The Art Carte [EP.53]
[00:00:00] Ladouce Nadabha: Now I'm in the illustration space coming from a traditional artist scene, how can I be able to show my work globally? Research, being able to expand your network and having a great online presence, I would say those are the key skills I've used and I will encourage other people to use to be able to transcend the international space.
[00:00:18] Afrika Design Ident: [Intro ident Sound]
[00:00:21] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Hello everyone. Welcome to the Afrika Design Podcast. My name is Naitiemu and I'll be your host for today's episode. This episode comes from one of our Twitter spaces, which are hosted by Nairobi Design. You can tune in live to these spaces as we delve into a wide array of topics all aimed at tackling societal issues through a design lens.
[00:00:42] So make yourself comfortable, sit back, relax, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the show.
[00:00:49] Afrika Design Ident: [Intro ident Sound]
[00:00:52] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Today's space is really to talk about how creatives can share their works more globally with a focus on illustrators because we happen to have Ladouce here. First, why are we focusing on digital arts this time round is because personally, from my own experience as a creator, I'm a visual artist. I tend to use different materials, both physical and digital.
[00:01:16] For me, digital art has come in really handy, especially during the Covid Pandemic where we could only share our art through digital media. And at first, the ease of creation, especially because when you create with digital media, there are different ways you can create. It's more forgiving, I'd say. It's more forgiving, for example, because you can have different layers which you can change. You can play around with colors, you can play around with different shapes depending on the tools you're using.
[00:01:46] And other than that, you can also distribute these pieces quite easily through different media. So there's a way that it's more accessible to people. You can also adjust the pieces according to the client's need. You know, if a client prefers a different color, it becomes quite easy.
[00:02:05] Just change the color and be able to show them different concepts. So it's actually really important for making concepts. You're able to change quite quickly depending on the client's preferences. And other than that, also I find it as a great tool in collaboration in that we can be able to share pieces across media such that if I wanna collaborate with different artists from different regions, in fact global regions.
[00:02:30] And we were able to communicate globally through these pieces. For those who are just joining us, this is Nairobi Design Spaces and we are a design agency and we have an annual festival. And for those who were able to follow us in 2021 during the pandemic, we actually had to adjust our festival which are usually physical to completely digital because again, the pandemic was there.
[00:02:57] So in that way, having a digital platform became really crucial. And in that way we're also able to manage having a festival digitally. So, these are some of the ways digital media can be quite relevant to our time, especially with the tools that we have. Sometimes we ask, imagine if Leonardo DaVinci had the tools we have right now, what could he have created?
[00:03:21] So these are just different ways. I'm sure there's so many ways we could talk about in terms of why digital media is important, why digital art is important. And I'd love to give an example of one of our projects that's Africhibi. So Africhibi is one of our projects that basically showcases three characters, Aimasai, Pamooji and Imasunzu.
[00:03:45] These are myth characters that are here on earth to inspire creativity. And how we have worked with Africhibi is it's taken different forms. So Africhibi takes different forms because at the core of it, it's a digital piece. It's these three characters that can take any form. So we've had NFTs that has involved creatives to literally paint on them and share these different pieces of NFTs. We've had them transformed into sculptures made of soapstone because all you had to do is send these drawings to a sculpture and they were able to get them and change them to a physical form. That also is another reason why digital media is quite important.
[00:04:28] It can change forms because you have the blueprint of it. In 2022, we're able to print Africhibi in A4 paper and each paper had a different frame of a rotating Africhibi and we had the entire people during the festival come and paint. Each paper was a different painting using crayons. And after that we put them together into an animation. And this animation was rotating so you could be able to see this beautiful piece made out of different frames by many people. And together it becomes one piece because of what digital media has allowed us to do through animations.
[00:05:05] So these are just examples that I would give. I could go on and on and on about the different ways we can use different media. And now I'll have to introduce our speaker for the day. That's Ladouce from the Art Carte who's gonna tell us more about her work and the work that they do together with Nadine, her sister, and together they run the Art Carte.
[00:05:25] So, hi Ladouce. Welcome.
