Q: The dreadlocks. Tell me about them
A: Hahaha! This is my signature hairstyle as a visual artist. In 2012, sometimes after I started practising as a professional artist, I felt that I needed a look that I couldn’t identify with. Voila! This was it. Man, you know how lazy an artist can get in maintaining hair when swamped up by work.
Q: So where did Boniface Maina start from?
A: Well, I was raised in Nanyuki schooled there at Ndururi Primary School before proceeding to Inooro Secondary School where I cleared in 2005.
Q: Is that where you started your art work?
A: Actually, I started way back in Primary School. My desk was filled with biro art. My books had so much pencil art. I used to do a lot of drawing (He shows me his notebook which also has biro and pencil art).
After high school, I joined YMCA National Training Institute where i pursued a Diploma in Art and Design between 2006 and 2008.It was necessary that I take this course. Talent sometimes isn’t enough without a little enhancement. You get the drift?
Q: Yeah.I do. After college you delved into the art business full time?
A: Exactly.I started doing contemporary art with a specialization in paintings.
Q: So how has it been since you started?
A: Seven years and counting. It has been a great journey full of promise and some times frustrations. What is life without pitfalls though? Art for me has become a way of expressing myself.
Q: Art has become a very lucrative venture. What is it like for you?
A: You are right. The art scene is taking huge leaps. I have done projects for some big clients like Kenya Airways. I have dealt with clientele from Denmark, Australia, Norway, USA and other parts of the world. I once handled an art project worth 4,500 US Dollars. Art is indeed a great business.
Q: Where do you operate from?
A: I have an art studio known as Brush Tu in Buru Buru Phase 1 where I operate from. We started operating in 2013 alongside my 2 partners, Michael Musyoka and David Thuku. We had worked on drama backdrops for 3 schools and after a grueling 48 hours on the project, we decided to have our own space to operate from. That’s when we got our studio. It’s been great. In 2015, Elias Mung’ora and Waweru Gichuhi joined us. We are now 5 artists full-time. We work from 8 AM to 9 PM.
Q: Sounds huge. I am impressed. So how else do you participate in the art scene aside your business?
A; Good question. We have been mentoring and training young artists from Kenyatta University, Buru Buru Institute of Fine Arts, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), and the Children Youth Empowerment Centre under the Zawadi Art Program. We also take them to visit galleries and exhibitions so that they get exposed to more art work. We also have our residency program. It’s great. A Ugandan Resident Artist is also part of it.
Q: Before you got a footing in the art industry, you must have had it rough.
A: It was really bad. I tried selling my art in Nanyuki Streets. Sometimes, people just ignored me. Others discouraged me to do something else. I finally landed my first big client after 2 years. Patience pays, you know.
Q: A valuable lesson there. When you are not working on art projects what do you do?
A: I travel a lot. I am a Sci-Fi Movies buff. I like animations too. In 2016, I have enjoyed watching Batman Vs Superman. I also listen to jazz and neo-soul.
Q: Jazz…Huh! Tell me more
A: I could listen to Manu Dibango all day. In 2015, I remember attending the Jazz Festival. It was amazing listening to Isaiah Katumwa perform. I had a lot of fun.
Q: Who are some of the artist you look up to?
A: Peterson Kamwathi, Gakunju, Kaigwa and Beatrice Wanjiku, locally. Man, these guys are really talented. They are great. They inspire me with what they do. Internationally, it has to be Peter Gric and Eric Lacombe. They are talented. They make art interesting in every way
Q: Being in this art business, what are your future prospects?
A: I have done over 1000 art projects since i started. I have experimented with paintings, pencil and biro art and also sculptures. I have grown in every way as an artist. I always strive to be better at what I do and to make sure that the client is satisfied with my work. It gives me satisfaction every time a client is impressed by my art. I hope to leave a mark in the art industry because I love what I do.
Q: But sometimes not all appreciate what you do. How do you deal with it?
A: It’s part of the job. You get used to these things. They make you go stronger both as an artist and as a business person. They help you learn more about the market, the clients and their preferences and what you need to improve to get things done. That’s why sometimes it takes me a month to complete a project. Because, I need to get it done to the best of my ability. That’s the beauty of art.
Q: What is your opinion on the future of the arts?
A: With the review of the curriculum ongoing, I am optimistic that the art as a subject and as a course of study will be brought back to our classrooms and our lecture theatres. Art is a fast growing industry in the world. It is well-paying and we need to nurture these talents and get value for them. We hope to see more galleries, art museums, studios and workshops in operation. We need more art exhibitions and contest through out the world. Art is taking over. It is unstoppable. I see a bright future for African Art in particular. We are witnessing a surge in local market and more countrymen appreciating what artists in the content and globally are doing.
Q: Parting Shot?
A: We need to appreciate art more. And encourage those with this talent to take it up and utilize it for commercial gain and improve their lives and those of others. Art has a sentimental value in society. Let us keep it up.