Black History Month: Alexis Eke
In honour of Black History Month, we're interviewing some of our favourite Black Canadian artists to find out what inspires them and what advice they're giving for 2022 and beyond.
How did you get started on this career path? Was art always something you had a passion for?
It was! I knew I wanted to be some type of artist since I was in elementary school. I joined an arts program in high school called CyberArts – that program exposed me to the many fields in art and design, leading me to go to the York/Sheridan Design program. During that time, I started posting my work online, which opened up a lot of opportunities for me.
Do you have a personal philosophy?
My personal philosophy is to set my mind on things above. There’s a lot of peace in setting my mind on things above, namely Jesus. It's comforting to know that everything is not up to me, that I'm in God's hands.
What inspires you?
Surrealism, renaissance paintings and the Bible. When it comes to creating my illustrations and the concepts behind them, all three of these things play a part!
Any favourite art trends for 2022?
I don't really keep up with art trends, so I can't say I had a favourite one. I did like the art vs. artist trend, it was cool to see how so many artists look like their artwork.
What’s one piece of advice that you’ve received that you stand by?
Comparison steals joy! Comparing my artwork (and myself) with others robbed me of unique creativity in my own work and contentment in life. After hearing that advice, I realized I had to guard my joy –– something I never thought about. Now, I try my best to focus on developing my skills and looking to God for guidance.
What’s your favourite piece of artwork you have created?
I think the “Beyond the Grave” illustration I created last year. It was a piece where I tried to experiment more with surrealism, and the message behind the piece still encourages me today!
Are there any “art rules” you love to break?
Yes! I love to leave some of the sketch lines in my portrait illustrations –– I don't always erase all the messy lines in my drawings.
What is your favourite artwork from another artist?
I love Kadir Nelson’s painting, “Tulsa” (2021) and Peter Uka’s “Still Riding” (2021). They are easily my favourite artists right now.
How do you see the Canadian art community evolving to become more diverse?
I think it's happening right now. However, I can see the Canadian art community becoming more diverse by seeing more artists of colour showcasing their work in larger art institutions. More eyes on different types of work (by artists from different cultures) plays a big part in making the art community more diverse. It’s harder to create diversity if there aren't opportunities for diverse artwork to be seen.
How has your work shifted in an increasingly virtual world?
Strangely, my work has been starting to shift from digital to traditional. I’ve found myself “learning to draw” again, with sketching a lot more and getting into oil painting. A part of me thinks that with the pandemic and everything moving online, it pushed me away from wanting my art to only exist in a digital world. It's pretty refreshing!