Slavery, “True Life Stories” and Other Difficult Subjects in the Art of African Artist Clara Aden

slave relic, Clara Aden

slave relic, Clara Aden

I sense a deep sadness as Clara Aden talks of the difficult theme of the history of slavery portrayed in her drawing of a man in chains. Clara says, “l exhibited this work in Ibadan. Their project was organized by the Forbidden Fruit art group. The exhibition was a pre-event activity before the Badagry exhibition. The title of the work is slave relic. The very word slavery conjures up horrific pictures of brutality and oppression. Slavery has a long and ugly history. No continent has suffered the ravages of the slave trade as much as Africa.”
Clara Aden exhibition

Clara Aden exhibition

In spite of the artist feeling saddened by the subject, much interest and good came from exhibiting her drawing slave relic. Clara said of the exhibition organizers, “They were amazed. They asked me to do a drawing workshop for kids. Some of them said, “seeing is believing.” So that day l did drawing demonstrations for children. It was a nice experience.” Clara used her drawing to teaching history, art, and in her demonstrations she shared her expressive drawing skills with the children. “Oh yeah, l love children and l love to live in their world, if just for the time l do drawing demonstrations. l love their openness their sincerity– it is very rare among the youth.”
Nollywood actor on set, Clara Aden

Fish Seller, Nollywood actor Empress on set, Clara Aden

Clara Aden is a gifted and sensitive artist and illustrator. From a very early age she found herself in the company of actors, actresses, writers, journalists, and editors in the publishing industry in Nigeria.
For her portrait Fish Seller Clara says, “I met this woman when l was working at Soul Publication Limited, as an art illustrator. She is a Nollywood actress. Her name is Empress. She tried to portray the role of women in the society as homemakers also providing for the family. l got her photo shot on set.”
Clara Aden illustration for Soul Publications

Clara Aden illustration for Soul Publications

The US movie industry capital is Hollywood, and Bollywood refers to the film industry of India, and “the cinema of Nigeria is often referred to as Nollywood, ” says Clara Aden, whose real name is Omolara Adenugba. “Clara Aden is abbreviation the of my real name Omolara Adenugba. Omolara is a Yoruba name meaning “Children are my companions.” My secondary school music teacher coordinated the music club in my school. He came to Nigeria from United Kingdom to find his roots. When he asked me what is my name? l said Omolara Adenugba. He had to bite his tongue when he was trying so hard to pronounce my name. He nicknamed me Clara Aden.”
She decided to use the name Clara Aden on her published illustration art for Soul Publications Limited true tales magazine HEARTS Magazine. “Every week l illustrated three true tales stories from individuals who are willing to share their life experience, their ups and downs, secrets and scandals– the editorial team goes through the stories, give it to production units where l start brainstorming and looking for photo reference to start my layout,” Clara explained.
Clara Aden illustration

Clara Aden illustration for HEARTS magazine, Nigeria

Hearts Magazine seems something like the tabloids in the USA and UK. Some might call them Pulp Fiction or Pop Art.
Clara says, “Yes, they are true life stories in which the individual’s name will not be written. Most time the writers don’t want their real name to be published either.”
But she graciously shared some of her illustration art to give us a view into secret lives in Nigeria.
Clara Aden illustration

Clara Aden illustration for HEARTS magazine, Nigeria

Clara described working as an illustrator for HEARTS magazine–“All of us are in the two story building. The editorial team’s office is beside the computer, and the production units, the advert and marketing team’s offices is opposite the reception office for visitors. They give me the stories. l read them until l am in the story– l want to feel the experience of the writer. l sketch some scenes in the stories. Once l get the feel of how to portray the emotion, gestures or anguish of the characters in the stories l get photo reference and start laying it out.”

Clara Aden illustration

Clara Aden illustration for HEARTS magazine, Nigeria

“They give me the stories on Mondays and have to submit the pencil drawings for production on Wednesdays. l work like a tornado! Actually l was on probation for six months before l become a full member of the house. The post of the Assistant Manager was for a man, but the Director of Soul Publications Limited was so impressed by my pencil drawings but she wanted to undermine me because of my stature. At that time l just graduated from my secondary school awaiting my admission into higher institution. So l was able to convince her that something big can come out of something small.”

