Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study (if any)? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?
Name is Nkosana Nkomo, I am a South African based Illustrator. I was born in Heilbron a small town in Free State and raised in the Vaal (a place where creativity dies). I was about in grade 2 when I first discovered I could draw, but the city I was raised in had the odds stacked up against my creativity, plus my family couldn’t really afford to send me out to an art school, so I settled in with underfunded schools, but drew the way I knew how.
Finally went to University in the same damn city and studied graphic design and had the worst lecturers ever. Each year they hired a person working in the agency to come give us a crash course on one of the Adobe Suite programmes for a week, two weeks tops, the lecturers had no clue on how to use the programmes. The drawing classes opened up a whole new era for me, I was in a class of artists who went to art school and learned all these techniques and applications while the only thing I knew about art was drawing with an HB pencil and knew little to nothing about shading. So I opened up my ears and eyes and I learned from both students and the Drawing Lecturer, that quickly opened up my hidden potentials and I just kept going, and began to draw on anything I can draw on given that it was my mini fridge in the student accommodation, wooden frames, mount boards etc.
I then got a job as a graphic designer and for some time forgot about illustrating or drawing until I felt that my job was in fact killing my passion for anything that had to do with design because of the routine that never changed and lack of inspiration and surrounded by white walls without colour. After 3 years in working, I decided to start drawing again, but it felt like I was starting as a student again. I began to draw in meetings, in the car while waiting for my wife to knock off at her work and at home.
Eventually I began to search out social media groups for artists alike and I just saw people do crazy digital painting and illustrations, while the medium I came with was pencil, at least with different weights this time. I bumped into one of the illest process videos of digital painting done on photoshop and I got hooked right there and then, I had to get me a peace of that digital slice. Obviously the first try wasn’t the walk in the par because I was introducing colour to my sketches and they were flat and that process seemed to take longer than a few strokes of led. I kept going downloaded a bunch of process videos to see how they build up digital painting, the types of brushes, how the use colour and so I kept going and with every try I opened up hidden potential and developed my own techniques and styles in the process. My best work became my next work, even though I would get roughly 10 likes and felt like people weren’t vibeing with my illustrations.
How do you go about designing a new piece of art, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
At first I had all these sketches I had made and felt that I have to give them life, so one by one I would select an old sketch and begin to digitally paint it. How it all begin is a series of different events. I mostly imagine post-colonial African people had we had our own fantasy or fairy tale settings. So I wrap myself up in that time line and mentally travel there while I am drawing. When a sketch is in process of being painted, a lot of thing may change and my thinking process would have changed from the time I drew it, plus with colour being involved one can get away with creating many magical elements.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
A typical day for me is, wake up at 3 am, sneak out the bedroom ninja style so I don’t wake up my wife. Turn on my laptop, watch cartoons (Rick and Morty type, not power puff girls), anime, nature channels and go through instagrame checking out people’s work and following them if I don’t have a piece of art to finish. Then I wait for my daughter to wake up and we spend the duration of the day together while my wife works from home. So yeah, I am a stay at home illustrator dad ever since I got retrenched due to my previous work place wasn’t doing so well because of Covid-19.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I am still an upcoming illustrator, only now am I starting to get noticed a bit, but for the sake of the question, I have worked with musicians who have seen my work on social and hit me up to design them song covers, I have done logos and corporate designs for countless people. I have recently worked with an upcoming seSotho rapper (Ntate Stunner) who recently hit radio waves nationwide.
Is there a character or illustration you have done that you are most happy with?
I get happy with all my illustrations, they all make me feel happy and I am connected with them in different way, all there is to them is improvement and that doesn’t mean I love one more than any. I am just glad a lot of people have said they connected with most of my artwork on a spiritual level and some even interpret them in their own special way, that means that the art has served its purpose.
What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
Right now I am working with an amazing team of two writers and a fellow illustrator, we are creating a book based on African Mythology inspired more by Southern African Tribes and believes. It is filled with a lot of adventure, fantasy, wonder, knowledge and magic. The characters, environments and twisted storylines are out of this world.
Secondly, because I have been retrenched and can’t find a job, I have decided to put my talents into play and sell my art. I am busy constructing an online store where I will be selling Canvas prints, pillows and t-shirts. We will be operational by August, still haven’t set up the date for the launch as yet.
Who are some of your favorite artists out there?
Terence Ntsako aka Tako Universe: This dude has the most confident colour applications I’ve seen, he makes it look so easy. I also dig his subjects and concepts)
Next to Terence is Mogau_K: His style is authentic and almost similar to Terence’s( my opinion) but yet he capture the south African essence in his art and each piece tells a story.