[00:05:28] Ladouce Nadabha: Hi Naitiemu. Hi to everyone who's listening? My name is Ladouce. I am an illustrator and digital artist, as well as a product designer currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. Thank you so much for having me on this platform, being able to share my personal journey as an illustrator and to also be able to contribute to the topic of how and why Illustrator should go global.
[00:05:50] Just, as Naitiemu had mentioned, I'm the co-founder of The Art Carte, which I co run with my sister Nadine, my very awesome sister. The Art Carte is basically a lifestyle brand that uses digital art and illustration as a platform to be able to make art functional to everyday products such as greeting card stationery, as well as just recently able to branch into the home goods section.
[00:06:14] So, my main style for the art card, as well as my career as an illustrator is basically centralized around African contemporary design. And most of my work is actually mostly inspired by nature, like just the everyday nature we see, like the flowers, the fruits, just the vibrant color that, you know, God's creation has been able to bless us with and come as a source of inspiration to our everyday life as well as African culture, given that I am African by descent, so how can I best be able to use art as a tool to able to tell the African story.
[00:06:49] So yeah, that's just the summary of what I do in general. My main vision is to be able to use art to transcend both local and global regions to able to in general tell the African story.
[00:07:00] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Thank you Ladouce. Thank you for that. And you've touched on a very important part that is to tell the African story, to tell our own narratives as creatives 'cause for a long time in the media, we've only been fed things that are foreign. You know, growing up, watching things from the television let's say movies, even art that are foreign without really understanding that as Africans, we have a story to share.
[00:07:25] Yeah. So now that we are in this digital media, it's this time that we have ease of distribution. We are almost like all over a global community that can communicate at the same time. And therefore it gives us a chance to really share our narratives in our own way by ourselves. Very important because you need to understand things on the ground.
[00:07:47] Sometimes it could be like told by people because of what they hear are not necessarily what they experience. And so for us as creatives, it's our duty to be able to really share our narratives from our own experience. And these experiences might be different and that is the beauty of it because it doesn't tell only one story because there's so many stories to be told from Africa.
[00:08:09] And so going on to your work you've touched on the kind of different colors that you use. I mean, I am familiar with your work because you have been exhibiting at Nairobi Design Week for a while now. In fact, in front of me right now is one of your calendars that shows the month of June.
[00:08:28] And on it is a beautiful illustration of, I'd say pots. There's a blue pot, there's a brown and beige pot. And really, like, I love how you use the matted colors. It's not screaming, but it all flows together. It feels very earthy and up there, it tells me, trust the process. Could you tell us more about how you create these artworks and what tools do you use? And you've talked about how nature inspires you and culture, which already feels very much so in this piece.
[00:09:01] Ladouce Nadabha: First of all, you've said about telling the African story. I believe that as an illustrator, just being given the talent first of all, and being able to have that platform as an illustrator, you have the opportunity to educate as well as raise awareness about like the different cultures and traditions as well as history or just by drawing a specific work of art, able to just tell the story just as is through the work of art.
[00:09:25] Then also by being able to provide like accurate visual representations. An illustrator can be able to dispel like the way you said stereotypes. 'cause someone might have just experienced it through like the visual lens that you are told as opposed to not being told the story by Africans. Because since time immemorial, like the African story has been told by the foreign lens, the west lens.
[00:09:47] But now it's reached a point where it's very crucial to able to tell the story of Africans by Africans. So, art has the ability to transcend language and be able to communicate like with the universal emotions, able to make a powerful tool for cultural exchange.
[00:10:01] And similarly, I've been inspired by nature and culture' cause when I'm creating these pieces, I actually do have a process that I do go through where I'm able to first of all research what I want to create. Being able to just, you know, try and understand the African culture as is.
[00:10:16] I would've imagined, like previously when I was starting, I wouldn't have imagined that I would one day need to go through a research paper, you know, to try and understand, okay, I'm trying to transcend to the West African culture. It'll reach a point where I'll have to go through and research like what this specific researcher was able to speak about West African culture.
[00:10:34] For example, when one of my international client was able to work with was Ramisa. So Ramisa is basically an Italian textile company. The whole idea was they're looking for a local designer to be able to translate the African contemporary culture to the global audience.
