In pursuit of happiness and fulfilment, we make certain choices that seem crazy and meaningless to people around us. It feels like the way to glory though we have little idea how it will become reality. Often, the question is, what sacrifice is too much to make in exchange for an uncertain journey? A paying job with a promising career? Should happiness be the only determining factor? What about reward, recognition and appreciation especially if it is a less travelled path? Read our interview with Yelloseesee Uwaoma, an artist who left a paying profession to go after the echoes from his heart to create morning, noon and in the dark hours of night.
Yelloseesee Uwaoma is a professional IT Engineer turned artist. He works with pen and mostly in black colour. A lot of shading goes into his drawings as inspired by light. It is hard to be around Yelloseesee without getting caught in the fire of his passion, spirituality and the importance of light in his art.

From our discussions, you made emphasis on capturing light when you do portraits, why is light important to you?

My works are basically inspired by light and of course you need light to hit an object to make it come alive. When this happens the expression that’s expected to be seen on a work is at my disposal to work with.

the second ever sisi eko whispers from madiba the help

Your portraits are usually detailed and comes across like stories within faces, what part of your subject’s personality strikes you most and how long does it take to complete each one?

For me it has to be the eyes and the whole of that region because from personal experience if you can correctly get the eyes then you can flow along easily. It’s kind of being led by vision. For how long it take me to complete the Eyes varies depending on the size of the work, sometimes half a day, a day or two, a week or two and so on.

 

How did you come about using ink for drawing, do you use a special pen?

I actually started working with regular pen from High School but it dawned on me when I quit my IT job that all I had to express my artistry  was my pen and a few hard copies of my resume. I still have a portrait I did on Prof Wole Soyinka. And yes I use regular writing ball point pen as you see from stages of my work. (In Photos)
At what point did you say to yourself pen will be enough for what I create?

My friend and mentor; the wire sculptor Mr. Uche Peters encouraged me to stick to pen, because he loved the feel I bring to biro works. And then my friend and brand manager Mr. Zuberu Kadara consolidated that. At this point I knew I could fly with it.

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Yelloseesee’s Bedroom turned studio

IMG_20141223_180027 09-Lagos januari 2015 070

Why did you go from abstract to portraits?

I have not gone from abstract to portraits in fact if you study my portraits closely they tend towards the abstract. I call them “Portrait Actitood” which is my own line of portraits, it is not the portrait you are used to.

Have you ever used any medium aside ink on paper and canvas or tried experimental art?

Yes of course, because I basically draw I have worked with pastels, charcoal pencils, a little bit of oil paint. I have worked on bottle covers, am about to work on spray cans and other materials.

Obiora Udechukwu and Olu Oguibe also used pen and ink at some point as artists in the 80s, did they in any way influence your work ? 

Now that’s great information. I never knew because I was born in the 80s. They didn’t influence my work and I have never met them.

When you draw (and  paint) with a different colour from black or blue, like you did with Chinua Achebe’s portrait, is there something more to the subject you are making emphasis on?

prof

Prof – professor Chinua Achebe

 

 

Not really, I just allow my creativity fly like a free bird. For instance “The Man With Ink In His Veins” which is the work on Professor Chinua Achebe, I decided to go blue biro on it since he was one of the finest writers the world ever knew and of course we regularly use blue pen when we write.
Are you commissioned to do portraits or prefer to pick your subjects randomly and sell?

I do both.

Talking of portraits, the portrait of Mother Theresa you created leaves one in awe of your skills at capturing the tiniest element that brings the subject alive. Did she mean something to you more than the world’s general love for her as a kind-hearted  woman? 

Mother Teresa, Big Hands and Bigger Heart

Mother Teresa, Big Hands and Bigger Heart

I have global role models and I think she has to be on top of the list or share the spot with Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Is your birth name really Yelloseesee or it’s a nickname because of your skin colour?

It’s not my nickname. It doesn’t have anything to do with my skin colour. It is more than a birth name, it is a Divine name.

How did your parents’ react to transitioning from being an IT Engineer to an Artist?

It was the usual uncertainty… but they are gradually getting used to it. Actually my maternal uncle really encouraged me to fully pursue my artistry as a career (in his words: ” if I hear anything about job hunting from you again I’d be really angry with you, what you have here can make you a great economic brand…”).

Will you then face art full time or at least combine both? Perhaps, I should ask if art has been financially rewarding for you? 

Perhaps combining both… art is financially rewarding, I just patiently wait for the day I will get paid for being strange.

Have you done any solo or group exhibition since you started full time?

By God’s grace I was able to pull off two solo exhibitions and a group exhibition with my twin sister during my undergraduate study back in Benson Idahosa University Benin City in 2006. Funny enough, there was no Fine art Department back then in school. Since then it’s been group exhibitions all along, with the annual Creative Focus Africa Exhibitions, From Eko With Love Series Exhibitions 2014, the Poetry Music and other Art form PMA exhibitions e.t.c.

Where are your works displayed in Lagos aside your home reception space and converted bedroom?

Nike Art Gallery for now and few interior houses out there.

Do you have any exhibition or event planned for this year?

By God’s grace I’m always available for the Creative Focus Africa exhibitions and hopefully From Eko With Love series exhibition and two or more exhibitions before the year runs out.

According to Yelloseesee, his love for drawing keeps him going and the encouraging feedback of people who have seen his works. You can visit Nike Art Center to experience the uniqueness of Yelloseesee’s art. For durability and protection from fading away, he uses a special fixative to seal his works. He was recently commissioned to do portraits of Nigerian US based Classical Opera and Broadway Artist Abiodun Koya for her album cover and brand logo.