What is your profession?
I am a full time professional fine artist
What does that entail?
Art is a visual language and an artist uses this language to express himself, to interpret themes and ideas in a creative way. Examples of art include painting, drawing, sculpture, animation, mixed media etc. I use my skills as a fine artist to make a living.
How did you get here?
I realized from a tender age that I was an artist; that I had an innate talent. I have nurtured this talent and decided to pursue it both as a passion and a career path.
What academic qualifications do you hold?
I have a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Kenyatta University and a masters also in fine art from the same university. I have also studied animation at Kwa Zulu Natal University in Durban, South Africa.
One of Kamunya Wanjuki’s paintings, former President Mwai Kibaki inspecting a guard of honor
What skill set is required for your job?
Education is very important for an artist as it helps to hone one’s skills and expose them to new materials and forms of expression. It also allows you to find your niche within the various forms of art mentioned above such as sculpting, drawing, animation etc.
That said, talent is important because its what drives your creativity to express yourself in the various art forms.
Passion is necessary because if you are passionate about what you do you will do it to the best of your ability.
What challenges do you encounter as a fine artist?
creative block- occasionally I get a mind block where ideas do not flow as easily as they should. To counter this I take time off to re-energize myself.
When you earn a living on art another challenge is finding a balance between exercising your creative freedoms and a client’s specifications. You must not compromise or lose yourself and at the same time you must meet the client’s needs. This might mean that you have less creative freedom but you must use your imagination and creativity to come up with something spectacular within the given specifications.
Another iconic piece of art by Kamunya wanjuki. This one sits at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s departure terminal
Do Kenyans appreciate art?
There is the perception that Kenyans do not appreciate art (and hence is a difficult field to make a living in) but I think its a faulty cliche. Kenyans love beautiful things. Traditionally art was a way of life. We created functional pieces for daily use, rituals and ceremonies.
We decorated our bodies and huts, created elaborate jewelry and fashion items. These days artists are creating pieces that might not immediately resonate with many Kenyans but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
As art forms evolve, it is our duty as artists to introduce these contemporary styles to people. We also have a challenge to create artworks that will resonate with people.
What would you tell a prospective graduate/ job seeker who wants to be a fine artist?
- Hone your skills by first getting relevant education/ training as this will open you up to the world or art
- Start building up a bio. A bio is like a CV for an artist. Since art is visual, clients will want to see what you can do practically and what you have done before. Even if you are still in university or recently graduated start documenting your work chronologically. Note exhibitions you have participated in, works that have been taken up by major collectors, pieces you have sold etc. This professional bio will go a long way in helping you build a name.
- Take up an apprenticeship. Working and studying under an already established professional will give you time and space to grow yourself and your art.
- Expose your work. You can only make a living as an artist if people see your work. Participate in exhibitions and post your work on social media such as Facebook and Instagram where it can be seen by thousands of people.
- Expose yourself to new areas of art, new ideas and new forms of expression e.g. by reading, following established professionals as mentors etc.
- Look for art residences in other countries where you can learn more and expose yourself to new ideas
- Learn to accept criticism as it will help you grow
- Keep practicing art for art sake. This will keep your talent and passion alive
What have you learned about life, education and career?
Education helps us to find ourselves, find our niche. Doing what we love, what we are passionate about enables us to live a happy life.
You can see more of Kamunya’s work at www.kamunya.com