From Lagos, Nigeria, Olubunmi John is an incredible concept artists with a hunger to learn, share and push his work to new heights. I met him on Artella and quickly knew others would be inspired by his story and passion for his craft. Former animator turned concept artist, we think you will enjoy his adventure.
Artella: From what we understand you used to be an animator but found your way to concept artist. Can you tell us about what made you make that transition?
Olubunmi: Before I knew how animated movies were made, I use to draw all the time, making my own comic book strips; mostly my own versions of Spiderman. So even when I started learning animation, I still did paintings on the side, creating concepts has always been part of me, I only discovered later on in my life that I had to embrace it fully.
When I began transiting to being a concept designer I was confused. I reached out to someone that has always been of help to me in animation, Ben Rush (he’s an animator at Pixar), and he gave me some great advice. He told me to focus on my concept art and, when I got a professional gig, I could learn from the animators in the studios I was working for. But now everything has changed for me. I know that I want to do concept design fully and I’m glad I went that route.
At first I thought, I did not know what I was doing, but with beautiful words about my art from friends, I went “all in” on concept design. It has been a beautiful journey ever since, learning new things everyday by studying and looking at the works of artists that inspire me.
Artella: What does your background in animation give to your as a concept artist?
Olubunmi: Storytelling. When I did Animschool’s feature animation class, we were taught how important to make every action in the scene have a reason behind them. Same goes for concept designs for animation and films, using color and light to set the story; i.e. what time of day, season, incident, etc. You use the elements in the scene to lead the eye to the focal point. You are making everything count in the scene, and one way or the other, they are helping to establish the story you are trying to tell with a painting.
Artella: How did you break into the freelance world and what advice would you give to other artists looking to do the same thing?
Olubunmi: When I started doing concept design full time, I left my animation job (crazy,i know) and started working on personal projects and posting regularly online (Artstation, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter). This led me to meet a lot of artists and ask questions. Even joining groups on Facebook. Because I’m posting in all the places, I’ve had people reach out to me to work on projects for them, and I’m not gonna stop posting!!! Bigger opportunities still await me.
For artist that wants to work as freelancer, be sure when making the decision, it’s not gonna be smooth sail. Take it or leave it, work will come and, sometimes for months, work will disappear. Don’t be terrified if people are not reaching you you, you just need to keep improving your portfolio and look for studios online to apply to.
Artella: What has been your biggest obstacle professionally?
Olubunmi: I would say my location. I want to attend lots of workshops, meet friends, meet my favorite artists, but they are thousand of miles away from me. I want to be in the place where I will have lot of people that do my kind of stuffs and far better than me, so I can continue learning from them!
I have also lost a big gig before, because I was not in the US – sad. So I can relate with everyone here in my country doing awesome arts, but not easily meeting their art heroes.
Artella: If there was one thing you would tell your younger self now when you were starting out what would it be?
Olubunmi: “Learn how to dance”…(ha ha.. kidding). It would be don’t be afraid to try, just try everything, learn as much as you can. Don’t be a limited artist. Recently I have been looking at artists in live action film and the game industry for inspiration. They make use of everything they can get a hold of to create great concept designs.
Artella: What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Olubunmi: I have learned that you don’t get great jobs all the time. Most jobs seem to appear as if it’s a sure gig at the onset, but just at the last minute the client will go radio silent or you won’t hear from them again. Don’t worry, it’s happens, keep trying. I used to take it personally. As long as your work keeps improving, new opportunities will come that will lead to the greatest works of your life.
Also learned how important it is as freelancer to charge the amount that will cover you very well. Remember, you are not earning a salary.
Artella: Would you mind telling us a bit about your idea, AZAI and when can we expect to see you dive into Artella to bring it to life… nudge 😉
Olubunmi: My AZAI idea started the time I decided I didn’t want to be a limited artist. I wanted to try new painting techniques, add to my tools to create concept art so that I could move closer to being able to do designs for films.So I thought about a project that I could use to do these experiments, and because of my love for the Japanese culture, I created, and am still creating, a universe based on places in Japan.
The Azai story is not fully fleshed out yet and I’m still working on the look of the project. Major inspirations are Rurouni Kenshin, Mouse guard and Kung Fu Panda.
I definitely would love to put it on Artella when it’s fleshed out and looking interesting enough for other artists to develop interest in working on it. I can’t wait!!!!
One thought on “Artist Spotlight: Olubunmi John”
Great story and beautiful work Olubunmi. I look forward to seeing more of Azai.
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