Jessica Soares shares similarities with pop star, The Weeknd – similarities that are more in their approach to art than in how consumers receive their respective works. Both artists have a flair for intelligible art, although there is a clear difference in the form of art they practise – while the former draws and paints, the latter sings. So when she names him among artists she listens to while drawing, it did not surprise me; instead my interest in finding the connection rises.

Until The Weeknd became a reluctant global phenomenon, he enjoyed his privacy as a famous person – the experience of having a known name or popular works and yet maintain relative facial anonymity; the type that the likes of Daft Punk and Lagbaja still enjoy.

Jessica Soares is on that road, although she is at the phase where she is dealing with coming out as an artist more than she planned to. And this is due to the rising curiosity in her paintings. She is a student of the school of thought that good art sells itself but the evolving arts’ world and the teeming demand for culturally rich art pieces like hers, makes it difficult for her not to talk a lot about her works. “If someone likes your painting then they like it; I don’t believe you have to talk people into buying your works”, she says.

On her Samsung phone she has tens of pictures of her paintings, which she gladly shows me upon request – one painting was named “Owambe”, It is an image of an African woman in her prime, wearing a headgear made from an intricate arrangement of features of African forestry – the leaves and trees all made to form a fine pattern. Another work of hers titled “Lagos”, has its beauty holed up in the manner with which it embodies features of the commercial city in the body of a maiden. The prominent feature of her works is the artistic effect of concealing a deeper theme inside a more obvious theme.

As we flip through the gallery, she does some explaining to help me grasp the deeper sense in some of her works. “This one was inspired by women and the vibrant market life in Lagos”, she says about one of the paintings. She likes to draw women because she believes they are the face of custom and tribe.

Interest in Art

Jessica is a self-taught artist who refers to YouTube videos to help her hone her innate art skill. She makes references to times when her paternal Grand-mom taught her to trace out images from newspapers and magazines using oil, as one of her earliest practices of art. She talks briefly about her days of leading the art class in school.

She could have been making professional artworks long before she started about twelve months ago, she could have taken an art course instead of the Marketing degree she got from Redeemers University; if not because she was cheated out of an arts competition in school. “I lost interest in art after that experience. I felt I deserved to win but they gave it to another girl. I was hurt.”

For a long time after that event, she treated art as a hobby, next to watching Nickelodeon and Disney. Painting never seemed like a practice she could earn through. She had a marketing job in the fashion line that kept her busy from 9 to 5 on weekdays. That paid her bills until sometime last year when her first love – drawing – found her. “Yes I was more into the fashion line of 9-5. I didn’t do serious 9-5 because I knew I did not want to do it for too long.” she says.

She started painting professionally after leaving her 9-5 engagement. Her boyfriend found an artist who he felt could guide her and encouraged her to reach out to the artist: Jekein Lato-Utah. This move helped her up her interest; from painting for fun to painting for expression and appreciation. She refers to Jekein as her “motivator and push

Creative Process

Usually, artists have their preferred creative process; and it has proven to be wise to let each artist choose what suits him or her. Michael Jackson had his room of moving walls and mirrors. Jay-Z finds the right beat to word his thoughts on. For Jessica, she draws inspiration from everywhere, although she is particular about old vintage images. She listens to The Weeknd and Techno music while creating and when I ask about her interest in Nigerian music she says, “No I don’t really listen to Nigerian songs.”

She doesn’t even listen to classics like Fela’s music and she is not going to paint a portrait of him like we often see at roadside art shops. She says “he does not have an influence on my art” and I tell her she has committed the ultimate sin in art as a Nigerian. But I am joking – I understand that creating is a personal experience and the best works are naturally inspired works not copied works.  “Although I have one painting of a guy in my house that I might add Fela,” she says, perhaps to atone for her sin.

A lot of her statements about inspiration and direction geared towards her being expressive. “I just want to do me”, she tells me. Painting comes easy for people who are gifted. Some of her works are done in few days, some take weeks and they go for tens and hundreds of thousands of Naira depending on factors like size and style. “The marker paint takes me a day and a half. The acrylic one takes like two weeks.” “I sometimes paint simultaneously”, she adds.

Going Pro

In Art, I don’t believe there is anything like amateur or going pro – it’s either you keep circling the same level of skill or you improve and get to the level of making classics from constant practice. Jessica wasn’t taking her art seriously until she attended her first exhibition – one organised by Temple Company – where she got to showcase her works and heard people, who love art, talk about her works and appreciates them enough to pay good sums for them.

Before then, she gave out her painting to friends and acquaintances that cared to have them. Even when approached by a buyer, she sold based on her “mood.” But her experience at the exhibition totally changed how she views her works. “I have been off and on since last year. I haven’t been taking things seriously. Sometimes I don’t draw in like two months. After the exhibition I noticed that a lot of people have been taking me seriously. So I now want to focus more.”

Temple Company has shown interest in “helping me explore and manage my art”, she says. She discusses her interest in fashion design, showing some works she did for a company that paid between “#7,000 – #10,000” to have her paintings imprinted on shirts. “I am still a designer. I am just trying to figure out how I can manage to marry it with my painting.” I mention the possibility of using the platform and expertise of a company like Temple and she says, “If they can help me explore and manage my arts. I don’t have anything to lose so why not.”


This piece was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets

Culled from Issue 21

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