Ifeanyi Ifemeje, Best Digital Comic Colour Artist 2017
“Life isn’t a dance rehearsal, and you won’t get a second chance to do your best.”
A trip to Ifeanyi Ifemeje’s account on the professional social network site LinkedIn, reveals the above quote, which hints at his state of mind. Subtly placed under his profile picture and bio, it suggests his emergence as the Best Digital Colour Artist of 2017 at the first Annual Comic Connect N.C.A.G Artists Recognition Awards is no coincidence but proof of consistent excellence.
Ifeanyi Ifemeje hails from Imo State in the south-eastern corner of Nigeria, and is the first child in a family of six. Though Igbo, he spent most of his teenage years in the south of Nigeria in Edo State, where he attended secondary school at Lumen Christi International High School, Arue-Uromi.
According to him, he can’t remember how or when he took up drawing. Fortunately, his mother can and she pinpoints primary four (now basic four) as the start of his romance with art and drawing. Ifemeje who admittedly was melancholic as a child, says he found solace in pencils and paper and eagerly took on drawing assignments for classmates. From fine art to agricultural and then health sciences, he would make the drawings earnestly.
His drawing mania didn’t end with assignments and classwork. Where there was none, he would give himself drawing homework. Whenever he finished watching any of his favourite cartoons, he would attempt to recreate the characters on paper with pencils. He says that by doing this over and over, he got remarkably better at drawing. Being better wasn’t the objective and after secondary school, Ifeanyi Ifemeje found his way to the studio of an artist named Owolabi Pius, where he spent a quarter of a year learning pastel art.
All this while, art had just been a means to satisfy a craving for him. His “eureka”, watershed or breakthrough didn’t come until 2007 when a politician came around to campaign for votes in his village. It was just a simple case of his aunt suggesting that Ifemeje make a portrait drawing as a gift to the politician but it was all that was required to set in motion an extremely fortunate chain of events he remains grateful for till today.
Ifemeje emptied his savings to buy pastel paper and colours, a board and all other assortments needed to create the portrait. After spending close to a month working doggedly, he completed the painting but still had to borrow money for a frame. Luckily for him, the politician loved it – enough to instruct his PA to gift Ifemeje the sum of N500, 000.00 (in 2007!). Even when the actual sum turned out to be half that amount, the flicker of hope that turned on his head after the experience could not be extinguished. Ifemeje says he realised then that he was sitting on a pot of gold, metaphorically and literally, and this he recalled, made him persist in his art even while studying biotechnology at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.
He completed and obtained his B.Tech degree in 2013 but rather than concentrate on pursuing work as a bio technician or biotechnologist, he chose to narrow his focus on art. He interned for a while as an assistant graphics designer at a Lagos firm, Witts & Stratts during his service year – a period he also taught biology and animal husbandry at a secondary school as a corps member. How he managed to combine both is doubtless befuddling. Nevertheless, Ifeanyi Ifemeje, perhaps a living testament of the saying, ‘’If hard work is your weapon, success will be your slave’’, managed afterwards to enter his business idea in a Shell entrepreneurship grant scheme.
His idea was well pitched and it won first place with a business grant to boot. This was the beginning of Larva DigiArts – a visual art firm he set up with a colleague in 2015, and where he currently works under the title of design and development manager.
Ifeanyi Ifemeje’s latest coup may be winning the Comic Connect award for Best Digital Comic Colour Artist for 2017 but with his antecedents and current trajectory, it hardly requires prescience to predict that in the near future, more feathers will be added to his already well-adorned cap.
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