Success personified is Ibrahim Jamiu Adavize! A thoroughbred, Adavize has a recipe for achievement in his artistry, as his works speak for themselves, with recognition from regional and global brands. Adavize has in depth skill in charcoal work and paintings and his portfolio is a sight for sore eyes! To crown it all, he does not hold in sharing his insight on the knowledge and skill he has gained thus far.
Ibrahim Jamiu Adavize tells me a bit about his rich heritage, ‘I am from Okini in Kogi state. And that is because my parents are from there, both my mum and my dad. But I was born and bred in Lagos. I have lived almost all my life in Lagos state. Only on some occasions where I need to travel for something. I attended Lagos State Polytechnic from the years 2014 to 2015 and obtained a national diploma. I spent about two years after practising art and then obtained a direct entry to the University of Benin in 2018. I won’t say where I am from affected my work to a large extent, but I know the way I grew up, the people I grew up with, the experiences around me have largely determined the kind of subjects that pop into my head when I want to create an art piece. I usually focus on things that would bring positivity into the minds of people. I think of things that my own personal experience has caused me to create, a lot of which is positivity. I try to show the negative spaces that people have been to and to show that that is not the end; that there is positivity to it. There’s a way to overcome those things, and that is because of the way I have grown.
There are a lot of experiences in my life, some downturns, set backs and that is the story I would like to tell, whenever I am creating my art pieces. I like to tell stories from my own personal experience and at the same time bring positivity. I like to tell a story that people can resonate with and find solace in.’
I ask Adavize about his biggest artistic influences, Nigerian and foreign. He laughs fulfilled, and explains, ‘I have been influenced by a number of artists. Right from time, I have been creating portraiture. People that do like my work have been paying me to do portraits for them. So, I have always been inspired by the likes of Arinze Stanley, especially Kevin Okafor. I don’t think anybody would say they have not been influenced by one or the other. Their works are amazing. Whenever I am trying to create portraits, I like to create details on everything; that realistic part of it. And yeah, I love to use my pencil to draw and try to create every ounce of detail, and try to create realistic drawings. Those two have influenced my drawings a lot. I have learnt a lot from watching their videos online, on Instagram, Youtube and other social media platforms. Apart from them, when it comes to drawing, figurative drawings, portraiture, they are number one. I like to watch their videos, study them, and see how they are able to create these things and come up with my own way to create them.
There are other artists that have influenced me. Where I did my industrial training in my 300 level at Salaam studio. There was a particular artist, Mr Nze Barry (Nzennaya Barry Ikechukwu). He is an abstract artist and I love the way he uses his colours. I like his speed. Mr Barry will create an art piece of 3 by 5 or 6 feet, huge art pieces actually and he can finish the pieces in less than a week, sometimes by next week, he is already on his third piece. He already has his ideas in his head, and he sketches a lot. I see him work day in day out . He will come to the studio start a piece. He will do the next thing. As he is painting one, he is making another on the side. His work ethic has really influenced and inspired me. If someone like this within a short period of time, I know it is due to his experience but at the same time. I am amazed by his colour combination and precision. Even the story behind it is always amazing. I know he must have done a lot of research and come up with a road map to execute all these pieces. He is so fascinating and I have studied him! He uses acrylic so his works dry fast.’
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Vize pauses a bit, and then continues, ‘But at the same time I have always loved abstract myself. I am also influenced by a lot of abstract painters like him. Jason Anderson uses shapes and colours. There really isn’t any definite form, but they are amazing. I created a couple of art pieces this year inspired by his works. You’ll find a lot of ‘him’ in those works. There’s also Matt Dean. I like his speed and the way he paints overlaps and colours. The most important person that has inspired my is my lecturer Mr Okwojo. El-dragg is the name that had been so popular to me before I went to Uniben (University of Benin). When I was at Laspotech (Lagos State Polytechnic), other lecturers always mentioned him. He was like a celebrity to us. I searched for him online was fascinated by the way he uses colours and transparency. But was not as amazing as when I actually met him. He stretched my mind to a whole new dimension. He works day and night. He inspired and motivated us . He and Mr. Barry are the reasons why I want to keep on working. He taught us things that improved us. I just wish to meet more people like them.’
Adavize shares his favourite artistic medium, ‘I am still at the beginning of my artistic journey. There is a lot experimentation I am doing. I am trying out different media to determine which one is suitable for me. I have not settled on a particular medium or art style but at the moment, I am using charcoal for drawings and I currently use acrylic for paintings.’
Vize demonstrates the importance of artistic experimentation, innovation and collaboration as follows, ‘Art is a modification created from something, not nothing. If you think you can just sit alone and dream of ideas or just dream of new ways to create things, you will be dreaming forever.’
Vize shares how he developed his your art skills, ‘Practice practice practice’, he charges. ‘You keep on going. You source for new materials and nee ways to create them watch instructional videos and dvds. Go outside; go to art galleries. I expand my mind to new things. Look at the way other people are creating. “You can’t create something out of nothing.” Mr. Olojo Kosoko, Chairman for Society of Nigerian Artists Lagos Chapter, and my lecturer from Laspotech told me this.’