[00:10:49] And I remember my inspiration for the work was able to take me to Rwanda. The whole idea was to just understand the culture and that's when I stumbled upon imigongo, which is a traditional form of art popular in the Rwandese culture, you know, there's just a distinct style about that to clearly just understand how to go about the process, be able to look at the design elements and how I can be able to translate into my own work. As well as like nature, because I believe nature is able to provide like a natural, like color palette.
[00:11:18] I'll never have thought that Rwanda will be able to, you know, employ my biology skills to try and find out which type of species of plants are available in the local continent, the African environment, the African habitat. Then being able to just get feedback and being able to just understand the market, understand the market trends and being able to translate the same in terms of what the client might want.
[00:11:39] That's what I think is crucial, being able to have strong communication skills, able to diversify and also translate what you want to portray through your art. So I believe like those are the key skills I use in the process. And then coming to the software, which is actually one of the most asked questions I do get asked a lot.
[00:11:58] So I do use procreate mostly. That's my primary tool of illustration. And then also the Adobe Suite... the Adobe Fresco, Adobe Illustrator. As much as the tools are key to be able to translate, but I believe it's more of the artistic expression, how you able to use them as tools to able to communicate your visual language.
[00:12:15] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Oh, thank you so much. I think you've really touched on an important part of all this, which is the research part because you know, as creatives you have that talent of being able to transform something into many different things, but a big part of it would be understanding why.
[00:12:30] I've always had that innate desire or attraction to African patterns, African symbols. When you look at the Egyptian symbols, for example, the West African symbols, and even coming down to our own East Africa, we do have some symbols that actually represent us.
[00:12:48] Why that's been important is because you realize that these symbols, these objects, they carry a lot of meaning from where they come from and the problem with capitalism, the problem with commercializing everything is that we lack that connection with the roots.
[00:13:03] We lack that appreciation with the people who actually create these things and why they do it. And so I think I've had to take a step back and actually really try and research on these things and understand the connection with the people behind these symbols and then see how as a creative I can actually use them, not just for my benefit of creation, but for the benefit of actually educating more people about this and actually understanding that this is important for the cultural continuation. I'd love for instance, to be able to go to the Congo and have conversations with these people around the masks that they use because I've been able to do research around this mask, for example, the Dan Mask, you know, the Biombo masks. Being able to do more research on them, but only through the internet, for example.
[00:13:50] But actually going back and having these conversations about why this particular shape and then understanding that and then being able to actually have that way to continue it through my art would've been great. And your work has been showcased in places like beyond even Africa. You're currently showcasing in Paris, right? With Little Paris Art? Yes. Could you tell us more about that? How did that come about?
[00:14:16] Ladouce Nadabha: Going global has had a very profound and positive impact on my career as an illustrator. And just as you said, the specific example I'll give was the exhibition I currently have in Paris. So, the Little Africa creative space is more of a community and art space as well as a gallery based in Paris, in France. So the exhibition that was at that time that I was able to get into was the Ukuta Lab exhibition, which was just an exhibition that brought together artists from various countries and attracted like a diverse audience.
[00:14:46] The current founder of Little Africa, her name is Jacqueline, a very, very, very sweet soul. Through her experiences 'cause she initially started out as a travel guide, like when someone comes to France and want to experience France through an African lens. For example, throughout history we know how so many of the African people were able to go to France during the Trans-Atlantic trade.
[00:15:09] People who now call it home. Just recently the World Cup people are able to see how many of Africans are actually there, which is actually a very true scenario, but then as she was trying to come up with the travel guide, she realized there's very little representation of the African story.
[00:15:24] So she's like, okay, how can I able to now use my platform because I've been able to do this over time to be able to use it as a platform to able to tell the African story. That's when she was able to come up with this concept of inviting African illustrators as well as, you know, people who are just of African descent.
[00:15:40] So the whole idea was to come up with a way to showcase illustrators 'cause that's just something that just had recently said coming up at that time, going to the covid pandemic period. So it was important to able to represent both the African diaspora and the African natives.
[00:15:55] During this exhibition I had the opportunity to showcase my artwork alongside other talented artists from different cultural backgrounds. For example, I was able to work with artists from as far as Argentina, Belgium, France, and the exposure was able to allow my work to reach a much broader audience and generate like significant interest and recognition.