Gary Villarreal: the master of pencil sketch, This dude is beast on concept and execution. All of his drawing has shock value and he is consistent with his creativity, he kills the game in pencil, ink, spray paint, paint and digital painting.)
Imnk Nkululeko: He is on a Whole different path of imagination, his work is unpredictable, freaky, inspirational and bold.
Then there is me. Hahaha I am my own first fan.
Could you talk about your process in creating your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
My procress is derived from many series of events, it starts with imagination that was created by how I could have felt, or questions I would ask myself, or thinking about something I have never seen and having the urge to see it with my own eyes therefore I have to create it.
After my mind is done playing tricks on me and I got a glimpse of what I have to create, I hit my mini studio (desk and laptop with a Wacom bamboo), put on the best music in the world, open up photoshop, create a colour pallet and begin to form my lines. After the lines are complete is start with my background colours, followed by my focal point’s colour and my mind communicates with my hand and the rest is history.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?
Lol, the beginning of everything is my most fun. I get to be absorbed by my own imagination and leave myself with my head tilted toward my shoulder and staring into dead space. Imagining everything I create is the most fun thing in all this, then it comes to the difficult part being applying the colour where I think they would work, that is always the messy part, it would even make me doubt myself as an artist, until I work toward getting everything to blend together and then there is that crazy moment where I am in disbelieve that I have created something I saw in my mind.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
I listen to a lot of music from a country in west Africa called Mali, it’s weird how I don’t understand a word they say, but their music is fulfilling. I play games when I have a day to myself which rarely happens. I recently bought an acoustic guitar, so I am also learning that in the meantime while we on lock down.
What are some of your favorite characters from other creators that you enjoy?
There is this one dude, I don’t know his name, but his Instagram handle is Rocketboiart!!! That dude is on another level with character design. He is the creator of Kongfu is Dead characters and I really hope to see a series come out of those.
Another wildling is Ramazan Kazaliev. How this dude comes up with his execution amazes me, I have never seen such fine work.
But I enjoy a lot of African inspired characters. It is really inspiring to see black creative come together and create something for themselves and characters which they can relate to.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
My favourite subjects are people of African diaspora in respective rich cultures infused with our untold magic and astronomy. I think in the beginning years of me ever drawing, up until 2014 I drew subject which had nothing to do with me and were totally unrelated to me and when I looked around, I realized Africans aren’t represented that much when it comes to art and Africa is the birth place of Art, so I jumped in to join the little groups of people out there who are creating beautiful art that relates to African people. There is so much beauty and diversity to share and create.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
At first it was for the sake of drawing cool things, characters like Goku, Ichigo, Naruto and so on and so forth, but as I grew I noticed an immense imbalance in ethnicity in digital art or art in any medium. So I began to draw characters of my own and named them according to my language. I knew it wouldn’t reach so many people because I am not much of a social lite, but the people who saw my drawing became captured and commented on how they relate to my subject. I had to keep going at this and become better with every stroke I took on my bamboo tablet so I can represent Africans in a different light, to tell a story through my craft so kids and adults can see themselves being capable of fairy tales. We have forgotten our own fairy tale stories, told to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers.
Our African media is not doing much to proceed the legacy of those fairy tale stories and parents in my generation mostly teach their kids about Cinderella, little red riding hood, the little mermaid, those are fairy tales of European traditions or imaginations. My inspiration is to help ignite that possibility of having our own and uninterrupted tales told by Africans, inspired from the stories we used to hear around the fires at night or just before bed. There is a lot of beauty in creation of African cultures and I am just getting started.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
The most important thing I learnt from other artists is not to rush to finish of a project. Patience is vital for creatives like myself, unlike the robotic artists who do 50 strokes of colour and already have a person looking like they about to jump out of the screen type advanced.
I am still learning with every new project I do. I look at how other artists treat their colours, how they apply light and shadows on subjects, how the background should work with the focal point. I Learn by just looking at something and mentally creating solutions to execute what had me interested in a certain style. I also love being out in nature or laying down on my lawn and look at the clouds pass by, then give close attention to how the sky reacts to light of the sun and all the hippie stuff. lol
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Being an Artist is a very precious gift. To have a mind that can imagine something beyond reality, in your very own universe that only you can access where you can imagine whatever you want. An Artist has a gift to share his imaginations with the world, to graphically show you what is going on in my head in colour or black and white is very amazing.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
I am open on email, facebook, Instagram, twitter and behance.
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
Yeah, you can get my store on this link