Interview with Ghanian Digital Artist & Illustrator Afenyi Afenyi

Interview with Ghanian Digital Artist & Illustrator Afenyi Afenyi

Let us begin by getting to know you Afenyi can you please tell us more about yourself, where are you from and how did you begin your journey into art.

I’m Afenyi, mostly known on the internet as Afenyi Afenyi. I am a Fante, from Ghana in West Africa. I’m a reserved person most of the time, except when I’m called to join in on a topic I can’t shut up about. I think a lot (which is a good thing for me), so I find myself always doing something I love. That is either drawing, writing, or simply observing stuff around me. And observing things around me actually helped start my journey into art. I wasn’t really a drawing person growing up, as a kid, I was into paper stuff like I’d gather a lot of papers,  twisting and crumpling, sometimes cutting them into characters that I might have seen in a movie or somewhere. Then I’d play with them, even keeping them. Of course, this was weird for my parent, especially me being a son and all. So I had to find another way to force these characters out of my head, and that’s when I started paper and pencil drawing. Eventually sending me to the digital world because I still made a mess when I started illustrating on paper. I remember my dad complaining to my mum about me gathering so many papers in my room and everywhere in our house. Later these (.i.e. my childhood comics stripes, writing books, and illustrations) would be burnt. So yeah I had to go digital, with my first digital illustrations in 2012 or later. Even with the digital illustrations, I had to take breaks for science school, and the university, and return in 2017 till now.

“When I started I had no idea what art in general was all about, what requirements one needed to be a digital artist, and so on. It is like jumping into a river without knowing if there is a crocodile in it or not. “

Afenyi, Can you tell us about the process of making your work? We want to know a little about the significance and scope of your work. How do you make your work? Are there particular tools/materials/software/technology that you use? Is there a connection between your process and your artwork’s message?

Hmm. How do I make my work! Awesome question. Illustrating, drawing, or better put, my form of being creative is something more than just a piece of work. They are extensions of my thoughts, feelings, or imagination. And there isn’t any special way I think, feel or imagine things. They all come from what I have observed or still observing. This could be anything from music to a memory.  When the flow comes, I sometimes put the concept on my phone or rarely in a notebook. I only use notebooks for client meetings. I don’t immediately start illustrating when I get an idea. I observe other illustrations or art, but this time with a purpose. As the ideas get more fleshed out in my mind, I start to sketch and gather references that I will need to complete the illustration.  I do most of the creation digitally; for sketching, line art, and tiny colouring details I use Medibang. For Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint, is when I’m doing finishing and corrections. Most of my references are illustrations by other artists. I steal colour palettes, perspectives, and conception mostly from them (which is totally fine, they stole it too from another artist). I draw a lot of human features and heck, I do use photos all the time. Most by myself and of myself, the rest from Pinterest and everywhere on the social media world. Just reference the owners if have to, so you don’t get into trouble.

Can you describe the evolution of your artistic style? (Have you always made art with this unique vision or what was your turning point into recognizing this style was your authentic “you”?)

Early digital illustration

First of all, I still have a lot to learn so I know this stage of my artistic journey isn’t the authentic ‘me’. Jeez, I’m not even close but yes gradually I am getting there. The journey has been awesome because when I first started illustration I didn’t know you need to have some idea about structure, composition, colours, and even storytelling. I was just drawing maybe with no purpose but to look sane and cool. And yes I had to learn these principles as I grew into the craft. Before I always wanted my art to look very realistic, but as I got more inspired by other illustrations and animated series I realized I am drawn to more simple line artsy illustrations with heavy attention on detail. Details in the form of colours, perspective or composition and not necessarily about the rendering. Unfortunately for me, I was blinded by my passion for science and ignored all the signs that were telling me to sharpen my skill and talent for a beautiful future. Thankfully I’m back on track, but yeah that has been the journey for me. Picking colour styles, perspective ideas, poses,  expressions, and most importantly learning to be aware of myself when creating and not just following the masses. Also, the evolution has been fun because I get to explore new secrets about my craft and self, this really pushed me from my old art ways to where I am now.

 What is a major obstacle that you have faced in pursuit of your art career? How did you overcome this, or is it something that you still struggle with?

This is a good question. And I can say that this obstacle is still is a hindrance for many aspiring artists in Africa today. Lack of information about art and its industry.  As I mentioned before, when I started I had no idea what art in general was all about, what requirements one needed to be a digital artist, and so on. It is like jumping into a river without knowing if there is a crocodile in it or not. 15 years ago for me, information about how to start art, how to use computers, how digital content like animations were made, the anatomy of human structure, principles of design, and every information that I have come to know today. That information was not readily available. One had to be enrolled in art school or some expensive form of art education to know these. And for me that hindered me from really accepting that art can pay for my rent and help make me a financially stable person like my other mates becoming doctors, lawyers, and so on but I knew I had to find a way. My curiosity to know and learn about this craft helped me overcome any fear or doubt I had before. And time keeps changing so we never stop learning, and so am I. I am still finding solutions to solve my colour palette issues, finding ways of bringing exciting perspectives to my old and boring angles in which I tell my visual stories and all that. So the important thing at the end of the day is, don’t wait to get all the cash for art school before you start getting your art skill honed. Find it yourself, cause thankfully we live in a “social media” world where knowledge is shared without hesitation and at a very low price.

“I have an awesome ton of influences, and sadly I don’t get to keep them for long because my journey isn’t static, I keep changing and so should those that influence me at any particular moment in my journey.”

What are important strategies or choices you make that help support your creative process?

 I always remind myself, that this is beyond art. This is supposed to be fun. So I don’t stress myself but have a good time creating. Knowing my strengths and working with them is never a bad thing, it is not about staying too much in my comfort zone but it’s about seeing where I suck at and working smart towards it. I also make sure I have all my needed resources (mostly illustrations, 3D models, real photo references) with me, so I don’t need to act like I’m a super artist who needs no resources when creating, plus it saves me some brainpower. And lastly, I sketch studies and random stuff on paper, I watch tutorials and read articles about how to make my illustrations even more fun and worth adoring.

What is one creative resource you can’t live without?

Music, some chill epic music, and some thought-provoking but inspiring visuals. They work as one element for me, and I can’t live without them when creating.

 Who are your biggest influences? Who/what inspires you?

I have an awesome ton of influences, and sadly I don’t get to keep them for long because my journey isn’t static, I keep changing and so should those that influence me at any particular moment in my journey. So currently I am really digging Mr. Joseph Christian Leyendecker, Moebius, and Mr. Denis Sarazhin. I am inspired by their interpretation of what they have seen and felt, and how their time explains it. Just beautiful illustrations.

 If you could communicate one thing to aspiring African digital artists what would it be? What piece of advice would you give?

Don’t see your creation as something that you just post or show to the world, create because you love creating, create because you adore your creation, and create because it is an extension, a piece of you, yourself a gift for your small surrounding and beyond. A creation to inspire generations to be true to their world. Don’t just finish your art just so you post, complete it, relax on it so you know how important it is before you show the world. To sum it up, have fun and don’t just follow trends. Follow your growth.

Any current projects you can talk about? What is your ultimate dream project that you canʼt wait to work on, or be a part of someday? 

Yeah, sure. I am currently working on a couple of book and music cover artworks, and some card game illustrations. My ultimate dream project is to have my graphic novels and merchandise accepted and loved all around the entire universe.

 Lastly, Where is your favourite place to work? Please share a photo.

Beautiful, my favourite place to work, is and will forever be in my head. The place the story begins and ends, but there’s a photo of me in one of my workspaces.