Although Clara Aden started her career as a magazine illustrator as a young teenage girl and she worked very hard, and her hard work helped her develop as an artist–“At times l worked overtime in the office to meet deadlines. l was able to develop and built my skills as a pencilist.”
Clara Aden illustration

Clara Aden illustration

Clara has a fascination for the traditional roles of African women as subject for her art. For her fine art drawing “Sumburu Women” Clara says, “African people are very fascinating and captivating. l have always admired the beautiful Samburu maidens in traditional dress and their exquisite strands of beads. l tried to depict the traditional fashion trend of Kenyan maidens.”
Sumbaru women, Clara Aden

Sumbaru women, Clara Aden

I chatted with Clara on her birthday, and didn’t wish to keep her from plans. She said, “l have over 80 drawings and I am always passionate to talk about them, but time is not on my side today to do that, but l hope that time will surely come.”
 Clara Aden is represented by Portraits Africa, a start-up service procedures in place to bring portrait commissions to the artist from around the world. If you are interested in finding out more
email editor@negativeentropy.net

Nigerian Artist Gideon Fasola’s *Tiny Breaks* in the Duality of His Self-Portrait

Face of Me, Gideon Fasola

Face of Me, Gideon Fasola

Last night I chatted with artist Gideon Fasola of Nigeria, who is one of the African artists represented by Amsterdam-based Dr. Keith McFarlane’s international Portraits Africa project.

Portraits Africa is all about the African artists they represent and the portrait art their artists create. All of the portrait art in the Portraits Africa artist portfolios help to brand the project and service. But none more so than African artist Gideon Fasola’s iconic self-portrait Face of Me, of which the artist says–“It’s the artwork that represents everything about my art.”

Gideon was one of the earliest to be curated into the Portraits Africa aka African Portraiture Service. The artist says that he appreciates every effort the service makes to promote his work and obtain commissions for him from clients around the world–“African Portraiture Service is a loving platform for African Artists, to me it’s like making a dream that seems impossible come true so unexpectedly soon to the dreamer.”

His Face of Me self-portrait is also used to help brand the @PortraitsAfrica Twitter account here.

You’ll notice that in this self-portrait (image above) there is a rough division down the center of the face, with the left side painted in color and the right side rendered in graphite pencil. Both sides demonstrate Gideon Fasola’s skill and ability in rendering realism in any media. He says, “I like to be free with my color and rendering, I don’t like following a strict way of painting. The graphite side is simply showing my pencil realism in like manner to the painting.”

Such duality of imagery carries much metaphorical meaning as well, referencing dualities in the life of every artist, while providing a visual summary of the Portraits Africa service of turning flesh and blood faces into drawings and paintings.

Yet Gideon Fasola’s work is not limited to realistic renderings–“I love good music, inspiring poetry and drawings that speaks, so rhythm, words and message always influence my artworks,” he says. “That is why my works are not limited to realism and hyperrealism portraiture and drawings that is common among African artists of this generation.”

The abstract aspects of Gideon Fasola’s self-portrait is in the texture and patterning, which he refers to as Araism. “The background represents two things about my art, the tiny break texture is Araism–a painting movement invented by a Nigerian artist Mufu Onifade. I became a disciple of the movement in 2013 and I am the first artist in the group that is using pencil to render the movement. The second thing on the background is my background pattern that I have been using for the background of my works since when I was in school 2008 till now.”

Gideon speaks the three major languages of Nigeria–Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, and many dialects under them. He explains that, “Araism is derived from Yoruba (the language of the western Nigeria tribe).” From the word “Ara” which means “wonder.” As in, there is wonder and amazement in the viewer at the lines of “tiny breaks” that come together to create an art piece. Also, the word “Ara” means “thunder,” with the lines that strike across the surface of the artworks like lightning in a thunderstorm. “Ara” (in the Igbo language) can also mean a woman’s breast. Gideon explains that connotation as, “the way the artworks entice people and gives their delightful view and pleasurable experience is compared with womans breasts. So Araism is all African rooted, especially Yoruba.”

HOPE, Gideon Fasola

HOPE Gideon Fasola

His two imaginative works titled HOPE and Virtuous Woman very clearly articulate this “tiny break texture” of Araism–or as Gideon says– “Yes, this are some of my pure Araism works.”

