Ibeabuchi Anabana is an artist and also, a style expert. The art director of Insight Communications tells OYINDAMOLA LAWAL the relationship between his art and fashion.
I’m from Obegu, Ugwunagbor Local Council of Abia State. I’m the third child. I was born in Belgium but grew up in Aba, where I also had my primary and secondary education. My tertiary education was at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu.
How was growing up like?
Growing up was great. Nana (my mum) was always there. Despite all odds, it was like I never lacked anything. I found my freedom on plain sheets of paper. She supported my talent whole-heartedly.
Quite a number and for several reasons. From childhood, my mother and elder brother (Ugo) were my heroes. Then the list grew when I got admission to IMT. I met heavyweights such as Nsikkak Essien, the Late Damian Onyekuru,
Chima Etu, Okechukwu Iwundu, Henry Morkah, Chamberlin Ukenedo, Uche Iroha, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Enyinnaya and Iheanyi Ihediwa. Most of them, I also met at Dolphin Studios, Surulere (my foster home) while doing my industrial training in 1997. Passing through the studio was a blessing in my life and I’ll never forget. Pastor Paul Adefarasin is another person I admire a lot. He’s got it. I equally love Mama Ekundayo for her big heart.
Journey into art and fashion
My journey into art started early. I really didn’t choose art. I just became aware I could draw at the sametime, interpret things on paper in my own way so I can say that art chose me and since then it’s been a wonderful romance. I could go on and on drawing and keep needing more plain sheets of paper. Then, there wasn’t an artist around, who was better than my elder brother, Ugo. I was always drawing hard to match up with him, which I think I still do till date. I love drawing human figure, elegance, style and design. The quest to complement the curves and general human structure with the above mentioned gave birth to my interest in fashion.
Again, after coming in contact with Daniel Iheanyi Ihediwa, my interest in fashion skyrocketed. He has a burning desire to change people’s perception about fashion. We’ll hang out and appreciate things around us, we’ll dream sketch, eat sketch, sleep sketch... talk about how nature has everything we need to work with. We’ll talk about how stuff can come out of nothing. Talk about how a discarded object could be useful. We’ll dream about making it big in art and fashion, we’ll dream about our names/brands on the streets, in world famous galleries and world famous fashion shows and boutiques. Till date, that dream is still very much alive and I thank God for that. The dream has given birth to ZION MMV (a cloth line). This is Daniel’s brainchild; I believe that with time our line will win more converts. Just watch out!
God first, then anyone that does his/her stuff sincerely. My immediate environment, people around me... you know, their attitudes, jokes, words, music, nature in general.
What makes an interesting drawing and painting?
For me, it’s sincerity. The fact that an artist humbles him/herself to really express his/her true feelings. Then one’s ability to manipulate and break the basic rules of art.
What makes an interesting fashion subject?
Something cool or sleek that keeps poking you even when you try to run away from it.
How do you arrive at the elimination of detail?
Well, Less is more. Less could be stylish too. Less helps in being single minded. The elimination thing is just one of my methods/style (doesn’t mean I don’t like detail). First of all, the aim is lost if I’m unable to catch fun while doing it so the elimination method is done on purpose. I get into that mode and have some great adventure. This is just me trying to deconstruct the norm. I do it with the aim of involving the viewer to make up the rest in his mind. Suspense makes some works sexy when it’s well done. As a viewer too, you know, there’s a great feeling when you decipher and complete an incomplete stuff in your mind. It gives that aha feeling. So, the elimination of detail is my way of involving the viewer.
What method do you use to apply colour?
I apply colour manually and digitally but the series of works you are seeing were coloured digitally with photoshop.
What about the pure line drawing?
Again, it’s done on purpose. It’s just me messing around with loose lines bearing spontaneity and fluidity in mind. I did all in ink — ballpoint pen.
What makes a good drawing?
This is a tough one. I always ask myself and intimate friends this same question. I used to think a good drawing is when you draw something as it is proportionally. But then, I later realised it’s way beyond that. The answer is relative but for me one’s ability to be the ‘boss’ to one’s style and creatively break rules to suit what one does because personalities and styles differ.
There are not many fashion illustrators in Nigeria, and the few that we have are not appreciated, how have you been able to survive?
Hope. Then, passion has been keeping me though I work as a senior art director in an advertising agency. It’s tough combining both but it helps my being... at least for now.
How do you view Nigerian art industry?
It’s unfolding and growing. There’s so much hope but the basic structures need to be put in place to help fuel the growth of the sector. Lack of these has destroyed many creative people’s zeal. You’ll be shocked at how many ‘would-have-been’ artists around you if you look around. With technology and access to information at our finger tips, things are gradually looking brighter because the world thrives on information now. How much information you have empowers what you do.
What stands you out?
Wow!... my name, my identity... my style.
How many companies have you worked with?
On a freelance level, quite a number. Officially, after my NYSC, just two. (Blue-Seal and my current place — Insight Communication.)
Challenges in life and career
Dishonesty and unavailability of basic infrastructures. The fact that I’ll have to deal with the unwanted songs of the massive choir of generators that surround me just to get things done or even have a cold drink or preserve food is scary. Then, the pollution. Sometimes, I feel so sorry for our lungs. Whether we like it or not, lack of power supply slows us down and it tells on us. If we call Nigeria the giant of Africa then we should live and act 21st ‘centurish’. Again, having to keep pushing when things seem not right; on the other hand it lets one realise the inner strength.
Building my dream home through the proceeds from my art practice. Having a coffee table book of my works in most homes both locally and internationally. Floating a cloth label. Gracing front covers of The Guardian, Thisday, ARISE, NY Times, LA Times, Times, Newsweek, Wallpaper, Icon and so many publications that matter as a force to reckon with. Exhibit in the world’s most respected places and push great figures also both there and auctions.
Projection into the future
You know, art for me on the other hand is therapeutic. It tasks and relaxes the mind. I hope to inspire as many people as possible with my art through as many channels as possible. Seal so much grade ‘A’ book and fashion Illustration deals. Take much of my art beyond indoor to the streets. I want to communicate to wide range of people irrespective of age, race, or social class.