Join us on our journey to unite elmwood talent and those we admire in one-to-one chats spanning everything and anything creative in our series, Creative Conversations.
UK Marketing Manager, Alex, interviews Digital Artist and Product Designer Adryan Tunde Abii-Smith.
Meet London-based digital artist Adryan Tunde Abii-Smith. There is an immediate sense of intrigue with Adryan’s work that caught my eye, and the story behind how his journey as an artist developed is just as inspiring.
From exaggerated limbs and dedicated use of rich color tones, Adryan’s passion for architecture paired together with tying in his own experiences as inspiration creates a beautiful figure which serves as his muse across his personal portfolio. This, alongside the positive outlook he conveys across his work, was something I wanted to further explore.
How did you initially get into design?
I always had a passion for architecture, and initially wanted to study architecture at university. I settled for business management. I hated it. I then worked my way through fashion and different forms of design. Right at the start of 2020 I decided to get into Visual Design and took a bootcamp course… I guess that was my first professional step into the world of design.
How did you use the first lockdown to build on your design skills and go into design full-time?
I actually quit my job in marketing. I saw this as the only opportunity to immerse myself in design without annoying distractions. It was risky, but it paid off as things tend to if you have a genuine passion for them… Right? Well, in my case I was lucky enough to have it pay off (regardless of the sleepless nights of refining my portfolio, revisions from clients and anxiety, ha!)
As a mostly self-taught creative, how did you go about learning the skills you possess today?
I decided to design every day and seek help, advice and critique from professionals who were already in the industry…. Not just other illustrators, but photographers, those working in architecture and those working in brand and digital design. I thought it was important to get a well-rounded view on my work and ways I could elevate it. I used the money I saved from my previous job, and what I made by freelancing, to buy myself a new Mac and iPad and took it from there.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
It’s weird because I get asked this a lot and I routinely don’t even know. I have a natural pull to illustrate figures with exaggerated limbs and clothing. I think that stems from my working history in fashion and wanting to design buildings. My other natural and intentional style is to illustrate Black characters and people of color. My saved palettes are of very rich tones of black and brown, some with red undertones. I always wanted to in some way represent my community through whatever creative endeavour I undertook….this want found its way to my illustration style.
How did digital influence your work, particularly in creating UI design-based work?
Digital has a part to play in shaping the way I design. Digital trends are vital when it comes to UI work and being a Product Designer means that some of these trends, whether I like them or not, need to be followed!
Can you elaborate more on the Black Figure in your work?
My design choices, especially personal ones, come from my own experience. I design Black Figures as that is what surrounds me, daily. There’s a lack of Black designers and overall representation in the design community. I wanted to fill this void through my content and my actual presence.
How does social media influence your work?
Positively and negatively! I remember an illustration tweet of mine going viral…it was like a high as the numbers climbed every day for a week or so. However, I found myself at points designing for my social media, and not for myself. That can compromise the quality of the pieces I make… I try to remind myself daily that platforms like Instagram and Twitter are great for communication purposes, but the likes and shares don’t equate to your worth and level of talent… cliche but so true!
How does your Dominican and Nigerian background and the individual cultures inspire you as a creative?
The landscape and music from both cultures influence me most. I am connecting with my Nigerian side more and more, and my Dominican roots influence me in everything I do. They play a huge part in some of the names I give my pieces, the expressions I give my characters and the colors I choose to use.
With the US celebrating Black History Month in February, how does the importance of highlighting black culture influence your work?
I’d actually love to vividly showcase more black culture within my work. I design and illustrate so many black figures throughout the year to disrupt the notion that we can only celebrate our blackness in October and February. My work is affected in a wholly positive way, Black Culture makes me create on a constant basis. I get my inspiration from blackness all around me.
How would you encourage others to educate themselves this Black History Month?
I would say, ‘Look into Blackness on a global scale. We exist everywhere, outside of the UK and US.’ I’d also say, ‘Educate yourself outside of the confines of BHM and continue to do the work and reading without being ready to apologize for it. I think many who aren’t Black jump to a feeling of pity as opposed to allyship. It’s important to not conflate the two!’
You mention the importance in highlighting the current global climate in your art – how do you do so?
I do so by offering my design services to different charitable causes, when they ask. I’m willing to offer my labour to causes that are important on a global scale and look to positively boost the state of those less fortunate.
Can you describe your creative direction in three words?
Queer, stimulating, nude.
Where do you feel most inspired?
Not in London! I feel most inspired during the summer and when I am on vacation… The escapism will always inspire me. Music inspires me a lot. My Spotify wrapped for 2021 was a bit of a shocker when it came to the number of minutes I spent listening to music, but it really stimulated my creative process and made designing a more enjoyable experience!
Any upcoming installations in London you would recommend to other creatives?
I’m not sure about specific installations, but there is a stunning gallery in north London called ‘HOME” and run by a cool creative called Ronan Mckenzie. If you’re around, head there! The Tate also have a cool exhibition called ‘Life between islands’. It showcases Caribbean – British art and is on until April!
Discover Adryan’s Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/chidiabiistudio/
Discover our Creative Conversations 02 edition here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CZZoOGBMzF-/