Lynda Charles is an artist. She is a native of Ohaozara Local Government in Ebonyi State. However, she was born and raised in Lagos state. She had her primary education and secondary education in Ogun and Lagos States respectively and studied Applied Biology at Ebonyi State University.
She enjoys drawing. In describing what drawing and painting mean to her, she said, “You know everyone has something that makes them feel at home, and that’s drawing for me. I am myself when I am drawing. I am just lucky to be in the position where what I love to do is also a career path”. She gets her inspiration from the people around her, her environment and her daily experiences. She enjoys dancing in her free time.
Growing up was not really fun for her because she didn’t spend much time with her family as she would have loved to. She now lives in Ibadan, Oyo state.
Giving you a glimpse into what it feels like to be an Artist living in Nigeria. This conversation has been slightly edited.
YellowLyfe Mag: So what motivated you to become an artist?
Lynda Charles: I have always loved and admired artists. I love people who create things. When I graduated from the University before I went for service, I was kind of going through a lot during that period, alongside trying to find myself. I tried to meet with other creatives, then I met a couple of artists. I met a friend while I was staying with one of my girlfriends. While getting to know me, the question of what I did for a living came up. So I said, “I am an artist”. Though I didn’t even know how to draw or what being an artist meant at the time. The guy was amazed, so he brought a picture and asked me to do a portrait for him. Though I was lying because I wasn’t an artist then when he brought it, I put in effort and did something for him. It was not perfect though, but the resemblance and everything else was accurate. So I felt, If I could do this as an untrained artist, I would do great with some training and a little bit of practice. That’s how I started.
YellowLyfe Mag: Great. So did you get formal training or are you self taught?
Lynda Charles: Whenever I am painting, I see my mistakes, then I talk to a few artists asking questions about some techniques. Sometimes, I also check online and watch some tutorials as well. That’s how I learnt.
YellowLyfe Mag: Do you train people?
Lynda Charles: Well, during my service year, I trained a guy. I am not training anyone at the moment, I’m just working for myself, though many people have reached out to me via DM asking if I could train them. However, in the future, I would train people because it is in my plans.
YellowLyfe Mag: you have representation?
Lynda Charles: Yes, I do.
YellowLyfe Mag: Can you tell me a little bit about getting representation and what that is like?
Lynda Charles: Yeah, it’s very interesting, it’s a tough field. There are way more undiscovered artists than discovered once. So the process of getting representation was very auspicious, I don’t want to say lucky. I got invited to a couple of exhibitions and one of them happened to be from a gallery in London. I really enjoyed working with them.
YellowLyfe Mag: What was the process like? What process did you have to go through?
Lynda Charles: They found me on Instagram and commented on my work, stating how much they loved it. They talked about the exhibition they had coming up which they thought would be perfect. So I sent the work over but there was an exhibition fee. Earlier I said that it’s a tough field to break into, mostly because if you are unknown, then nobody really pays attention to you. Nobody is willing to spend a lot of money to buy your art, but it’s really about the people inviting you to exhibitions, taking a chance on you believing that your art is beautiful enough that people would want to see it. When I got the invite, I sent some works over and had about two or three exhibitions with them. After the exhibitions, they said every time somebody walked into the gallery, they always noticed my work, which meant that there is a lot of potential so they would like to represent me, which was great. I am being represented by Oreofe Art Gallery in London.
YellowLyfe Mag: How do you decide on what to paint?
Lynda Charles: So here’s the thing, everybody has to draw inspiration from something, so one of the things that are most important to me is, authenticity and being able to tell my own stories in my way. I am not crazy about just picking pictures and recreating them because that’s just a photocopy. So I usually have a concept in mind and then meet with people whom I think would fit into that picture. For instance, my latest collection is called, “The Bond We Share” which talks about our relationships with people, and how we interact with each other as human beings. The next step would be to find key points of connections that I want to talk about. So it could be a relationship with parents, however complicated or simple it might be or siblings or even with someone you consider your support system. Once that has been decided, I would then approach people whom I believe would be able to strike the poses that communicate those messages.
YellowLyfe Mag: That’s beautiful. The piece you painted with Olivia and her Mom. Is that from, “The bond we share” collection?
Lynda Charles: Yes, it is.
YellowLyfe Mag: I would like to hear what you were thinking when you painted that?
Lynda Charles: Okay. If you look at the work, you would notice that they have slightly different colours. Olivia’s colour is pink, and it’s a little more vibrant than her Mom’s. It shows that mothers are vital to the development of the child, and parents in general. We come from them, so they’re connected to us in a unique way that nobody else would be able to understand. They are your source, they give you life. For most people, if you are fortunate enough to have parents who are still around as you grow up, they advise you, feed you, clothe you, and inspire you. So they are like a source to you. Unfortunately, as you grow, they get older, and they are not as strong and energetic as they used to be. So the brighter you shine, the more they fade over time. The name of the work is “A Source”.
YellowLyfe Mag: So can you take me through a typical day in your life?
Lynda Charles: Hmm. So, I am not a morning person, I hate mornings. So I get up pretty late because I usually go to bed late. I am more alive in the night-time. It is a very boring routine, not one you would expect from an artist. So I wake up, shower, and have breakfast. I also have a dog that needs a lot of attention, so I do that. When that is over, if I’m in the middle of a piece, I usually jump into it, by that time, the overall blueprint is done, I already know what I’m creating, and I have the picture in mind. I work till around 4:30/5 pm when I go to the gym. My routine gets exciting when I am trying to create a new piece. All that time used to work on the portraits usually involves a lot of brainstorming and a lot of back and forth on how to communicate a message. After that has been decided, I find someone who fits into the context. Then I talk to them about it and decide if it’s going to happen at my place or theirs. If they are not close by, they can just send pictures. Though I will send them detailed instructions on how I would like the pictures to be taken.
