paper in an attempt to sketch a zebra picture that I saw on my note. The proportions were off (laughs) but people seemed to really like it, so I sought to work on it. I went from following everybody in this world that could draw, to talking to my classmates who could draw better. Lots of trials and errors and I eventually got better at it.

A painting of a black woman in a red dress and blue locs, holding a wine glass
Lady in red | Acrylic on Canvas

How has the journey been so far?

Well, ups and down per usual, but I think it’s all part of the character development. Some days it’s frustrating, other days, I’m grateful for my ability.

In your artistic journey, who are the people you look up to?

Quite a lot actually. There was a period where I wanted to be like Kelvin Okafor and Arinze Stanley cause of how incredibly good they are. These days, I find myself studying a lot of Amoako Boafo, Collins Obijiaku, Barry Yusufu, John Madu, Peter Uka, Kehinde Wiley. There’s just something really appealing about their works that I’m currently looking to understand. So yeah, these are the names I can remember out of my very long list of people I look up to.

I noticed your paintings have a specific technique, the use of intricate dark colored lines, please tell us more about it.

I don’t have a name for it yet, but I just got bored of painting normally and wanted to do something peculiar to me alone. I realized you stand out better that way. The whole idea of zebras having patterns of stripes peculiar to them alone was very interesting so I thought to try that on figure paintings and I liked it.

A painting of a black man wearing a cap and jacket behind a background of leaves.
Rat Race | Acrylic on canvas

a painting of a black girl with dreadlocs. the backdrop is blue leaves.
Rat Race II | Acrylic on canvas

a portrait painting of a black man with a lowcut. the backdrop are green leaves
Search for solace | Acrylic on canvas | 90cm x 120cm

What are the challenges you have faced so far?

I think a major challenge would be not getting the kind of audience I want. It’s not bad, but it could be better. The competition out there is crazy, cause if you think you’re good at this, there’s tons of people that are way better than you at it. There’s also another part where artists who don’t put in as much effort (this is not to shit on anyone in any way, every artist is awesome) are still making crazy waves. So sometimes it’s a bit annoying that as good as you are, it’s not just enough, there are other factors which I’m still figuring out that determine the attention drawn to you.

Creatively what is your greatest strength?

My strength would be my stubbornness. So many times I just want to abandon art and try something else, but I keep coming back to it. In one minute, I could beat myself up about not being so creative with something, and once I’m done sulking, it’s like I evolve into a better version of what I was. It’s crazy.

Creatively is your greatest weakness?

My weakness would be that I sometimes study artists in-depth to a point where I start comparing their journeys with mine. Worse when I’m studying the stories of my peers who have gone farther. I should do better.

What’s one item that’s currently on your wishlist?

That would be more paints, you really can never have enough. Maybe I also want a big ass warehouse for a studio. Space too is never enough.

What’s your favorite project you have worked on? And how long did it take you to make it?

That would be the ones that had leaves as their backgrounds. I lazed around a bit so it took about two months to make all three.

Are there any projects we should be expecting from you soon?

Yes, I am working on a set of new things for next year.

What’s your favorite artwork?

a painting of a black girl with afro
Virago | 45.5cm x 62.5cm | Acrylic on Paper

What’s your ultimate dream as an artist?

That would be to work with galleries like Mariane Ibrahim gallery and grow so big that I can make room for others to come up.

What part of your creative process excites you the most?

Has to be when I have to think of how to arrange the lines. (laughs)


Connect with Wale on Instagram

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