D.C.-based painter and illustrator Aniekan Udofia spoke on the experiences of developing his career and how race affects the art world at the VCUarts Depot on Feb. 8.
The event was part of the Department of African American Studies’ spring lecture series, “The Black Artist in Perspective,” which is co-sponsored by the VCUarts Department of Painting and Printmaking.
Some of Udofia’s most notable past clientele include Toyota, American Express, Museum of Public Art and The Office of Unified Communications.
Udofia grew his artistic style with small, local projects. Eventually he joined an eight-person art collective which allowed him to improve, he said. A major turning-point early in his painting career was when Udofia was one of 30 artists from around the country selected to create a mural for Miami Ink.
“Once I got paid for that, it wasn’t like an ‘aha’ moment,” Udofia said. “It was like a middle-finger moment.”
He said before that project, many people did not view his art as a money-making venture.
Projected images, including many of Udofia’s D.C. murals, accompanied the lecture. Udofia said he did not begin painting until later in his career.
The first mural shown on-screen was the first Udofia painted by himself, and combines musical elements like a piano, sheet music and a record. The mural was completed in conjunction with MuralsDC.
Udofia said he initially turned down clients asking for murals since he didn’t feel he had the necessary experience. He didn’t know how to use spray paint and the large nature of murals seemed intimidating, he said.
As a result, Udofia said he “concentrated everything at the bottom where it was safe,” regarding his first work.
Udofia also told the story of his life-long immersion in illustration, which began during his childhood. He said later in life he was encouraged to pursue other interests, but it was to no avail.
“The virus had already been planted,” Udofia said of his desire to draw. “It was out of control.”
Brandi Summers, assistant professor of African American studies, joined Udofia before the audience for a conversation on some of the challenges black artists face.
Udofia said on several collaborative mural projects, he and other artists of color were given inferior housing when compared to white artists, and said “you have to be ready for those kinds of things.” He said Instances like these separate black artists from the project and limit networking and future opportunities.
“The only way you can change the world is through how you’re living,” Udofia said, emphasizing how black artists inspire new generations.