Abena, thank you so much for agreeing to share your journey with us.
Please tell us a little bit about you:
My name is Angelina. Nowadays, though, I go by Abena Oyiwaa
Beautiful name. Is that a pseudonym?
Lol. No. It is my name. I begun using Abena Oyiwaa when I started my art. My art talks about identity so it was important to me to go with my authentic self and that for me is Abena Oyiwaa.
That’s impressive. Many people struggle though, to be authentic
True. It’s not easy to be yourself in a world where everyone wants to be someone else. But as a business owner, and especially as an artist, you need to set yourself apart.
Truth is, people can spot fake and you’ll lose business pretending to be someone you’re not.
I totally agree
Could you walk us through your education?
I completed my first degree in Accounting at UEW, and then did my national service. At the time, I was practicing only pencil art so I did that for about 3 months while searching for a job. Along the line, I saw ads on tonaton and jiji of people selling their art. That’s when I decided to take commissions for pencil portraits.. And, I must say, once I made that decision, my family and some of my friends were supportive.
You’ve mentioned you are self-taught. How and when did that happen?
I’d say the artist in me was born in junior high. Back then, my favorite subject was pre-tech. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to read visual arts in school even though I wanted to. I’m an African child after all (hahahahah). So I went to Aggrey Memorial A.M.E School in Cape Coast and read Business Studies.
I still needed an outlet for my art so I joined the creativity and art club in school. That club perfected my skills. Unfortunately,it was apparently for just visual arts students so I was kicked out of the club. I was just line sketching before joining the club, as time went on, I learnt how to shade.
Learning to shade challenged me and I loved it. Unfortunately, I had to stop and continue with my “laid out plan of education”. So, I went to University of Education, Winneba and studied accounting.
How did you find your way back to art?
I did my first pencil portrait for my parents when I was in Uni. Then a family friend asked for one. That was my first commission and the start of 30 pencil commissions in about a year and half.
Amazing! So you can say your family and close associates were your first customers?
Same for me. When I first run the branding course, my cohort largely came from within my immediate circle. I think an important business tip from this is to have a supportive circle who believe in you and the work you do.
How do you price?
When I started, I was charging peanuts (laughs). So, I checked with other artists who advised me to increase my prices. I consider type of art, its concept, size and medium used (acrylic or oil) in deciding my price.
Important pricing tip: Consider cost of production, time, market value and effort in determining how much to sell your product or service
What helped you grow as an artist?
Mentors – Remember I had been doing pencil art this whole time. When I decided to do paint, I called Mohammed Awudu (a renowned painter in Ghana) for guidance. He really came through for me. I called him on Wednesday, we scheduled to meet on Saturday. And when we did, he was on-site working on a big project with other established artists. Moh gave me some guidance and literally gave me a brush to paint one side of a giant canvas. I’m glad he gave me an opportunity to be part of something big. That painting was mounted at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly city hall during the 2020 Heritage Art Festival.
Then lockdown came. Lool. During that time also, I reached out to Ahmed Partey who is now my husband. He gave me tips and in time, I did my first Acrylic on Canvas painting.
So I would say mentors and my persistence and willingness to learn shaped my growth as an artist
Huge congratulations on your marriage Abena! And well done on reaching out to others who were already in the game for collaborations and support.
Please tell us about your first painting.
I did some acrylic painting but the one which really blew up was my first oil painting, “Peace Within”
Other artists had mentioned how difficult it was to make oil paintings, so, I wanted to challenge myself. It’s the best thing I ever did for myself. I could say I sold other paintings because of “peace within”.
My advice is, don’t stop challenging yourself. And as an artist, don’t stop creating. You don’t know which creation will be your claim to fame. Keep at it. And also don’t be scared to ask for help when you need it.
It is interesting to me that you sell on LinkedIn. How did you come up with that?
People advertise their work profiles on LinkedIn. Well art is my profession. The added edge I have is that, It’s also my passion. I don’t repurpose my art. Whatever you see there is original and speaks to my authenticity and people love that.
LinkedIn opened international doors to me. All my art have been purchased by people who live outside Africa.
I would say, don’t box yourself. Be open to possibilities and use every tool and resource at your disposal. LinkedIn has been that tool for me and I’m glad it sets me apart.
LinkedIn aside, I am an Artist fellow of Forme Femine, an online art gallery designed for African artists to express their creative thoughts on African Femininity.
Abena, we are really impressed by you and we want to thank you for all the fine gems you’ve shared with us. Any last words?
Love, Love, Love what you do. Have your story and be true to it. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you stay consistent, you’ll win as I did and continue to.
Thank you Abena.
Support Abena’s art by reaching her on the following channels:
LinkedIn: Angelina Ampofo Asomaning