For many artists, the digital sphere has been a necessary tool in reaching larger audiences and sidestepping possible gatekeeping from institutions. Instagram, with its emphasis on all things visual, has been particularly helpful.
Since the 2018 rollout of a feature that allows users to share other peoples’ posts in their Instagram stories, profiles on the social media platform have become reminiscent of the blogs on LiveJournal or Tumblr, with personal posts placed between music suggestions and images meant to boost an imagined aesthetic. Queued after videos from, say, a hike or a meal, you may catch the work of an unknown artist your old friend or little cousin admires — and find that, after visiting the artist’s profile, you admire them, too.
ALL ARTS has always been a platform meant to bolster the work of artists through a supportive community that transcends genre, and the ALL ARTS Instagram is no different. Now, with the aim to foster an arts community, we’re talking with emerging artists in our series: Artists of Instagram.
Meet Adryan Tunde Abii-Smith (@chidiabiistudio), a 29-year-old digital artist based in London.
“I got into art at a young age … I wasn’t good at it, but I for sure appreciated it!” Abii-Smith said of his humble beginnings. He credits a creative aunt who he aspired to emulate early on — “by liking the same music as her, the same clothing as her and her love of incense.”
Abii-Smith’s experience as an artist has varied over time: His eventual “obsession” with architecture led him to start multiple Instagram accounts dedicated to photos of the designs he appreciated. He said he toyed with the idea of studying architecture, but spending time in school for it didn’t “sit right” with him.
“I opted for business (huge mistake) and decided to develop my skills on my own,” Abii-Smith said. “Funnily enough, I self-taught when it came to illustrating. This all took place during lockdown.”
We spoke with the artist about his work, his inspirations and what art means to him.
What does art mean to you? How does it fit into your story?
Art to me means escapism and self-expression. It also means therapy. I threw myself into illustrating because I wasn’t dealing with the pandemic, BLM [Black Lives Matter] and other issues well. My anxiety spiked. Illustrating has been a healthy distraction and has also given me a skill I didn’t know was as valuable as it’s turned out to be! It’s also lead me to seek out a new path professionally, and I am now moving away from marketing and into product design. It’s put me in my bag and I am forever grateful to it!
How would you describe the type of art that you create?
I’d describe my art as digital and random. I see poses online, in person, from the shoots my friends put together, and I draw inspiration from them. I adore Black people and the Black figure. We come in so many variations, and I try to capture this as best as I can, then exaggerate it! I want my art to come across as surreal and otherworldly; over-the-top, for sure, but I love art because it can be whatever you want it to be.
How has social media and the digital sphere helped you with your art career?
Social media has helped me a lot. It’s given me the exposure I knew I needed and introduced me to some amazing creators who I learn from every single day. However, I tend to remind myself on a daily basis to not create art to just post on the ‘gram and Twitter, but to create when I feel inspired … That’s when I produce my best pieces. The viral moments I have had have been surprising and chaotic, but they have exposed me to so many great individuals who genuinely like what I create.
How has the current global climate affected your art?
The virus forced me to create. I found myself unemployed and stuck for things to do, so I started to flex my creative muscle. I was stuck at home looking at my four walls, so I don’t want to say it was out of sheer boredom, but I also want to say it was out of sheer boredom. However, the social climate around our lives mattering really guided my creative process. Black people have always mattered and the struggle has always been there; last summer really brought this to the forefront. For me, a Queer Black man, the protests and injustice my community saw/is seeing caused me to try and put something creative and positive out into the world.
How do you find inspiration?
It’s hard. The city I live in doesn’t inspire me much, so I look to my family and friends. I am Dominican and Nigerian, so I grew up around Black people from rich cultures. From living in the Caribbean and being surround by so much color, it had a direct impact on what I see as aesthetically pleasing, thus impacting the art I create today. I also have an array of friends who work in the creative field and produce amazing work — they inspire me to keep up the hard work.
What other artists inspire you?
Two of my close friends — Christina Ebenezer, a photographer, and Ola Ebiti, a stylist — are two creatives I really look up to. Sacrée Frangine (a fine art French duo), Charlotte Edey and Tishk Barzanji are huge influences when it comes to color choices and shapes. There are a few others … The list is kind of endless.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
To any artists afraid of getting into the game, don’t be. The worst thing that could happen is you not actually trying! Always know your worth and create with purpose. ❤
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Top Image: Courtesy of Adryan Tunde Abii-Smith.