January 30, 2011

People You Should Know: Toyin Odutola

The gift of artistic skill is priceless. I so greatly admire those who are able to take their ideas and inspirations and turn them into tangible pieces of art. Toyin Odutola is most certainly one of those people. 

Toyin Odutola
Our families are actually long time friends and many many many years ago, my family visited Toyin’s family in Alabama. I can still remember following her around all over her house and spending so much time just flipping through her sketchbooks and staring in awe at all the amazing drawings she did. I had never seen anything quite like the images that she created. Now, several years later, I find myself still staring in awe at her drawings, only this time I am gazing through her online portfolio instead of her sketchbook. She is hands down one of the greatest artists I have ever met in my life and I am so  glad that I have the opportunity to share her work with all of you. 

How would you describe your artistic style?
Possibly the most difficult question...I've been meaning to attempt to answer this question for the last four months. For now, I'd say it an exploration into identity art through portraiture utilizing pen ink as a vehicle to explore how rendering skin cannot simply alter perceptions of race, but how certain employments of mark-making can alter a presence in its entirety--to get at the true isolation and displacement (a la feelings) of the subject being portrayed.
What medium(s) do you work with?
Right now, I work exclusively with pen ink. However, in the past I have worked extensively with charcoal, chalk, graphite, oil, acrylic, wood stain, and oil pastel.

Are you self taught or do you have formal training?
I'd like to say both, for I feel all creative people are self taught. I mean, that's how it all got started. But am in grad school now, so I cannot deny that influence and instruction.
Where do you get your ideas for your pieces?
Inspiration for pieces comes from a variety of sources. I cannot specifically pin-point one, but I'd have to say I'm consistently attracted to photographic reference images which portray individuals with arresting stares. I am drawn to deadpan stares and glaring portrayals.

What is the message you want to convey through your art? Are there any beliefs you have that show through your art?
This is really difficult to answer right now, since that is the exact question I aim to answer through my studies in grad school now. I apologize for sounding so cryptic, but as of yet I don't truly know. I do know what I wish my drawings to make the viewer fell, which is along the lines of discomfort and a tinge of melancholy. When it comes to certain beliefs, it's mainly political ones that come through, I think. I'm an avid post-colonial, Black Panther sympathizer, extremely liberal, pro-feminist, anti-social-label/categorization-construct, pro-sexuality-is-fluid, keep-religion-out-of-politics individual. However, I do not feel such sentiments are overtly obvious in my work nor do I aim to inject such a stance in my work forcefully. My art exists in an extremely personal realm and my public identity simply occupies a fraction of that. The rest is a lot less noticeable.

 Do you work on your art certain hours each day or only when you are inspired to work?
I'm a nocturnal animal. I am most alive in the wee hours of the night. However, I have noticed that from the few all-nighters I've done throughout this semester, I am also most active around dawn, which is interesting. I notice that I work late simply because it is when everything is still and most quiet. I'm easily distracted and restless during the daytime. My work demands a lot of concentration and investment of time, so I have to have a moment where I can separate myself and focus.

What do you put in your art that represents you?
I like to tag my portraits with hints of myself, i.e. septum rings, cartilage rings, &etc. Hair is a signature as well, and I enjoy portraying hair from the standpoint of my experience and overlaying that experience on my subjects. Such minor touches add a sense of subjectivity to me my work that is more visible than some of the concepts and/or "ideals" addressed in the question above. One could describe these accents as acknowledgement of my existence, my stamp, on an object which can be interpreted as making the portraits more human-like, even though they are heavily abstracted.

Do you have any influences or any other artists you look to for inspiration when it comes to your art?
Kara Walker, Laylah Ali, Lorna Simpson, Kehinde Wiley, Kerry James Marshall, Egon Schiele, Adrian Piper, Yinka Shonibare, Glenn Ligon, Hank Willis Thomas, Wangechi Mutu, Julie Mehretu, Whitfield Lovell, James Jean, John Singer Sargent, ...and there are more, I'm sure, but my mind is blank of them at the moment.

 Simply amazing, these images definitely snatch my attention. Toyin’s attention to detail is incredible, there is so much emotion in every single line. Her work is a true example of fine art. Thank you so much Toyin, you’ve got that good good!

To check out Toyin’s portfolio, click here! And follow her on tumblr here!


  1. She's a great artist!! Nice Post!!

  2. This is truly awesome and unique!
    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Anonymous1/30/2011

    WOW. I'm speechless.

  4. I've been following her on tumblr for quite awhile. She is extremely gifted and I look forward to seeing her progress.

  5. She is incredible and there really is a lot of emotion in her drawings. GREAT interview, probably my favorite that you have done so far!

  6. These are really hot, she is so talented!!

    Fashion Rehab

  7. Its always refreshing to see an artist's take on things..almost makes me want to pick up a pencil and sketch pad again..


  8. Lovely, makes me wanna pick up my paint brushes again

  9. simply incredible & extremely awe-inspiring. wow, never seen art like this before!

  10. I totally agree her art just leave you in total shock and mesmerized...its so beautiful and strong and expressive...she is truly talented...thanks for introducing her to us!


  11. ebinehita1/31/2011

    Beautiful x

  12. her works are amazing! i love how the drawings convey emotion :)

  13. Wow...such amazing work. Thanks for doing this feature, I love learning about people you otherwise might not have heard about.

  14. Anonymous1/31/2011

    Whoa! So crazy! LOVE IT! its a refreshing take on art!


  15. wow.. love that... real art

  16. Her work is beautiful so is she!

  17. She really is beautiful! And her art is breathtaking. I enjoyed reading this, she is a very smart woman, her answers were thought provoking.

  18. Whoa, VERY cool artwork! How cool is our generation? I get so inspired by all of this talent!



  19. Yemi U.2/02/2011

    These really are amazing...Toyin is really talented! I love all these Nigerians on your bloggie!!

  20. OMG! This is truly remarkable!!!!!!! I am in awe!

  21. Thank you all so much for commenting! I'm glad you all love Toyin's work as much as I do!!

  22. love it!
    thanx for the blog love!


  23. Wow this is incredible. It has definitely inspired me to do more artwork. I love it. Thank you for such a sweet comment it really made me smile :)

  24. omg she really has talent!
    I love all the pieces, CAPOLAVORO! :D


  25. I would so buy her art. She is extremely good!

  26. Absolutely Awesome!!!!! She is amazing. I wish she had a exhibit showing in my area, I so would go. I love every piece you posted. I'm gonna check her out. I'm gonna be showcasing some artists in my blog in the future. I love to add her to the list. I am in awe.

    ***Risha's Summersoulful Blog***

  27. ahhh-mazing. my eyes just rest on these pieces. brilliant. reminds me tiny bit of a finnish graphic designer laura laine.



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