I ask Jamiu about his favorite time of day to paint, and he spares no words, ‘Basically at that point in time, my mind is free, so whenever I am creating an art piece, whether drawing or painting, I don’t think too much. I don’t know how to explain it. Have you ever had a time where you are trying to read, but you just can’t get it? But then you sleep and wake up and immediately, it just comes to you? That’s it. You think straight very early in the morning. I think straight and everything just falls in place. So it is my best time to work, not in the middle of the night or day. So I work for a while, then I get something to eat, I come back. I am more excited to come back to what I am doing. Then after a while, maybe by 12/1/2 I am already feeling this strain. It might get to a point where I am trying to sort it out, I am not able to do it and then I know I have to rest for a bit, go for a walk, go and do something else, then come back later. So my best time of the day is always very early in the morning.’
I wonder what motivates Adavize to create, and I ask him, and he answers, ‘A lot of things motivate me, especially when I go to an exhibition and I watch other peoples creations and immediately other works motivate me. The need to send a message out there also motivates me.’
With huge fits such as securing gigs to with a multinational such as Diageo, alongside other artists to create amazing art, I ask Adavize to share with me about how he finds the Nigerian art industry and how he positioned himself to be recognised by world renowned brands. He humbly states, ‘I can’t really say much about the Nigerian art industry. I’m still in the fore front of my career. So, I am still trying to find my feet in the industry. So basically, with being recognised, I am trying to partner with other artists to meet people, and trying to put myself out there. Anyone I can work with, I try to work with them and see where it gets me. I’m still trying to create my own brand myself.’
I ask Adavize how he has been able to plunge into the blockchain and nft era, which has proven to be hugely profitable for artists. He says, ‘I don’t think there’s anyone presently that doesn’t know about the massive opportunity in nfts and blockchain generally. I certainly dabbled into it for a while, but not for long. As promising at it may be, there’s a downside, and for me it’s the inability to fully jump into it. You see, I can’t venture into something else at the detriment of my prime focus. I do understand that once a person choose to do something, he automatically chooses not to do other things. But seeing that one has to put his all into it, thereby partially negating the creation of art or not having any time for it all together is just a no for me. So, have I been able to plunge into it? No I haven’t. But my view about it is that this change, improvement or growth in technology is here to stay and I won’t be able to escape it. So, I will have to gradually adopt it myself, but the art market in its original form is still very much lucrative and I’ll prefer to focus mainly on that for now.’
I am keen to know how this over achiever, Adavize, defines success and he elucidates, ‘I can’t really place a definition to success. We are all learning. We are all growing. Even those who are already comfortable are still learning. That’s one thing you can never graduate from. Success to me is when I am no longer confined to a particular box, where I have to focus on meeting the needs of the public; trying to create things because I feel it will sell, trying to make a lot of market research.
Many times, the work I have done has been a lot of portraiture. And I did that because people want me to do portraits for them and they pay me for it. So, it is basically the way I have lived. Success would be freedom to paint what I want to paint, go where I want to go, experience what I want to experience without worrying what other people would think about it, or if it would sell or if I am able to pay my bills. Success as an artist for me is the same definition that every other field would give when you are free to do the things you really want to do, without any restrictions. Presently, the trend that has been going on is this black art movement. And everyone wants to go into it because it is selling right now. Success will be when I decide not to do that, and it won’t affect me in any way because people would always want to buy my works, no matter what. In addition to that, success will be when the message that I am trying to pass across in all my works have been received and have been acted upon and I can see the changes it has actually made. That is success to me.’
I ask Ibrahim Jamiu to give 3 tips to up and coming artists, and he takes on the adventure of expansive mentorship, ‘The first tip is very obvious. Keep working. Many people make that mistake. They feel “I’m not getting this thing. I need to learn something. I need to buy a course somewhere.” The point is you can be a master at what you do only when you do it continuously. The first thing is for you to be consistent in what you do. Keep on improving on your own self. Even if there is no instructional dvd, there is no internet or whatever, or you are not able to meet that artist to talk to, there is one thing that you are doing presently that is good, that people are already commenting on and that you like. Keep on doing it. The more you keep on doing it, the more you find ways not to do it. It’s just like when the lightbulb was created. It was 99 failures before the final successful one. So, that is the way it is. Keep failing. There is no time. The more you work, the more you learn how to do it faster and better. The more you learn how not to do it. That is the best way to go. You keep on doing that. You keep on building yourself. Alongside, try to increase your presence socially. Put yourself out there. Talk to other people. Don’t limit yourself. Talk. Let them know this is what you created. Don’t put yourself in a box somewhere and expect a great following. People have that mindset that they need to hide what they are doing, so their works do not get stolen. The point is if people are not seeing what you are doing how do you expect them to know that this is what you are doing? Many people won’t put their works out there and say this is for sale but expect people to know what they have to offer. It doesn’t work that way. Number one, consistency put in the work day in and day out. Secondly, build your social presence. Always put yourself out there, no matter what. The final thing would be always look for new ways to improve yourself; new media to improve yourself. It has happened to me many times. One simple piece of information that I did not know before just boosts my creation massively. Yeah, it does happen that way. So yeah, work on yourself, keep on working.’
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