Emmanuel Nwatu (Nuel) emerged the winner in Bic Art Stars Competition 2017. The 18-year-old has an artist father. The fact that his mother doesn’t support his ambition is one of the things that drew Emmanuel Nwatu to making murals.
Emmanuel Nwatu also attributes some of his love for arts to his art teacher. In this exclusive interview with Emmanuel Nwatu, he talked about how he got drawn to murals; how he improves his craft stepping out of his comfort zone to make murals, even when he risks sunburns. Lol. Emmanuel Nwatu, however, says, “making murals is maths.”
VUN: Talk about your background and what drew you to murals?
Nuel: My background. Well, I come from a family of scholars, everyone values formal education here. But you see, my Dad is an exception. He’s into arts; I picked up most of my skills from him. He takes me along always. Thing is, he doesn’t make much money from it (he’s getting better now). Mom doesn’t approve of me doing arts, I guess that’s my driving force.
That was just a head start. My love for the arts and making murals started off when I met my art teacher, that man taught me everything I know. He says this thing about artists having a sixth sense and a 3rd eye. I guess he helped me find mine.
VUN: Your driving force is that your mum doesn’t approve of it; why is that?
Nuel: Exactly! “There’s no money in Arts.” She says that all the time. It wouldn’t be that bad to prove her wrong, right?
VUN: What makes you convinced that you would be able to prove your mother wrong?
Nuel: *laughs* It’s not much, but at least we get paid. And we won’t stop. We push!
VUN: How do you market yourself to ensure you get paying jobs?
Nuel: I don’t put out most of my works. But my position as the best student artist courtesy of Bic (till another one is conducted) really made waves for me. Now and then, the judges of the contest recommend jobs for me. It’s been an endless cycle ever since then.
VUN: Why don’t you put out most of your works?
Nuel: I do plan on putting out my works more often. But you should get the nature of my job. Client’s demands most times are exact. No avenue to freely explore. For instance, I made murals for 2 schools this summer (you can already tell). To me, putting out murals suggesting a library or girls in uniform is too mundane. I feel I should put out works that are worthwhile. A masterpiece per say.
VUN: How do you define masterpiece?
Nuel: Masterpiece? A work which embodies an artist’s intellectual, fused with his manual dexterity and in sync with the rudiments of art.
VUN: Don’t you think that some of the works you describe as mundane could help you get more opportunities to work and get paid, give you more visibility and possibly create the opportunity to work on the masterpiece?
Nuel: You’re not wrong. I’ve thought of it actually. I’ll do just that.
VUN: How do you improve your craft?
Nuel: Easy. I explore. Exhibitions once in a while. Plus, I try out materials, new media – from poster to oil paints down to acrylic. Anything to make me fastidious.
VUN: What emotional, psychological processes and logistics are involved in making murals?
Nuel: Imagine a clean slate. Blank. Right on the spot where every eye can see it. And right there, you’re to soil it. People will say, “But it’s perfect being just blank”. They are not wrong either; I mean, space is equally an element of art.
But, so is design, colour… And it’s your job to wield crude tools while channelling your inner muse amidst the comments being thrown at you by the ever curious audience.
I must say, making murals is maths.
VUN: “Making murals is maths”, I find it funny. Don’t tell me you struggled with maths in secondary school.
Nuel: Tasking rather. Side note – I am an ace student in Mathematics. Can you tell? I am bragging?!
VUN: *laughs* Brag on dear! Which other muralist influence you?
Nuel: I have only one on my list – Chris Ekwuemesi. He has this way of experimenting with Uli technique while still working on his motif. His works are unrestrained. I love that.
VUN: Which art trends do you follow?
Nuel: Expressionism. Though outdated still. I think Uli technique is the bomb. I mean, our fore Fathers ( the very first muralists) used them on their walls. Only that each symbol has a meaning attached. I am still learning this. I’ll get better soon enough.
VUN: What is your day like when you have murals to create?
Nuel: Murals, murals! Well, beforehand I should have conceived an idea; the gentle spirit helping me, I put it down on my paint pad. Afterwards, I plug on my headphone and take a walk to market scenes or even the mall whichever that works. Then I go back and add little touches here and there.
Oh, I forgot to mention. I eat a lot before doing murals! And apart from my tools, I must have my sunscreen handy at all times. Sunburn is not my thing.
VUN: Why would you do art on such large scales when you know you can’t risk a sunburn?
Nuel: For one thing, I have a renowned dermatologist in my family. It’s kind of an old habit and you know, these things take time. I won’t say it has much influence on my work as a muralist. Responsibility comes with getting off your comfort zone.
VUN: What advice would you give to other budding muralist?
Nuel: To all budding muralists, I must say; we are all artists painting our lives on the canvas of reality. So, go out of your way and mix the colours liberally. Paint your heart out; don’t be afraid to let your brush strokes show. And above all, make sure your art has a soul. The world will be better for it. You’ll be better for it.