JEFFREY ONYANGO Illustrator & Visual Artist

It's sometimes difficult for creatives to put a title to what we do being that we tend to combine various techniques and styles to develop our fingerprint. Is that the case with you?


Yeah, it happens. I struggled trying to fit into certain titles which I find so limiting. Currently my focus is creating, communicating and sharing ideas in the best way possible and how I see fit according to the theme and how I want to present it regardless of style and technique.


When did you discover your passion for art and decide that this is what you wanted to do for a living?


I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember but after high school is when I decided art is what I want to pursue, although I did not know the specifics of what I wanted to focus on then.


A lot of grown folk here in Africa still don't value art as a career that can lead to self sustainability. Art is perceived more so as a hobby than a career. Is this something you have experienced?


Everyday. Sometimes it is hard for people to understand where you are coming from or what you are working towards. With time though they get off your back (some) if they see progress.


You've got a tone of cool artwork. One that really stood out to me was the Cravings project. Tell us about that


I did it back in campus when I was doing my project paper on Humour in Advertising. I did it as a separate ‘mock ad’ and also as practice as I was just learning my way around digital art.


In Kenya we have very few outstanding creative adverts. One of the things we at Jee Media are trying to do is to push for a unique and unusual approach to advertising using different types of art forms. The "Share the Love" campaign that you did a brilliant job on stands out as something new and different that people are not used to seeing on a publicized space. What did the project mean to you?


It meant a lot to me actually because I wanted to use illustration in advertising as I really think it can bring out ideas brilliantly and add a very unique feel to the industry. Getting that job really cemented that idea that it is possible.


What are some memorable projects you've worked on that stood out for you?


A personal project ‘21st century’ I did back in 2015. That stood out to me because it got a few people debating for and against it because of the subject matter. Sharing my perspective on something and see people share theirs on the same gives you a different view on things.


I have also done concept sketches for Osborne Macharia and Kevo Abbra’s personal projects. What I enjoyed most about those was the design process from the idea, concepts, props and the final photography.

With so many minds involved through that and everyone giving a bit of their flair was awesome to see.


You and I were fortunate to have passed through the Kenyan Art curriculum in high school. Did that course have an impact on your life as an artist?


For sure, I believe it gives you an edge because you are exposed early to the basics from elements and principles of art to having a rough idea of how to tackle and go through a design process and problem solving.


After high school you went on to take a course in design at the university. How was that experience?


It exposes you to bits and pieces of how design works and is applied, how the industry works and being able to major into a specific design discipline also lets you specialize and you are able to perfect what you want to do.


Who are some people that have inspired your journey as a creative to this point? and where do you get your inspiration from?


I’m inspired by a lot of creatives regardless of discipline (music, art, photography etc.) and anyone else I can learn and grow from.


Most of my inspiration comes from life (directly or indirectly), music, movies and random stuff that can spark up an idea you never imagined could.

As talented as you are, you're constantly doing studies and sharing them on your social pages. What keeps you from sitting back and getting comfy with the skills that you have acquired already?


In an ever-changing industry, I feel like you have to constantly keep growing and learning, not to only keep up with trends but towards your goals and visions.


For me it is all about how do I communicate better? What is the best technique or style to express this idea? How do I evoke emotion through this, is it with colour, facial expressions or poses?


I’m constantly trying to find ways to add impact to my projects.


Do you have days when ideas just don't seem to work? What do you do in such times?


Always. With personal projects, it is easier because you will constantly put them on hold when you get work within that period so by the time you come back to it you have a fresh perspective on it.


For commissions, it is harder because of tight deadlines but I usually take a break to watch or read something. Sometimes talking to someone about it can offer a different view on how to tackle the problem.


One important lesson you have learnt along the way that could motivate upcoming artists looking to take on art as a career?


There’s so much one can share, but I feel like the most important one is not to compare where you are (skill-wise) with where you wish you would be. Self- doubt and fear will not help you in any way other than hold you back.


Every expert started out as an amateur. All you have to do is work hard towards your goals and be disciplined about it.


Seek help from people you look up to if you can.


Be patient and always keep learning.