Nigerian artist Ima Udofot traces her art journey from a casual doodler to a passionate painter. Born out of the solitude of the COVID-19 lockdown, Ima’s art captures the patterns of the world around her.
With nature as her biggest muse, Ima’s art is as much a personal reflection as it is a study of the world. She paints with the spontaneity of a child, capturing her wild imagination on the canvas, and has experimented with mediums from acrylics to ceramics.
Beyond her creative process, Ima’s art is a clear attestation to the healing potential of creativity. As she painted her way out of depression, Ima started seeing art as a therapeutic tool that heals the mind and body.
With big dreams of owning an art gallery and creating mind-blowing artworks, Ima’s journey demonstrates how art can transform life.
In this exclusive interview, we chat with Ima about ‘Ima as an artist’ and her plans for the future.
Can you tell us about your background and how you started painting?
Ima: Art has always been a massive part of my life. Although I pursued an academic rather than creative path, which made me not to find it so interesting in school, I have always been fascinated by the patterns that occur in art and the natural world, and painting has heightened my appreciation of them.
Looking back and reflecting on this question, I just realised I have always enjoyed art from an early age, and creative activities have always drawn my attention. I would doodle, colour, cut and create! I’m still very much like this.
How I started painting? I remember it was during the COVID 19 lockdown when the creative part of me was really out to play, and I did not see it coming at all. Apparently it happened at a very good time. I just went with the flow intentionally, and here we are, having
this conversation about me and art. By this time that year, nobody knew me to be the girl that loves painting; this makes me even more grateful for this moment and conversation.
What was the catalyst or the “accidental” event that led you to discover your passion for painting?
Ima: Basically, I had more time to focus on myself for the first time without any distractions from the outside world. It was truly a discovery because, like I said, I didn’t see it coming.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations and influences in the art world?
Ima: Hmmmm… It varies. It varies from nature being my biggest inspiration, to things around me, like patterns from clothes or objects, colours, and even conversations. In all, my biggest inspiration comes from my love for nature.
Can you describe your creative process? How do you approach starting a new piece and deciding on a subject matter?
Ima: I don’t exactly have a process. It’s more of spontaneous bursts of energy that go hand in hand with my wild imagination. I believe it’s about seeing things in an artistic light, taking a situation, putting a story behind it, and making it into a masterpiece.
How has your painting style evolved over time? Can you share any key turning points in your artistic journey?
Ima: My painting style has evolved in ways I had never imagined before now. I started off with painting from Acrylic on A4 papers to little art canvases, flower pots (hehe, shout out to Edak pot from Ekondo plant community), ceramic mugs, and now big canvases.
I have also gone from brush medium, to dabbing and pouring. Having explored all of these, I would say that Acrylic on canvas is my favourite thing to work with, and I look forward to going bigger in that field.
As for my key turning point, I once got into depression, and, long story cut short, that was when I explored painting on ceramic cups. I got my dad to support me by commissioning me to paint over 100 pieces for my grandma’s funeral souvenirs. This was a very therapeutic project for me, and at that point, I was really convinced that art heals the mind and body. I highly recommend!
What advice would you give aspiring artists who may not have the opportunity to attend art school or pursue formal training?
Ima: My advice to aspiring artists is: just do you! It starts from within. Once you establish that, every other thing works. It’s okay to get inspiration and ideas from outside, but nobody can be you, and that’s your superpower. And in addition to that, utilise online materials, watch tutorials online, feed your creative mind with creative content, pay attention to details, and keep practicing until you arrive at what works best for you. Lastly, consistency is key!
How do you stay motivated and overcome creative blocks in your work?
Ima: Honestly, I just believe that everything is a process and in fact a gradual process. Creative blocks are inevitable, so I take breaks when I need to and come back better. The motivation will always come naturally just like the creative blocks come. I don’t force things. I just keep an open mind.
What are your future goals and aspirations as an artist? Are there any specific projects or collaborations you would like to explore?
Ima: This might sound a bit cliché as an artist, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t bother me; hence my future aspirations would be to own an art gallery full of really bigggg paintings done by me, and I would love to explore resin pour arts on big canvases. I want that marble effect. I want that reflective and glasslike effect. I just want my works to be mind-blowing. I want my art to come out loud, and I look forward to the manifestation of all my big dreams and aspirations.
Creatives Around Us granted permission to feature photos by Ima Udofot