CN: What gets you really creative?
Kiboko Hachiyon: Japan, Anime, Cartoons, Artists, Street Art, Colour, Old School Hip Hop, People, Conversation's, Africa, World Music
CN: Why did you start Ifreecans Collective?
Kiboko Hachiyon: Initially, my idea was to create a platform for African artists based in the UK who I knew and felt had no outlet for the creative work. This idea was informed by my experiences of trying to get my work exhibited at galleries and the responses I received. The galleries and people I met seemed to like the work but did not know what to do with it or what category to file it under. I figured there must be others who are in a similar position, and decided to create a vehicle of self-representation, to create work in our style, our way and with no rules or restrictions. I came up with the name Ifreecans Collective as a pun on words, meaning we were all originally from Africa, and I-Free-Can if we are free, we can do anything.
We started out with 3 members, all from Africa and set up shop in 2008. However, after a few months of running the shop, we met different artists from different countries who expressed interest in joining us. I quickly realized that it was not only African artists who were experiencing difficulties in getting exposure for their work, but it was also a universal problem. I revised the idea of the Ifreecans Collective and made it an inclusive and not an exclusive Collective. Your work, vibe, and spirit became your key to membership. Thus far, the Ifreecans has members and worked with artists from UK, Portugal, Sweden, Syria, USA, Kenya, Ghana, Japan, Korea, Italy, Spain, Bolivia, Germany, and many others. We work across various platform including Illustration, Graphic Design, Photography, Painting, Music, and Fashion.
CN: Being part of a collective or group means collaboration, how do you keep sane and working as a team?
Kiboko Hachiyon: All the Collective and guest artists have a lot of trust and respect for each other. This is crucial for building relationships and especially when it comes to collaborative works such as murals or live painting and at times Illustration and Graphic Design. We are also intimately familiar with each other’s working styles, strengths, and weaknesses.
Depending on what project we are working on, some or all artists will participate, or some will be chosen particularly based on their skill set or the needs of the brief. Participation is voluntary and you can choose to pull out or nominate other artists who you feel will be better suited for the project to replace you if need be.
When creating a collaborative piece, we have a working formula. For example, for a live painting, we have the starters/leads who usually are the character based artists. Once the characters are nailed down, we have the background artists who will either add buildings, flora or abstract elements. They have followed the secondary character and background artists/ finishers who add what they feel will pull together the various elements of the artwork. Everyone then ties their loose ends and the piece is done. We only have one rule, when the artists feel their part is done, then it is done.
It took a while for each of us to get in synch with each other, but when we did, the results were very well received and a blast to create.
CN: What was your first love? illustrating or painting
Kiboko Hachiyon: I would have to say Illustrating, but back then, what I did not have such an elegant title, I was just drawing. I picked up painting in my late teens and loved it. I draw clean and paint dirty [most times]. When illustration became a career, I had to tweak and refine my style, but in painting, there is a freedom that I hope to forever keep.
CN: There's more and more technology going into art, what are your thoughts about this?
Kiboko Hachiyon: I was slow to harness technology in my work, choosing instead to perfect traditional forms of making art such as drawing and painting. I felt technology created a disconnect with my working process, I am a tactile person, and like the physicality of paint, paper, charcoal, wood.
These are changing times and circumstances did not allow me the luxury of ignoring advances in technology for too long. As an Illustrator, technology allows you to be able to work from different locations and have a wider client base. Technology comes with the added benefit of exposure, one is able to display work online on the various platforms that are now available, it has become easier to become visible on a global scale.
I do not know how Illustrator's and creatives of the past survived without the Internet and the various software available, they found a way, but I think technology make things easier which is not such a bad thing. I still craft the majority of my works by hand to retain what I feel is a natural element, but it is very rare to find that I have colored my illustrations in the traditional way, most of it is done by Computer.
My problem with technology is, as much as it has made things easier, it has made things harder, as well as taking away some skills which I feel are crucial to any creative practice.