[00:16:15] So I was not only able to receive positive feedback from art enthusiasts and just people who are interested in the story, but was also able to get a chance to connect with fellow artists and art collectors as well as industry professionals from around the world. In general, I would say that this experience opened a lot of doors to new opportunities for me, including collaborations and expanded my career opportunities 'cause when you add such a significant achievement to your portfolio to be able to attract international clients, people will be able to gain credibility and increase the visibility that you have within the art community.
[00:16:46] And additionally, I would say that going global has provided me like fresh perspectives and inspiration ' cause I'm able to interact with artists and other people interested in the art scene from different cultures. One can be able to broaden their artistic horizons and be able to, as well experiment with new techniques and things. I would say overall it's just been a very mind blowing journey, a very mind-opening journey for me because it has enabled me to connect with a very diverse range of people and to embrace new perspectives and being able to as well share my passion for art on a global scale.
[00:17:19] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Wonderful. Tell us how did you know about Little Africa Arts and how did you do it? How did you get in touch with them?
[00:17:26] Ladouce Nadabha: Actually how I was able to get in touch with them was through an open call. So it was just on Instagram. Honestly speaking, I understand cause I do speak French and I have a French name so people might be biased to think that way, but I had no previous connections of anyone who I knew. It was a matter of luck and chance because it was a matter of, I would say, opportunity meeting preparedness ' cause I actually came across the open call a few months back, so I was able to take time to actually now develop the craft.
[00:17:54] And see which pieces can I able to create or which existing piece I able to curate to fit into the theme of what they wanted. So the first step I took was to build my online presence in terms of the portfolio. So I was able to like just show, because the whole idea was to share the pieces you would like to be exhibited in France as well as showcasing your current portfolio to show what you have and just to understand you as an artist and the portfolio is the best way to showcase that.
[00:18:20] I really took time to build my portfolio to make it visually compelling and be able to show my versatility as an illustrator 'cause I'm not only an illustrator, I'm also a surface designer and a product designer, and also work with client commissions. So just being able to curate it to the open call is what I think was critical to help. They were only choosing six illustrators around the world. I did understand how much credibility that needed to go into just creating and being able to create a very compelling pitch to them.
[00:18:49] So I do believe that just a matter of process and it's a craft that had been able to build over time. The fact that you're able to just submit a PDF and someone from France or someone from Tokyo can able to see what you've done in your little corner, in your little bedroom in Nairobi.
[00:19:04] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Absolutely. Absolutely. So it's how do you use the tools that are available for you? We all know there is Instagram. We all know that you can create your own portfolio using different ways. For example, I tend to use a canvas to create my portfolio for different purposes, right? So for example, if digital art that's required for a particular theme, I'll pick particular pieces for that. And if it's maybe cultural pieces or installations, I'll pick a different kind of pieces for that. So just being able to group your work, and if at all you are doing only illustrations, it becomes even perhaps easier because then you can pick the best of your works depending on the theme or what is required elsewhere.
[00:19:46] So about Little Africa art, are they also looking to add more creatives from Africa? Is there a way people would be able to apply or is it a conversion to have with them about it?
[00:19:58] Ladouce Nadabha: I think it's a conversation to have with them 'cause it's actually currently running a photography exhibition called Hogarth Noir. So it's about trying to look just like the way they did for the digital illustrators. Now they're doing something similar for African photographers. So it's something they are open to doing. And I will say it's not the only platform available. So you might find there's so many other similar open calls.
[00:20:22] It's just a matter of doing the right research, being able to identify your visual identity, your unique style, and finding the best way to be able to curate it to what you might want to be. You'll approach a business or a pitch, you have to first like write down the list of what you want to achieve, then first of all, write down your goals.
[00:20:39] Look at the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. And just try and see and research and be able to see how best will you be able to develop this style. For example, the Covid period was able to help me transcend into the illustration space.
[00:20:52] So what I did was there's this prompt that usually held like an artist challenge that usually held like every October called Inktober. So that's how I was able to like first thrust myself into the illustration space. Inktober is an annual competition. Some sort of just a theme where you're supposed to do 30 works of art throughout October. The whole idea is you might not exactly just follow those prompts, but just having that discipline and consistency to be able to create without us having that much of the fear of what might come out in the end. A matter of just letting go about the fear of perfection. And then now it came towards the end of October, I'd actually realized I created a very significant amount of something that I would say I was proud of what I created.