Gideon Fasola

Virtuous Woman Gideon Fasola

Fasola explains that he first heard about the Araism movement while studying at The Polytechnic Ibadan, Eruwa Campus, Oyo State, Nigeria. “I first heard about Mufu Onifade at school, from one of my lecturers that is one year senior colleague of Mufu Onifade when they are art students. Mufu Onifade is a former student of my school, my campus, he graduated there 1988. I started searching for his name and possible contacts online after I heard about him and saw some of his works. After many trials, I was able to chat with him and talk to him on call. I saw him face to face for the first time when he invited me to the Araism Movement on the 10th of September 2013. It was after then that I joined the Araism movement with two Araism works that I submitted to him.”

The Adorable One, gideon Fasola

The Adorable One, Gideon Fasola

Gideon Fasola has created many portrait drawings and paintings. You can view more of Gideon Fasola’s art on his website, on his Facebook page, and on Portraits Africa here.

In the portrait above, the artist demonstrates his skill for working with the ink from blue, black and red ballpoint pens, common tools in Nigeria. He is especially fond of this ballpoint pen ink portrait of “my only niece, which I treasure as my daughter,” he has demonstrably titled The Adorable One.

Fasola also says that being an artist is a “humble career,” demonstrating his humility via encounters with “old wise artists who have made me a young man with an old mind.”  He recalls their advice–“An old artist once told me that art is in your brain and hand, to never let materials silence your expression, but to learn to use whatever can make a mark on a surface to express yourself.”

Gideon Fasola painting

Gideon Fasola painting

Fasola thinks that being an artist is “a gift, a privilege, I am not more worthy than other people to have the talent, so I’m using it like a precious gift given to me as undeserved kindness.”

He describes his painting, above, of laughing children– “It’s saying, if the poor can be happy then you can be happy against all odds if you choose to and if you have the right attitude the way you live your life.”

 

 

 

Part Two: 20+ African Artists Offering Portrait Commissions via International Service

Part one features the first eleven artists here. Find out how to get your own portrait here.

For Part Two, we’re featuring these artists–click on each artist’s name to read their bio and view more examples of their portrait art:

 

AfricanPPLateef Olajumoke, Nigeria

Lateef Olajumoke, Nigeria

 

AfricanPPEnam Boscokah, Ghana face

Enam Boscokah, Ghana 

 

AfricanPPTangwan Elice, Cameroon

Tangwan Elice, Cameroon

 

Jeffrey Appiatu, Ghana

 

AfricanPPIvanaBasa

Ivana Basa, Kenya & Serbia

 

AfricanPPOkpeyowaMosesMarquisNigeria

Okpeyowa Moses Marquis, Nigeria

 

AfricanPPLynette Swanepoel, South Africa Lynette Swanepoel, South Africa

 

AfricanPPWaweruGichuhiKenya

Waweru Gichuhi, Kenya

 

AfricanPPGideonFasolaNigeria

Gideon Fasola, Nigeria

 

AfricanPPClara AdenNigeria

Clara Aden, Nigeria

 

AfricanPPAGlanceofHope67x45cmAcrylicsonCanvas2014VictorBinge,NairobiKenya

Victor Binge, Kenya

 

AfricanPPAlbert Dorgbadzi, Ghana

Albert Dorgbadzi, Ghana

 

Find out how to get your own portrait art from any photo here.

Part One: More than 20 African Artists Offer Portrait Commissions Via International Art Service

More African artists continue to join the growing portrait service created by Dr. Keith McFarlane of Amsterdam. The African Portrait Service assists artists in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon to gain portrait commissions from individuals and couples around the world.

Find out more about the process of commissioning a portrait here.

You are also welcome to connect with these artists on the portrait service Facebook page here.

There are nearly 25 African artists ready to create your portrait from your favorite photo or selfie. Examples below show some of the variety of portrait styles available.

Today, here are the first eleven of the portrait service artists–click on each hyperlinked artist’s name to read their bio and view more examples of their work.

Tomorrow we will share more artists with you in our article Part Two of the African Portrait Artists.

