My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
It is rare to find people who successfully translate a childhood passion into a profitable business. For Durotimi Bolaji Idowu (Duro Arts), art was a childhood passion and an escape from the boredom of studying a four-year course he detested. Beyond that, art is a fun way to live and earn a living. Here is Idowu’s pivot journal to becoming an icon in Nigeria’s art illustration landscape.
How it started
Art has always been a part of my life. Being artistic runs in my family. My dad did a bit of drawing. My mum is great with crafts work. My sister has her hands in so many things like beadwork and sewing.
But as a child, I was greatly fascinated by comics, especially the drawings and colours. I started drawing in primary school. But I didn’t get to study art at the university. I studied Mass Communication and Media Studies at Babcock University, Ogun State, Nigeria. That was between 2010 to 2015.
I studied Mass Comm because I had limited options. You know that story many Nigerian undergraduates are familiar with; where you have limited courses to choose from, so you choose whatever is closely related to what you really want to do. After a few classes, I realised that Mass Comm was not what I wanted to do. I did not like the course but I had no choice. So, I was stuck with it.
Epiphany: Owning my narrative
To be honest, I kept the whole school “thing” separate from my art all through University. I was deliberate about it. For me, art was an escape. It has always been my passion and I did it for fun. So, I really wanted to study 3D Animation but my school didn’t offer the course. 3D art reminded me a lot of the comic books I read as a child. Hence, I began to research 3D animation and the tools I needed. I found that I needed a laptop or an Ipad for starters.
So, I approached my parents for those tools and they bought me my first tablet. That was how I started learning digital art all by myself. I was in my freshman year then, in 2010. That was the birthing of Duroarts. Initially, I didn’t place a premium on monetizing my work while I was in school. But I got paid for some work I did for fellow students. The pay then was nothing really serious. But my perception of my art changed during my 3rd-year at the university.
My school made it compulsory for us to take an internship program in our penultimate year. So, I came back to Lagos to carry out my internship with a company on the Island. I worked there as a graphic artist. That was my first ever, and only, nine-to-five job and it lasted one week.
My first challenge with the job was resumption time and distance. The job was on the Island and I lived on the mainland in Ikeja. Also, when it came to doing my job, I didn’t like being told what to do and how to do it because I felt I knew much more than they were willing to listen to in terms of design approach.
Honestly, I felt like it was a waste of my time and that I couldn’t thrive as an artist there. Remaining there would have confined me to a desk. That was when I felt the need to control my own narrative and the type of work I want to put out there.
Transition: Becoming an illustrator
When I started 3D animation in 2010, there were not many tutorials online to learn from. I didn’t have access to the online class that is now available on sites like YouTube. So, it was a lot of trial and error for me. I just kept learning on my own for years until I met a friend in my neighbourhood who introduced me to his brother, Luke. He was a graphic artist too, an advanced one at that.
I remember the comments he made about my work at our first meeting. He said, “Guy, you are good o. But you are drawing sh*t.” I was humbled. After that meeting, he began to teach me design techniques and digital drawings. He became one of the people that happened to be the bedrock of my brand.
I also had another friend AK, who was the first to teach me how to design on computers. These two guys helped to finetune my craft. The rest was trial and error. I would always go online to look up posters and then try to replicate them. My learning process was just me sitting with my computer to draw and figure things out for myself. Thus, whenever I had a mental picture of what I wanted to draw, I don’t stop until I get it all out.
Some of the challenges I had transitioning to 3D illustration were my academic work standing in the way and not having enough access to the right information. For instance, I learnt most of the things I know from a lot of trial and error. If I had had access to the information I needed at the time I needed them, I would have had the knowledge earlier.
Currently, I run my own art illustration business, Duroarts, and I freelance. I also get paid in dollars for my craft. Besides spending time in the gym and relaxing, I spend an insane amount of time drawing on my computer and eating in between. Art is giving me a chance to attain one of my age-long dreams – music. I can’t make music but art helps me to contribute to the music-making process. So, I design covers for music albums. I have worked with popular Ajebutter Records and artists like Olamide, Phyno, Snoop Dog, and Davido. I’m happy that I am able to champion my own space in the industry.
Determination and hard work.
Build relationships. You need people to take your name to the right places and to speak for you in the right rooms.