Etubi Onucheyo: Your Tools Don’t Really Matter

Etubi Onucheyo is a digital illustrator from Nigeria. He says that your tools don’t really matter, just do your work and do it as well as you can.

Tell us who you are and what you do!

My name is Etubi Onucheyo and I am a digital illustrator, which means I draw for a living. I have spent the majority of my early life in Northern Nigeria. I spent my first ten years in Kano State, moved to a place called Nasarawa, and eventually ended up in Abuja for secondary school. A good portion of my family is art inclined. My mum was an actor, I have a bunch of uncles who paint and doodling brothers and cousins. So, I was already being pushed towards this art life since birth, but I never took in my art filled environment until recently.

I went to University in Enugu, Nsukka, but I have always considered myself to be a Northern boy. Like everyone, I have been drawing since i was little but unlike most people, I made my doodling into my career. I have been drawing professionally for about six to seven years. I started calling myself “Mumu illustrator” (foolish illustrator) because my comic was called “Mumu Juju” (foolish magic), which I did almost everything on it and tend to fool around but just a smidgen.

What is the inspiration for your work?

Growing up, I was heavily influenced by my older brothers especially Lanre (my third oldest brother) and everything animated on the TV, even now I am still under the same influences, but I have attached names to them.

I am inspired by life in general, anime, manga, cartoons, my art buddies (Mohammed Agbadi, Harrison Yinfaowei, Bolaji Olaloye and Ifesinachi) and a lot of random artists like Edwin Huang, Jeffrey ‘chamba’ Cruz and Oda Echiiro to mention a few.

Luckily for me, I have always been supported heavily by my family and close friends. I  never had that “don’t do that you will be poor” or “that is not a career” and I’m blessed for that. I also tend to be inspired by the most random things, for example; there is a meal in Nigeria called pounded yam which is served with an assorted selection of soups, but it is very stressful to make. Two years ago I was craving pounded yam and wasn’t willing to go through the process and wondered if any superheores were out there to help me pound my yams and boom! The idea for “Mumu Juju” came to me.

For style, apart from the artists I mentioned earlier, I love simplicity. I want to draw the human body in the easiest method. I want to know which curves and straight lines best represent the human anatomy.

I mainly draw digitally, but I am not shy of the pen and ink either! I choose the digital medium because it will make the process easier and save me a bunch on art supplies. I believe that your tools don’t really matter, just do your work and do it as well as you can and don’t forget to squeeze in time for practice.

Apart from fan art when I actually do personal projects it is usually about me (narcissistic I know) but I usually try to show what I feel in the simplest and coolest way possible.

What would you say to prevent an upcoming artist from making the same mistakes you have made?

Know your value because if you don’t there are a lot of people that will take advantage of that. If you want to do work for free let it be your decision. Exposure is not yet a valid currency and it is never going to be.

I have had and am still having people coming up to me trying to cheapen my work to save a buck or two. They will act like they don’t know that I have worked at this for a while. Some come in the guise of friends and that hurts the most. I blame myself a lot though because earlier on, I didn’t know my own value and so was trampled on so much.

What obstacles have you faced as a Black Artist/Business Owner? How did you overcome them?

As I said earlier,  I am lucky enough to have had support from my family about the career I chose, but that didn’t stop the terrible clients from coming. My obstacles haven’t been much different from anyone out there but the ones that stand out for me is time management and saying “no” to more work when you’re already stretched thin.

It is very easy to lose track of time when you’re engrossed in a particular illustration or deadline but now I follow a semi-strict time table. It is actually very flexible. I change it all the time due to the nature of freelance. My work ethic used to be terrible and I would have many late nights and early mornings, but after some unaccounted hours and blackouts I learned to get enough sleep.

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