Intention vs. Spontaneity

You asked me if there is any meaning behind the background colours that I use and actually, there is and at the same time there isn’t. So, there isn’t, in the sense that I try as much as possible to be spontaneous in the use of colour, I’m trying to get rid of that rigidity that I associated with my realistic paintings. But yeah, as much as there is this spontaneity, I also love planning, because I like to balance my colours, I like contrasting colours. If there is going to be a bright one somewhere, there has to be a dark one to kind of complement that, because I mean, as human beings we are not straight forward really, it’s not like we are all bright or peachy, we have those dark emotions, too, you know, anger and irritability. So I try to balance when it comes to my colour palette.

Swirls: yellow, pink, blue

Regarding the swirls, each of those paintings mirrors past stages of my life. The pink swirls, for example, they were mainly me not giving a…. well, let’s say, I didn’t really care anymore in the sense that I wasn’t bothered. It was the state of mind that I was in, regardless of what would happen, I’d just keep on walking. I’d just take one day at a time. I wasn’t having like the 5-year plan at that time, I was just trying to get through each day, and the figures were reflective of my state of mind at that point in time. They were more laid back, even though some of them had that bit of anxiety within, but they weren’t any kind of action figures, they weren’t dynamic, let me put it like that. They were more relaxed, laid back and quiet, like when you’re trying to be calm in the middle of everything that is going on around you. I wanted to reflect that in my work.

Painting by emerging female artist Yewande Ambeke from Nigeria for Suboart Magazine Interview 2022
Trying Hard Not To Fret, 2022
Acrylic on Canvas, 20 x 30 inches
Painting by emerging female artist Yewande Ambeke from Nigeria for Suboart Magazine Interview 2022
Lost in Thought, 2022
Acrylic on Canvas, 20 x 30 inches

Then after that phase, I moved on to the yellow swirls: I had more energy, I was more optimistic, I was like I had everything figured out so with the yellow I wanted to reflect those bright skies, sunny days, a clear head, you know. But there are still hints of that dark contrast there, if you look at the back, it wasn’t pure yellow. Then the blue swirls were just me being tired, again, it was just like, you know, me trying to get through life. My titles actually reflect the states of mind that I talked about before. One of my titles “Beneath The Waters”, deals with, you know, to come up for air when you’re strangled by waters of emotions, and another one is “Swinging By In This Blue-Green World”, just trying to get through life. So the blue swirls were just a tired phase, figures were more staggering, it was like they were tired, just trying to get through to the end, it was just me underneath and in between high emotions and low emotions.

Then there are the ones which have the navy-blue background. They were the beginning of the seated figures, and that’s what I’m still doing right now. Besides taking on more personal experiences which I had, I wanted to implement the continuous support that I had from various people, and so that’s the series that I’m currently working on.

So to sum it up: as much as there is spontaneity, there are still intentions when it comes to my choice of colours, each series is very intentional. When I paint, I see something, you know…. I don’t really have words to explain the process, but when I paint something, I see some images and then I try to pick up on them, so there’s that room for spontaneity in my work.

Painting by emerging female artist Yewande Ambeke from Nigeria for Suboart Magazine Interview 2022
Laid Back, 2022
Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 30 inches

Conceptualisation takes time

So, this is a funny thing: my painting process, I mean the actual painting process on the canvas, takes me about one day to complete but the mental processes that lead up to that can take me weeks. First of all, when I want to start a new body of work, a new painting for example, I have to draw, I have to draw a lot, for as much as it looks like there’s no drawing in my works, trust me, there’s a lot of drawing underneath those figures. So I have to do a lot of practice in my sketchbook, because there is a way that I want the images or the figures to look like, in order to be able to portray what I want, and most of the time I have to do a lot of research. So, I’d research a certain type of body posture, or sometimes I’d take, you know, pictures of myself. I’m accused by my family of liking to sit crossed legged, so most of my figures, most of the times, they emerge from how I sit, how I lie down or how I relax. Sometimes I also have to practise, the anatomy of the hand, for instance. So, I’m always like: how will it go, how would this and that look? This drawing and research do take time.

And then I go and choose the colours. In that process, there is also research going on, I ask myself: “How do I want the viewer to feel, how do I want them to process my work?”

Once I decide on the balance between dark and warm colours, I think about how to mix the colour palette. Once this is figured out, I make my drawings on the canvas, moving the images around if I see something. Afterwards I premix my acrylic paints and store in airtight containers, ready to use on the painting day. Premixing also helps me get some specific shades of colours.

After doing all that, on the day that I’m actually going to paint, I try, as much as possible, not to draw anything because I want to have a free mind without the stress that can be caused by all the planning and research. I sit down because I like to be in this Zen mood, you could call it that. I don’t want anything messing up my head, and then I take the brush and then I just start.

My Day to Day

So, these days, because of the series of processes behind each work, I end up painting like maybe once a month, and then that’s a long week. The other 3 weeks, I try to rest because if I do too much, I feel that my head gets clouded, but these three-week breaks are still filled with a lot of work.

A typical day is like this: I start my mornings with my bible study and prayers because this gives me the strength for each day. Afterwards I exercise and prep to go to the studio. If it’s time to paint, I get right to work but if it’s not, I plan for the next paintings. This involves a lot of reading and drawing.

I try as much as possible to have at least two days in the week when I don’t do anything art related. I’m usually lazy on those days and I spend some time with my family and friends.

 I feel that as artists, we tend to evolve our lives around art, which is good, but you should take time out to rest, too. It’s what works for me & what keeps my creativity flowing: a good amount of rest & time away from my work, so once I’m back, I see my work in a new light.

Painting by emerging female artist Yewande Ambeke from Nigeria for Suboart Magazine Interview 2022
At Ease and At Peace, 2022
Acrylic on Canvas, 20 x 30 inches

Other than that, my daily tasks include storage, going through my paintings and trying to see if they’re free of dust, prep for exhibitions. When there’s spare time on Sundays, I check some galleries, see what works are exhibited, look through new sources of inspiration. So, there’s time for study, there’s time for rest, there’s time for planning, there’s time for prepping for the next exhibition and that’s basically how it goes.

Next page 3/4

Are you an emerging artist?
Subscribe to our email list to hear about new open calls.

For questions, don’t hesitate
to contact us

Read more artist interviews

In conversation with Ojo Agi

With Blackness at the center of her works, Ojo Agi’s figurative drawings on brown paper tell a story that transcends race. Informed by postcolonial theory,…

Read More

Just living life with Nyancho NwaNri

A lens-based creator out of Lagos, Nigeria, Nyancho NwaNri’s works revolve around African history, indigenous spiritual traditions, culture, languages, and social end environmental issues. An…

Read More

In conversation with Jacelyn Zhen

Under the name Bbblob, Singapore artist Jacelyn Zhen creates vibrant paintings, collages and wood sculptures. In our interview with her, we talked with Jacelyn about…

Read More


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Become friends on Instagram