In the UK, for some job vacancies, they ask for experience in the use of a multitude of Software-based packages, something I never did dedicate much of my time to, and probably never will. I picked 3 which I will have to use the most, and I am gradually becoming better at using them. I feel that there is a mass exodus into the software realm, and a lot of creatives are losing out because they do not seem to meet Industry standards, did not have time to master 10 or more software packages, or did not have an idea that they would have needed to. But they can still create, illustrate and design with the best of them.
I have spoken to many of the older generations who started Design/Print/Creative Studio's in the early 80's and 90's and they state a similar problem. With advances in Technology, among the younger generation of creatives and graduates, few see the need to or have even basic drawing skills. I believe drawing lies at the heart of many creative disciplines, and it is a skill that will sadly become a rarity. Many now do everything via Computer, graphics tablets are an amazing invention and I own one, but in my own opinion, nothing beats putting pen/pencil to paper.
One of the first live painting gig's I did was organized by one of my tutor's at University. The event was spread over two days, with professional illustrators and artists taking part, and students were asked to come if they pleased. On the first day, 8 students showed 3 Illustration and 5 Graphic Design. We had 3 hours on each day to complete the works. The illustrators did their lines and colors on the first day, then finished what was left on the second. The Graphic Designers had a discussion and planned their visuals on the first day, and on the second, continued planning until they realized they had 1 hour left and could not do anything. I am not saying everyone should be alive painter or be able to draw to time. But over a 6 hour period, this guys did not even lay a finger on their allocated section. Had they been in a Studio with a Computer with the software of their own choosing, they would have knocked out some serious graphics in less than 2 hours, and got it to the printers and back in another 2 hours, with 2 hours left to stick it onto the surface. I do not know if any of the five could draw, and even if they could, none of them attempted to do so.
I think everyone is open to their own opinions about technology and it's relationship with art and creativity. It has taken me a long time to master drawing and painting, and a few months/years to dance with Photoshop and Illustrator. I made my choice and I am glad I went the old way first, and the modern way seconds. Creative decisions we take now will have an impact on our future practice, choose wisely.
CN: Do you think the meaning of art is more important than the visual feeling?
Kiboko Hachiyon: I think that both are interconnected. Everyone perceives things in a different way, but it is the visual aesthetic that tends to stop people first, and upon contemplation, they then attempt to decipher the meaning behind what they are observing.
CN: What is the best advice you got so far?
Kiboko Hachiyon: Have integrity in your work. Choose who you work with and the reasons you work with them carefully, monetary rewards should not be the major factor in taking up a commission. Choose projects that directly speak to you and work you enjoy doing, the results will echo your enthusiasm and passion for the subject.
CN: Where are you based?
Kiboko Hachiyon: London, UK
CN: What is your favorite street in the city?
Kiboko Hachiyon: Rivington Street
CN: Favorite coffee/tea/beer spot?
Kiboko Hachiyon: JUNO BAR, Shoreditch. Lock 17, Camden Town.
CN: What's the creative community like in your city?
Kiboko Hachiyon: Constantly morphing. There is so much happening in the various creative disciplines, you could be experiencing something great in one location, and missing something just as good or better in another location on the same day, they could even be 15 minutes apart.
CN: What are your upcoming plans?
Kiboko Hachiyon: I am working on some new paintings and would like to have a Solo Show hopefully at the end of the year or early next year. I am in LA at the moment, and there is an interesting creative culture that I would like to experience and learn more about, good reason to return would be the opportunity to show some work. I would like to go do a show in Japan sometime next year. One of the Ifreecans Collective Artists is based there now and would love to do some work with him. Relaunch the Ifreecans Collective online shop, we have been working on some new tees, prints, postcards and stickers and have to get them up there and moving as soon as possible. Finish two graphic novel projects I have been working on for a very long time, but never seem to find enough time to complete. Get my website dedicated solely to my paintings up and running. Do a bit more traveling, paint a few murals and show work in as many countries as possible outside the UK.