YellowLyfe Mag: Okay, what if you don’t know anyone who fits into the image you have in mind? What do you do then? Do you search online for someone who fits?
Lynda Charles: No, I don’t. I usually paint people I know because it is kind of personal.
YellowLyfe Mag: How long does it take you to work on any piece?
Lynda Charles: It depends on the size of the work. Sometimes, it could take more than a month, if it is a commissioned work, I can take two weeks. However, if it is a personal project, it could take between two to four months. I don’t rush commissions though, the time depends on the size of the commissioned work. A small portrait would take about two weeks, while larger a piece would take more time.
YellowLyfe Mag: How long did it take you to create “A Source”?
Lynda Charles: “A source” took about three weeks to a month. The entire process is not linear. So today, I might be painting and shading but then tomorrow I am taking time to think about what the next block will be, how it is going to go, taking the pictures and trying to figure out what it will look like. It is very difficult to say it took exactly one month, because at every point, I’m doing one thing or another.
YellowLyfe Mag: Tell me something about yourself that most people do not know
Lynda Charles: I’m very shy. When you go through my profile online, you would not be able to tell but I am very shy. I love food. I look skinny but I am a foodie.
YellowLyfe Mag: So can you describe your journey using five words?
Lynda Charles: The first is Persistence. Humility because a lot of the things I know, I learnt from other people and you would need a level of humility to do that. Vulnerability, so if you scroll through my Instagram page, you will see a collection called Self Reflection. That is the most I have ever shared about myself. It has also been Fun because I have a lot of fun when I am creating. The last is Connection, because it is basically who we are as human beings and our relationships with other people. The connection that binds us.
YellowLyfe Mag: What would you say was the turning points for you in your career?
Lynda Charles: There have been several. The first one was after NYSC when I decided to start doing art, full-time. I spent a lot of time learning and experimenting before I went for youth service. You know life begins after NYSC when you have to pick exactly what it is you want to do with your life and be serious about it. So that was the turning point. I was like, “This is what I want to do, and I think I want to be committed to this journey to go as far as it is going to take me”. The second one was the first time I got invited to an exhibition. It felt like I was finally being seen. You know, people are finally starting to see that I exist and that the things I create matter. I think those are the two big ones right now. I’m sure there will be more in the future.
YellowLyfe Mag: What is the best advice you ever got?
Lynda Charles: The best advice I have ever got is to keep creating Art.
YellowLyfe Mag: So what are some of the principles that guide you?
Lynda Charles: It’s very funny because, on the one hand, it is something that the artist creates for other people to see. Nobody creates art for themselves. When most artists are creating something, either painting or drawing, what is on their mind is,“ I want people to see this, I want people to hear what I have to say through my work”. So one of my biggest principles is being able to share. If I am unable to share something then I would not create it. That is the biggest thing. There is also been honourable, I am not trying to steal another artist’s idea. I am not just scrolling on Instagram looking for the work that got sold at a high price or that got a lot of likes and then deciding that this is the one I want to recreate specifically because it seems to have done well. Everything I create, I create based on my perspective, my journey and experience. So honour and credibility are big principles for me as well
YellowLyfe Mag: What are some of the challenges that you would say an artist is likely to face in Nigeria?
Lynda Charles: The first one would be selling your Art. The second one is meeting Art galleries or Art galleries reaching out to you. Art materials are also very expensive so you need to have money to be able to afford them. When starting, you probably have to get a side hustle to be able to fund your dream of becoming an Artist till it starts paying you. While you are still finding yourself, creating, and trying to get exposure, you have to earn to be able to pay rent and do other stuff. So getting the money to support yourself while you are on the client is also a real struggle.
YellowLyfe Mag: How do you know what to charge for commissions? How do you decide on your price?
Lynda Charles: It depends on the size of the work and the details in the work. It also depends on the amount the artists on your level, ‘people who have as much experience, skill and have attained your level of success internationally’ are charging. So if you know other artists with comparable skill, who has had a similar level of exposure, works or the same amount of exhibitions, you want to get closer to them, not necessarily because they are your yardstick, it is just a good way to measure things so that you are not working from nothing. You know what the person charges and what the market value is to then decide what to charge for a commission. That is the simplest way. When you blow up and everybody in the world knows, then you can set your price and people will buy.
YellowLyfe Mag: What’s the most interesting thing about being an artist?
Lynda Charles: The most interesting thing is the freedom of expression that it provides. I love that I can express myself freely through my Art.
YellowLyfe Mag: What are some of your favorite things to do?
Lynda Charles: I love dancing, making videos, and playing games. I also like photography, if I wasn’t an artist, I might have tried something along the lines of Photography.
YellowLyfe Mag: What should we expect from you in the future?
Lynda Charles: Honestly. I am still deciding that because there is so much to talk about, so much to express. However, you can expect more art that will evoke some emotion, Art that speaks to relationships.
YellowLyfe Mag: What are some of your favorite quotes?
Lynda Charles: When life knocks you down, try rest small you sef don try.