[00:21:34] Now I'm in the illustration space coming from a traditional artist scene, how can I be able to show my work globally? So that's when I started the research process to able to now look at open calls, you know, just following people like who you see have established themselves in the illustration scene.
[00:21:50] And so just a matter of research, being able to expand your network and having a great online presence, I would say those are the key skills I've would have used and I will encourage other people to use to be able to transcend the international space.
[00:22:03] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): You have to keep creating because you never know when the opportunities are gonna be coming your way. When you look at our website you'll be able to find nairobi.design/ the six word creative brief. This is something we share with all creatives because it's what we follow whenever we are looking at any project, whether big or small. And this will have you answer a few questions.
[00:22:24] That is Why. Why does the project exist? And how, what, who, when, and the resources required. So the project can be small. That would mean that maybe your resources would only be getting yourself some time to be able to illustrate, because time is also a very big resource.
[00:22:40] But sometimes you may need resources for example, some capital or something bigger than just let's say what you can provide, right? And that's when you may need support by collaboration. You may need support by applying for grants. You may need support by actually sending a proposal to a particular organization that may be interested in what you're working on.
[00:23:01] You just have to believe in yourself, have confidence. I recently worked on a project and still working on it called Enkang'ang', and Enkang'ang' means our home in Maasai. And in this project I went to a village with a team of, you know, around 13 other creatives who were female creatives. And we were able to record and document the stories of this village and do 3D scans of everything, including the Manyatta or other... it's not even called the Manyatta, it's called the Enkaji, the houses, the traditional houses.
[00:23:29] We did a performance art piece. We recorded sounds and audio from all over the place, and then were able to transform this into a VR experience so you could be able to have a VR experience within a Maasai home. And this would not have been possible without the tools and resources required to make this project work, which was a grant that was applied for, that was under Soul of Nations Foundation.
[00:23:54] They're based in the US and so in a way it just depends with how big or small your idea is but that doesn't mean you should not create because if you don't create, then how will you be able to think even for bigger things. So be on the lookout for open calls. We have some on our website.
[00:24:11] Don't be shy to write to people. Don't be shy to send a DM to someone who inspires you or organization that inspires you, but you must be ready because opportunities only come when you're ready 'cause you're gonna be given something only when you're ready for it.
[00:24:26] So, moving on you and your assistant Nadine, you create amazing products from stationary to notebooks. Tell us more about your products and how having your digital art as part of this has helped with the production and perhaps reach to more people.
[00:24:44] Ladouce Nadabha: Okay. So, the Art Carte, is an art company and a lifestyle brand, which I co-founded with Nadine, who is my awesome sister. I'll say that again and again and again 'cause she's been a very instrumental piece of me being able to have the faith to be able to showcase my work. So the Art Carte was a way of me trying to translate my art into a business.
[00:25:07] Being able to diversify my income stream in terms of merchandising. So some of the products we have at the moment are stationery, ranging from bullet journals which creatives can use to be able to, you know, just sketch and bullet journal. We have line journals as well for journaling. You know, journaling is a very important process, being able to translate your mind, being able to just organize your thoughts in general.
[00:25:31] We also have weekly planners to help you stay organized. We also run limited editions of calendars where I am able to do prints in quote unquote prints or translate my art artwork into calendars. We also have greeting cards for everyday use, like happy birthday cards, seasonal greeting cards, certainly Mother's Day.
[00:25:49] We had a Mother's Day collection, which actually sold out. We did Father's Day cards. We actually also planning right as early as now for Christmas cards as well. Then most recently we also got into the home goods section where we have tote bags, tea towels, and I would say the key element that has been able to help us establish a unique identity is the design element is the core of our brand identity. I'm grateful that with time I've been able to create a visual identity for the Art Carte in such a way that when someone sees something, like when someone just stumbles upon a notebook, they just say, this is the Art Carte.
[00:26:25] And I think that's one of the crucial things that's important when you want to turn art into a business, just being able to monetize. It's being able to define your unique style and brand where you should be able to develop a distinctive artistic style that sets you apart from the others.
