The creative industry in Calabar is growing and the ‘Entrepreneur of the Month’ feature is set out to recognize and celebrate these young talents emerging from the Nation’s paradise city – Calabar.
Not too long ago we discovered the works of fast rising Calabar based artist, Timothy Undiandeye and we immediately feel in love with his creativity and use of waste for art.
In this interview, he shares his personal life, craft and other things. Enjoy the read!
- Tell us about yourself:
I’m the fourth child of five children. We are from Bedia village in Obudu, Cross River State. I was born and bred in Calabar, so, you can say I’m a Calabar boy.
I studied Human Physiology at University of Calabar. In one word, you can describe me as an artist-scientist.
- How did you come to know about your creativity and why the change in career?
As a kindergartener, I used to be fascinated by lines, shades and colours. In secondary school, I was a member of several clubs, including Junior Engineers, Scientists and Technicians (JETS) Club. Although I was a science student, I represented our school, Federal Government Academy, Suleja at art and poetry competitions. Our motto, ‘Creativity and Excellence’, literally rubbed off on me.
- What does art means to you?
Well, for me, art is an effective vehicle to communicate ideas in appealing ways that cuts across individual differences and biases. You know, communicating complex concepts like how the human heart works could be a big deal, using mere verbal communication. But with an illustration, ta-da! It comes alive in the mind of the student.
- What’s your goal as an artist?
Each time I make art, I want to function as God’s extended arm of creation. My goal is to fulfil the divine mandate to ‘…have dominion over the earth’. As an artist, I see myself as a miniature expression of God; a small reflection of His power to create. As Wale Adenuga puts it, I am nothing but pencil in the hand of the Creator.
- What plans do you have as an artist in Calabar?
Looking at the city, I must confess that the level of art appreciation is very low. Many creative guys just fall out to places like Lagos to hone their skills, but they seldom return home to contribute to improving the creative landscape here. I plan to start a Creative Hub where artists can have access to mentoring, networking and partnerships. I am mobilizing a team of young, passionate artists for this. It’s a climate change campaign, subsuming the SDGs.
We will get our act together and show it to the world through quality collaborations, exhibitions and fairs. With synergy, impossible is nothing.
- What inspires each art work?
Each time I have a new commission, I want to make it better than the previous one. My output resonates with the quality of material I have at my disposal too. There are times when I go through a ‘wilderness experience’, and altogether lose inspiration to work. But when it comes, you don’t wanna struggle with it. I sometimes wake from sleep to pen down an idea for a piece. Each work is different. I also study what other artists have done.
- How will you describe your works?
Eccentric. Captivating too, because I’m a realist.
- What challenges are you constantly faced with?
Number One, low level of art appreciation.
Number Two, low level of art appreciation! Marketing artwork in these parts is tasking. Most times you have to be doing something else by the side. So, you never get to be 100% committed to it. There’s also difficulty in sourcing materials. We have a smaller market here; vendors of quality materials are few and sell at expensive rates. Also challenging is the fact that my niche product, fabric collage portrait is a premium product. Getting clients to match the value of the product has been quite an uphill task. Recently, though, I had to start designing other products for the everyday customer segment.
- How would you describe the creative economy in Cross River State?
Visitors to Cross River State are often thrilled by just how much creativity we are surrounded with. From picturesque mountains and waterfalls to rare stage talent, Calabar, as we know it, is a creative attraction. But for all our burgeoning prospects, I think we are still scratching the surface of making business of it.
Our people need to patronize our own creative merchandise. Our creative entrepreneurs can beat the Lagos guys (I’m not trying to be hyperbolic!) We have them; the Iyanyas, LaShakaras, Luvitas, LaEstelles, Weeshotits, CalabarBlog… etc.
We have an enviable tourism profile. So the positioning is already there. All we need is the political will to organize our economic space, so that the creative industry can thrive. Maybe then, GTB can host her Food Festival in Calabar, (nobody chefs it better than Calabar!)
- Any plans to relocate?
Maybe. Maybe not. Anything can happen, especially with us creatives.
- How do you source for materials?
If I have to make art from recycled materials, it’s hilarious how far I could go. I collect fabric waste from tailors’ bins. Once, I stopped to pick up a bottle cap from a gutter because I thought its a rare colour would sit well in a composition I was handling. (…Yea, I’m crazy like that).
However, if I’m making regular art, I buy most of my materials (pastel, charcoal, paints) from art stores in Calabar.
- How long does it take you to draw a portrait?
Pencil/charcoal portraits, one day, max. For fabric collage portraits, my record time is two weeks.
- Have you shown your works/exhibition anywhere?
My first exhibition was at the Cross River State Youth Enterprise Showcase in 2014.
I also exhibited at The Bridge Leadership Foundation Career Day, 2014 and 2017. I also exhibited at the British Council Art Exhibition in December 2016. In June 2017, I was one of two Cross Riverians at The British Council Business Bootcamp in Lagos. My works have also been featured on ArtHouse on Channels TV.
- How affordable are your finished artworks and how can one get them?
Very affordable. A regular portrait goes for as low as N20,000. No hidden charges! (Laughs), For larger sizes, though, portraits could cost up to N50,000. However, for fabric collages cost upwards of N200,000, depending on the client. Yes, I work from photographs (preferably close-range pictures). I also stick to using lightweight materials, for easy delivery anywhere around the world.
- What is your best piece of art so far?
Let’s see…. It’s got to be the fabric collage Folorunsho Alakija. I found it particularly challenging because I’d never done collage of a female subject before. Plus, I executed it in just two weeks, against my usual four weeks.
16. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Five years from now, I’ll be a renowned Scientific Illustrator. Probably lecturing at a university. My creative enterprise, Spectabilis Creations will start fabricating scientific models from plastic waste. Real Naija stuff for the global market. I also see myself running this successful social enterprise, mentoring more youths and providing support to governments.
I’ve always wanted to host a modern gallery, run an open studio… host regular exhibitions… have a couple of kids with a virtuous wifey… (You know the rest of the gig…)
By God’s enabling grace, we’ll get there.
- Thank you, we are glad to have you
See other works of Timothy @