Portrait 3, Morney Hans of Cape Town, South Africa, Pencil on Paper, 30c x 43cm, USD $177

Portrait 3, Morney Hans of Cape Town, South Africa, Pencil on Paper, 30 x 43cm, USD $177

Morney Hans, South Africa

 

GREYS by Anton Kilian of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.. Oil painting on canvas, 50 x 40 cm, USD $300

GREYS by Anton Kilian of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Oil painting on canvas, 50 x 40 cm, USD $300

Anton Kilian, South Africa

 

The Zeal of the Oscars' Winner, Richard Machomba, Nairobi, Kenya. Pencil on Paper. 59cm x 42cm

The Zeal of the Oscars’ Winner, Richard Machomba, Nairobi, Kenya. Pencil on Paper. 59cm x 42cm

Richard Machomba, Kenya

 

The builder, Mpho Makhubo of Tsakane, Brakpan, South Africa. Conte and pastels on Fabriano paper, 131cm x 101cm, USD 600

The builder, Mpho Makhubo of Tsakane, Brakpan, South Africa. Conte and pastels on Fabriano paper, 131cm x 101cm, USD 600

Mpho Makhubo, South Africa

 

Portrait of a Young Girl, Elias Mung'ora of Nairobi, Kenya, Charcoal and pencil on ivory paper, 42cm x 30cm

Portrait of a Young Girl, Elias Mung’ora of Nairobi, Kenya, Charcoal and pencil on ivory paper, 42cm x 30cm

Elias Mung’ora, Kenya

 

Kimani Maruge, Elijah Mutua of Nairobi, Kenya, Fine point pen on paper, 23cm x 23cm, USD $250

Kimani Maruge, Elijah Mutua of Nairobi, Kenya, Fine point pen on paper, 23cm x 23cm, USD $250

Elijah Mutua, Kenya

 

portrait, Kolapo Obadiah Olorunyemi, Nigeria

portrait, Kolapo Obadiah Olorunyemi, Nigeria

Kolapo Obadiah Olorunyemi, Nigeria

 

The Reverend Oke Omezi, Isimi Taiwo,  Lagos, Nigeria, Pencil on paper, 42 x 30cm

The Reverend Oke Omezi, Isimi Taiwo, Lagos, Nigeria, Pencil on paper, 42 x 30cm

Isimi Taiwo, Nigeria

 

Kofi Annan, Theopencil ( aka Theophilus Boateng Kwaku Sarpong ), Accra, Ghana, Pencil on paper,  51 x 76cm, USD $1,000

Kofi Annan, Theopencil ( aka Theophilus Boateng Kwaku Sarpong ), Accra, Ghana, Pencil on paper, 51 x 76cm, USD $1,000

Theopencil, Ghana

 

Portrait of Anne, David Thuku, Nairobi, Kenya, oil painting on canvas, 61 x 46cm

Portrait of Anne, David Thuku, Nairobi, Kenya, oil painting on canvas, 61 x 46cm

David Thuku, Kenya

 

True Happiness, Seth Odhiambo (aka Seth Sketcher), Nairobi, Kenya, Pencil on paper, 51cm x 30cm.

True Happiness, Seth Odhiambo (aka Seth Sketcher), Nairobi, Kenya, Pencil on paper, 51cm x 30cm.

Seth Sketcher, Kenya

 

Read the details on how to turn your own favorite selfie into a fine art portrait here.

Startling New Faces From the African Portrait Project Artists

"The Initiation", 100 cm x 70 cm. 2014, Acrylic on Paper, Lynette Swanepoel, Thabo Mofutsanyane, South Africa.

The Initiation, Lynette Swanepoel, Thabo Mofutsanyane, South Africa, 100 cm x 70 cm, 2014, acrylic paints on paper

In February, we announced the launch of African Portrait Project and you can read that article here. We also published an article on unconventional portraits and included work by African artists. Read the article, The Unconventional Portrait: Moving Away From the Literal Likeness here.

The African Portrait Project has grown to include even more accomplished artists from several African countries. Many have fewer resources than most of us are accustomed to, such as cell phones only to photograph their art and to connect with the rest of the world via social media. Therefore these African artists have elected to join together in a group on Facebook to share images of their work and offer portrait commissions with the assistance of Dr. Keith McFarlane. View the Facebook page and more art here.

Dr. McFarlane’s African Portrait Project seeks to provide these African artists with an income from patrons in more affluent nations, by offering art lovers outside of Africa opportunities to commission portraits at extremely affordable prices. A win-win for all and when you participate by commissioning an artist, gives you an original fine art portrait of yourself or your family members.