[00:26:38] And being able to create a cohesive body of work that not only reflects your artistic voice, but also the vision you have for your business. Then also important to being able to build a brand around your art by being able to define a target audience, identify what are your values and as an artist and how would you want to translate, transcend it into the business, as well as being able to craft a compelling brand story.
[00:27:02] Then overall, I think consistency is key, and being able to stay authentic to your brand and being able to attract a loyal following as well as potential customers. I would also say being able to collaborate and network with other artists and professionals has been able to be a very key element to help us grow as a business because at the moment, we have partnered with very crucial people. I would say brands as well, that believe in our story, are able to help us boost our marketing strategy and being able to also help us grow and tell our story.
[00:27:36] First of all, we joined African Lifestyle Hub last year. The beginning of last year. It's a concept store that features and showcases local brands. So the whole idea is being able to shop local, support the local industry because there's so many talented local designers.
[00:27:50] For the number of times I've been able to tell people and also show people, that this is actually 100 percent made in Kenya. And then the second one is Noir Gallery. It's also a gallery and creative space. That was also been a very crucial role in supporting the local talent. Initially incorporated in 2020, just also about this pandemic period. And they also do a lot of events and showcase a lot of local artists.
[00:28:16] I do know of one artist by the name of Nyaga, who's been able to blow up just because of having his work exhibited at noir gallery, and we've also been able to partner with ArtcaffÃ©. ArtcaffÃ© is a business that has been very crucial promoting local talent because of the clientele base they've been able to establish.
[00:28:35] So we actually do display our products at the ArtcaffÃ© market where we're able to market our product to someone who I believe they've been a crucial step as well, to being able to define our value as a brand and identify our target audience. And they've also shown great support in artistic journeys. Sometimes there can be some bit of hurdle trying to transfer your art from a hobby to a business, so it's a very crucial skill to be able to professionalize your artistic practice.
[00:29:01] So just treat your art as a business the same we will do any other business that you will do. Set clear goals, create a business plan, develop a pricing structure while incorporating like the value that you are like the design value element, not just the production element of the product.
[00:29:17] Know that it's able to reflect the value of your work, not just being able to keep track of your finances, know your contracts, create contracts for commissions that you like to do, being able to establish professional relationship with clients and professionals converting your art into a business.
[00:29:31] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Yeah, convert your art into a business. Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:29:35] Ladouce Nadabha: Thank you so much for having me. If I could just conclude with a parting shot. It's remember that your artistic journey is unique and full of possibilities. You should embrace your passion for illustration as a dare to dream big. Going global as an illustrator is not just about expanding your reach, but also about embracing diverse perspectives and cultures that you're able to interact with. So just believe in your power, the power of your arts to be able to transcend boundaries and be able to touch the hearts and minds of people from different corners of the world.
[00:30:03] And also just be able to stay true to your artistic voice, be able to develop your signature style and let your imagination soar. The path may not always be easy, but with passion, persistence, and a global mindset, you have the potential to make a significant mark in the world of illustration. So embrace the adventure, embrace the possibilities and have the courage to go global.
[00:30:24] Thank you.
[00:30:25] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Wow. Wow. Wow. What a parting shot. Yeah, take the road less traveled. By the way, for those who are wondering, how can she just talk like that? Yes, she can. She's a writer. Check out her linktree. So yes, you can be gifted in many different ways. Just find a way to fine tune everything.
[00:30:40] Thank you so much for that, Ladouce. I'm not even going to say anything more. Let's just stay with that in our minds as we close the day and thank you so much guys. Have a lovely rest of your day.
[00:30:51] Ladouce Nadabha: Thank you. Bye bye.
[00:30:52] Naitiemu Nyanjom (Host): Bye bye.
We are joined by Ladouce Nadabha an Illustrator and co-founder of The Art Carte — a lifestyle brand that blends art and functionality to create unique stationery, greeting cards and home goods; inspired by nature and culture.
She takes us through her journey while working along with her sister Nadine
Ladouce tells us what it takes to take your illustrations to a global audience. She answers to questions on skills, tools and platforms. So if your a digital artist or creative looking on where to find these opportunities, join us tomorrow 5pm on Afrika Design Podcast.
The podcast is under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts East Africa Arts