5 Questions with Laolu Senbajo
On being brave enough to believe
Artist Laolu Senbajo, a.k.a Laolu NYC, is one of your favorite celebrity’s favorite artist. The Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s work is regularly retweeted and regrammed by some of the biggest names in music, fashion and film. Laolu operates under the belief that “Everything is My Canvas,” which is why you can find his work adorning buildings, canvases, clothes—and bodies.
We caught up with art-world superstar to get his take on what’s necessary to find success in the creative world.
How does technology help you tell your art-and-motion stories?
Someone like Beyonce found me through Instagram. That's crazy! She, when we met told me "Oh, I loved your post two weeks ago. I love this jacket. I like that." That's insane cause in my own world I'm just in my studio doing my own thing, I thought nobody was watching me but people are watching you. So it's very important, the content you put out there and how you put it out there. For me, my phone has made it possible to show my art and show my process to the world.
You left behind a traditional career to pursue art. What advice would you give a young person facing a similar decision?
Coming from a Nigerian family where my dad was an attorney, my brother's an attorney, it was very hard telling them I wanted to be an artist. They were like, "How are you going to survive?" because they didn't understand me. But here's the thing: Deep down in your heart, you know what makes you happy. For me, I've never felt more alive than how I feel now. Just doing art full time. And that's the truth. This is my truth. I quit my job in 2013 and I moved to New York in 2013, and my life is like a movie. Young artists, striving artists, just have to understand that if this is what makes you happy … cherish it, just do it. Don't bother about any other thing. If I knew that 10 years ago, I would just have done art full time. I wouldn't have bothered going to school. If this is what makes you happy, do it.
What should creatives understand about the business of art?
You need not bother about fitting into a mold. Sometimes you have to take the back door. Spread your art; think outside the box. Think outside the traditional art mediums. When I moved to New York, I was going to galleries like," I want to show my art," but nobody would take my art. So I started painting on shoes. I painted on everything I could lay my hands on … just to get my art out there.
Any thoughts on developing your craft?
Open up your mind and be free to take criticism. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of your style. A lot of people run away from their style. Every artist has a core. Every artist has a rhythm. My rhythm is very, very unique. I can play with complex line. I can take a line on a walk. I make stories with it.
What kind of support system do you have around you?
Having a team is very important, having people who actually believe in you. As an artist in business, you need to learn to delegate. Let go. You can't handle everything. Sometimes I just want to be in my studio and just create. I don't want to be online. I don't want to be, you know, at events. Your art is eventually what is going mark your lifetime as an artist, the amount of art you create. So, I'm trying to create a large body of work that 40, 50, 60 years from now, 100 years from now what's left is my art. I want people to see that in museums. I want people to read that in books. I think every artist should actually focus on the work that's what matters.
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