I contacted Toni with a request to answer my interview questions and after some time she sent all of the answers back. Toni as she introduces herself as 'a freelance illustrator, product design student and impromptu writer', however, her insightful and lively answers uncover that there is so much more underneath.
1. Do you treat your materials/tools as if they were somebody with emotion and reasoning?
No, instead I treat my materials as tools that – if used with passion and purpose - can be used to evoke emotion from myself and the viewer. I feel this most strongly when using oil pastels as they are a very expressive medium.
2. What was it like when you had a very first encounter with the materials/tools you use on a daily basis now?
My first encounter with marker pens was quite good. I liked the definitiveness of the medium and how pigmented the pens were. The first time I used oil pastels was great; I had become impatient blending colours with acrylic paint and oil pastels were a good alternative for me.
3. What is your favourite part about people when they perform the act of critically looking at your artworks: do you prefer criticism, or you are more pleased when you get praise?
I enjoy praise more but I appreciate criticism more as it helps me to understand other people’s perspective of it. Also hearing criticism of my work helps me become better at analysing the work of others.
4. Do you have your own favourite artwork? If so, which one?
I don’t have any favourite artwork but the artwork I like the most usually vivid in colour, uses more than one medium, is slightly decorative, expressive in texture and/or incorporates nature in some way.
5. Who is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspirations in terms of career and creativity are Nicole Crentsil (IG: @nkrystal), Melissa Holdbrook-Akposoe (IG: @melissaswardrobe) and Mabintou Kolley (IG: @mabin2).
6. What led you to working with the colours that you are working you with now? Do you see yourself changing that?
Most of my work focuses on the African diaspora and the continent is culturally rich and vibrant, which usually leads me to use quite warm colours. But I enjoy working with a vivid colour palette regardless of what I’m creating and I don’t see myself changing that.
7. How is your art beneficial for the world?
With time I hope to use my art for illustration in children’s books. I’m passionate about promoting inclusivity and vibrancy in the children’s publishing industry. This inclusivity and increased representation will be particularly beneficial for children of ethnic minorities.
8. Do you think that Frank Stella was right when he said that ‘Painting is a flat surface with paint on it – nothing more. It is physical object rather than a metaphor for something else. What you see is what you see.’ Why?
He is right if he is referring to the simple, literal definition of painting. However it is more than this – ‘a flat surface with paint on it’ sounds like an attempt to downplay the skill and discipline of artists. Frank is right in saying that ‘what you see is what you see’ but this suggests that people have a collective and shared response to artwork, which is untrue. We each have varying opinions of a single painting and depending on the intensity of a person’s emotional response to a painting, they may feel it is symbolic or a metaphor for something else. And to another person, it may indeed just be a ‘physical object’.
9. If you had 3 lives, what would you do with them? Would you still be an artist/creative in at least one of them? Why?
Creativity has always come naturally to me so I would definitely still be a creative in each life, just maybe using my creativity in different ways or career paths. I’ve always been into research and analysis so maybe in another life I’d become an educator or professor of some sort. Alternatively I would become an art director or curator.
10. If you had 3 wishes and a magical power to make them to become true, what those wishes would be?
1 – Procrastinate less when working on a new piece
2 – To create more political art or art that acts as social commentary
3 – To establish a community or charity that encourages creativity in children
11. Do think that being a female artist/creative makes it harder to be noticed in the artworld? Why?
I think the stereotypical answer would be yes. Women are usually at a disadvantage regardless of what industry they are in, due to the patriarchal nature of society. As a female artist I personally have not experienced any gender-related hardships in the artworld. But that is most likely because I am in the early stages of my career; just because I am not experiencing those kinds of barriers, it doesn’t mean that that is the case for other female creatives.
12. Do you think that degree in arts will help one immensely with their practice, or that it only is a tiny piece to the whole picture of what is needed to be an artist? Why?
A degree isn’t necessary in this industry but it is still valuable. Personally a lot of the opportunities I have been blessed with as a creative came from networking and going to events, launch parties and workshops in the industry rather than from university. Nevertheless, I am enjoying my degree as it keeps me disciplined, gives me access to many resources such as software and machinery and it provides me with great tutors, peers and mentors.
13. What can be done to be a sustainable/environmentally friendly artist in these days?
In terms of materials, you could buy more environmentally friendly materials – some paints contain toxic materials for example. Or instead of buying a new plastic paint palette you could make one out of discarded wood or mdf. Proper cleaning of brushes extends their life and prevents you from needing to buy new brushes too often.
14. Do you believe that anything is possible?
15. ONLY IF YOU ANSWERED 14thQUESTION WITH A YES – Why don’t you go and make 10thquestion’s answers a reality? What is in your way?
I think either lack of discipline, planning or resources and funding are preventing me from making them a reality. With time and preparation I am slowly working towards them. I am especially passionate about achieving wish 3. Inspiring a new wave of emerging creatives would be very fulfilling.
More creative production from Toni can be seen on her, Instagram, and The Dots. Thank you, Toni, for the answers, and you, for reading!