Maiden Resident Artist: Ola Kosoko
"Anyone can paint. You can paint, you can draw. But it’s your style that matters."
In this interview, I spoke with Ola Kosoko, our Maiden Resident Artist, about how he arrived in Chicago and his paint-sketch style…
Collin: Tell me about how you made it to Chicago.
Ola: I’ve been coming here since I was, like, 10? 11? My dad came here for school when he was 17 and stayed here to his late 40s and then went back home. So I’ve been visiting him since I was really little. But I moved here prominently when I was 17 for school. I would say 2009? I went to community college and then NIU in DeKalb. The main reason I came to Chicago was for school, but I liked it so I stayed.
C: What did you study in school?
O: Business Administration. I concentrated in Accounting & Finance. So totally different from what I’m doing!
C: How did you get into art then?
O: Honestly, I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I never saw it as a profession; it was just more of a hobby, and just to relax. Everyone has that one hobby they do to calm themselves down. Art is kind of my thing; it’s always been my thing. I never show anyone, it’s pretty much for me. It’s a personal thing. But a couple of friends have seen what I do and they were like, “oh, you should try and do something with this.” So that’s what I’m trying to do. I literally just started last year. I never even had an Instagram until last year, it’s crazy.
C: What is your favorite medium?
O: I mix it up. The old man [painting] is acrylic. The one with the mask—I haven’t named it—is a mix of acrylic and pastel. I’m just playing around, trying to find my specific medium.
C: Do you have anyone or anything in your life that inspired you to pick up art?
O: That’s a great question. Honestly, since I was a kid, and where I’m from—I’m from Nigeria by the way. Art is not seen as a gratuitous profession. When parents are like, “go to school,” it’s not art that they want you to do. So that’s why it’s always been a personal thing. But my mom has always been my #1 supporter, since I was a kid. I know it sounds like a cliché, but like, moms, you know? She reminds me every time, I know you’re trying to be an accountant, but take a breather sometimes—show everyone what you can do. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
C: Have you been in Ravenswood for a long time?
O: I actually started on the south side. I used to live at 95th and something—honestly I don’t remember. My dad used to live there before he left. Then I moved to Broadway and Halsted. I stayed there for a little bit then moved to Rogers Park, and then Ravenswood, and now I’m in Lakeview.
C: Has living in Chicago influenced your art in any way?
O: Oh, definitely. I’ve always seen myself living in a—this is going to sound like another cliché. Chicago strikes me as if I’m living in a painting because there is beauty everywhere. It’s like, how could I ever explain that? I love buildings. I work downtown and I get the chance to see that every time. Look at this area—everything is colorful. Even in the winter, it’s beautiful too. So at the end of the day, I would say Chicago has inspired me a lot. I have so much to draw. I don’t have to think.
C: Anything else you want to say about your artwork?
Just to put a stamp: I’m not like a usual artist. When people think about art they think paintings. I like sketching. I like illustrations. I didn’t go to art school, so when I paint I sort of sketch-paint. So I’m hoping that’s my niche. I hope it sets me apart. Art is very universal—anyone can paint. You can paint, you can draw. But it’s your style that matters.
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. I moved permanently to the USA in 2007. I studied Business Administration and Management at Northern Illinois University at Dekalb, Illinois. I currently reside in Chicago (Ravenswood) and I can say its one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I have been Illustrating my whole life, just as a hobby and or relaxation, and I just recently decided to take it further. Although I currently work in the Accounting/Finance Industry, Art in general has always been my number one passion. My goal for being an artist is to build a bridge/connection between myself and the audience because I believe Art is the most beautiful way of bringing different people together. I want to share the joy it brings to me with anyone that needs it.