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"Illustrating has really given me an order" - Adryan Tunde Abii-Smith on anti-anxiety art

When lockdown halted the world as we know it earlier this year, 28 year old Adryan Tunde Abii-Smith took the opportunity to indulge in his love of illustrating, seeing as life was no longer getting in the way. Forging a career in Marketing and Culture, Adryan has always been drawn to creative hobbies; trying his hand a photography a few years back, but finding that his work took precedence.

“I never found the time to indulge these interests, It was always something that was considered to be a luxury. Well, lockdown definitely taught me to indulge those luxuries”.

As a practice, illustration always appealed to Adryan and felt like a happy medium since restrictions and regulations meant he was unable to pick up photography again this summer: “I invested in a new laptop and started illustrating my friends and family who I suddenly was unable to physically see and catch up with.”

As weeks turned into months, Adryan began to tailor his illustrations to everyday life, getting inspiration from actual poses and people as well as feeling drawn to creating work centred on black people and POC doing ordinary things. “I find it generally easier to draw inspiration from my own race and experience, and in some way put something creative into the world. We are going through a renaissance of sorts when it comes to black art, pain and culture. Being a part of that is important to me.”

While experimenting with style, exaggerated features like elongated necks and a focus on hair have become integral to his fun and colourful approach. Working from the top down and working on these elements first, colour palette usually comes last and is inspired by fellow illustrator Charlotte Edey. “I have seen many variations on my kind of illustration via social media, so getting references from these places is super helpful to my process.” Adryan also cites and Liana Farmer and Aline + Célia as big inspirations to his work.

Forging new creative outlets are important, especially given the chaos 2020 has bought with it and this is by no means lost on Adryan: “I suffer from anxiety, so illustrating has really given me an order to my day. It’s been great to be creating for myself, and to not have to be following a certain brief or answering to a manager or colleague.”

With an ever-growing social media presence and stunning illustrations, Adryan is testament that it’s never too late to work on your passion: “Have patience. It can be tricky to get into the swing of things and get to grips with a new skill. It’s also super important to know your worth; when your art turns into a business, never undersell yourself, this is something I am currently learning.”


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