Portrait III, Elias Mung'ora, Naibobi,Kenya

Portrait III, Elias Mung’ora, Naibobi, Kenya

 

These commissioned portraits are real fine art, one-of-kind, and may be hyper-realistic pencil drawings on paper, an oil painting, or expressive painting in other fine art materials.

Portrait artists in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and other African countries will be happy to consult with you one-on-one to determine the best options for your portrait.

You can also read more details on commissioning a portrait here.

 

"The wrinkled woman" by Theopencil ( Theophilus Boateng Kwaku Sarpong ) of Accra, Ghana,  Pencil on paper, without frame. 41cm x 51cm

The wrinkled woman, Theopencil ( Theophilus Boateng Kwaku Sarpong ) of Accra, Ghana, Pencil on paper, 41cm x 51cm

 

If you have questions, or wish to find out how you can commission your first portrait, contact Dr. Keith McFarlane via email: editor@negativeentropy.com  Please remember that Dr. McFarlane is based in Amsterdam, and asks you to keep in mind that Amsterdam time is about hours ahead of your time zone in the USA. Here is Dr. McFarlane’s phone number: +31 20 89 32 791

Commissioning a foreign artist for a portrait, and the artist accepting foreign commissions involves a high level of trust on both sides. Recognizing this, Dr. Keith McFarlane, scientist and owner of the Amsterdam based company Negative Entropy and the owner and creator of the ArtWorld app available on iTunes, created this commission service. He will safeguard the payment while assuring quality and delivery of the commissioned artwork, and will only take a 5% commission to cover international transaction fees, currency exchange rates, bank transfer fees and like expenses.

 

"Africana III" by Elias Mung'ora of Nairobi, Kenya, Charcoal and watercolours on ivory paper, 60cm x 84cm

Africana III,  Elias Mung’ora of Nairobi, Kenya, Charcoal and watercolours on ivory paper, 60cm x 84cm

 

 

 

 

The Unconventional Portrait: Moving Away From the Literal Likeness

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Face of Me And My Art, 41 cm x 30 cm,  2014, painting, graphite and charcoal on paper by artist Gideon Fasola of Ibadan, Nigeria, Africa.

The artist Gideon Fasola offers commissions of original fine art portraits capturing elements of you in combinations symbolizing your personality, profession, passions, collections, fantasy life, cos-play roles and creative activities in a visual yin-yang.

To discuss a possible commission from the African artists here, as well as other, and review their fees and details click here.

The unconventional portrait below, of a woman with her eyes closed, conveys her interior– thoughts, feelings, her mood– and gives us a glimpse into her inner sensuality.

"Virginity" by Kolapo Obadiah Olorunyemi of Abuja, Nigeria. Fine point pen on paper.76cm x 46cm

Virginity by Kolapo Obadiah Olorunyemi of Abuja, Nigeria. Fine point pen on paper. 76cm x 46cm

 

The remarkable portrait below, by an artist that goes by the name Theopencil (his full name Theophilus Boateng Kwaku Sarpong), from Accra, Ghana, Africa is a demonstration of his accomplished photorealism rendering techniques used to depict this image from the artist’s imagination. 

 

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Artist D.A. Metrov was recently invited to conduct a public portrait session at the Santa Barbara Museum of Contemporary Art as part of Marinella Senatore’s highly-acclaimed Building Communities exhibition. The event was a huge success. Portraits from the exhibit definitely fit the category of the unconventional–

 

Kelsey, portrait by Metrov

Kelsey, portrait by Metrov

Metrov portrait, Unidentified 2

Metrov portrait, Unidentified 2

Metrov portrait, Kevin

Metrov portrait, Kevin

Metrov portrait, Chien

Metrov portrait, Chien

Metrov portrait, Connie

Metrov portrait, Connie

Metrov is known for his uncanny ability to capture his subject’s “spiritual essence.” “It’s not something I try to do, it’s simply what comes naturally. Some have called it a psychic ability,” says Metrov, an artist living and working in Santa Barbara, California.

View more of Metrov’s unconventional portraits on his website here. Metrov also offers commissions for your portrait. You can contact the artist here.