Ojo Agi is someone I have the privilege to call my friend. She is an amazing artist with astounding natural raw talent. Ojo is twenty-two years old and of Nigerian decent, born and raised in Canada. Ojo's art has always inspired me, made me feel beautiful, and to accept and be okay with my imperfections. Her "Daughters of Diaspora" series is a great example of that for me. These pieces are beautifully transcendent, vulnerable and confident all at the same time.
Artistry has always been embedded in her soul, and I believe she was destined to pursue art and with time and consistency she is now in full pursuit of her passion. I am without a doubt positive that Ojo is going to excel and be known across the globe.
What do you do?
I always have a hard time answering this question because I am not just one thing. I make art, but I don’t know that I am just an artist. I work a 9-5 job and I try my best to keep up with my artwork. I do figurative work, and I used to do fashion sketches when I was younger. But I tend to focus on portraits now, and I use materials such as markers, chalk, and paints.
What is your favourite piece of work that you have created?
My favourite piece of work is probably this one called "The Frug”. I did that January 1st 2013. It was the first day of the New Year and I actually didn’t sleep all night and I was really stressed out about something, and so around 2am I got out my materials and started drawing. It was maybe the third time I’ve done that style with the brown paper. I think it came out really well, really emotional. She looks stoic and kind of like she’s looking far away. I think she looks emotional and a lot of people tell me it's their favourite as well.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
My hobbies are drawing, reading or watching films. I don’t really do anything that is out of the ordinary, I bake, and I knit lol. But you would expect that from someone who spends all their time indoors so it’s not anything shocking. I also like bowling a lot, though I’m not that great at it lol.
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
An entrepreneur is someone who is self-employed, motivated and self-directed. You can't work for yourself without having goals and knowing when to change them and adjust. It’s really difficult being your own manager, and investing a lot of your money and time into something, because it becomes that much more important to you when you have something to lose. So I think being an entrepreneur is a really cool thing, and a lot more people are doing it lately. It might not be their main job, but something on the side to try and to get their talents out there.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist like yourself?
Practice often! It's the only way to develop your style and better your technique. And most importantly, do it for you. Don't get caught up in what others are doing or what they expect from you. Your only obligation as an artist is to express yourself.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working on my "Daughters" collection. It’s looking at things as a first generation Canadian--someone whose parents were born elsewhere, typically in a third world country where the culture is very different. The language, everyday life, and traditions are very different. You grow up here and you kind of learn to assimilate to the culture you're in now, the dominant culture. But then when you go back to your parents' country, you kind of find the alienation there as well. So it’s kind of like looking at spaces and where we belong, and how we make ourselves feel like we fit in, in either culture. I’ve done eleven portraits so far and I am aiming for twenty. I’m hoping to make the final project into a book with some writing. To have all of the portraits together would be great.
What keeps you inspired?
Looking at other artists and creatives keeps me really inspired. When you see people doing really unique things, you think to try out some new stuff. Not in the exact same way but it just pushes you to think “ I don’t have to do 1-2-3-4, I can go 1-7-3-8”. You can completely change it up. I have a lot of fun seeing what else is out there, and also going to art galleries or museums. It just pushes you to think.
Do you admire any artists?
I have so many that I admire, but the sad thing is with this Internet age you follow people on Instagram never learn their real names. It would be good to get out more and learn their names and maybe meet these people. I know for sure right now I’ve got two favourites. One is named Daniel Segrove and he does a lot of collage charcoal drawings. He could draw a completely perfect portrait that would look so life-like but then he tends to scribble the face out or cut out a piece here and paste something on top of it and it makes it so much more interesting. He even takes a flame to his work sometimes--he’ll burn parts of it and it makes it even more alive when he does that. The second artist is Oluseye. He recently had a show in New York, but I think he’s from Toronto so maybe you’ll run into him. He’s a Yoruba artist and he does charcoal cubist-style drawings of men, covering topics Nigerians don't usually speak on publicly. So I really enjoy his work too, and they both have that sketchy unfinished vibe which I really like.
Do you have a mentor?
In a way, I guess so. I follow so many of these people online but it’s not one way. I do message them and they do reply. It’s kind of nice that you can reach out to people online and receive tips. That’s really how I’ve learned a lot, not going to art school.
Do you recommend a mentor?
Yeah I do. I would like one face-to-face. I’m still looking. Someone who has a similar style to what I do but different, and someone who is more established. Not just the technique side but the business side--how to meet clients, how to create quality work that is going to last, how to rent studios, how to write an artist grant or proposal for funding. I don’t know how to do any of that so it would be cool to have a mentor to teach me all of that.