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My major failure was waiting for people to embrace comics and cartoons before deciding to launch- Kenneth Boyowa Okitikpi, Digital Artist, Illustrator and Cartoonist.

My name is Kenneth BoyowaOkitikpi and I am an Itsekiri by tribe from Obonteghareda (Warri South) in Delta State. I am a graduate of International Studies & Diplomacy from the Benson Idahosa University and I have a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Benin. I am a Digital Artist, Illustrator and Cartoonist.

My father, Mr Michael UtienyiOkitikpi was an artist by flair,not by profession. This got me interested in art at an early age. I have been into comic drawing from my early days in primary school; when I would wait for the term to be over and as we vacate school, I use all my notebooks as drawing books. I would make fictitious stories up and draw them. Looking back, those drawings were awkward, but that’s how I started.By the time I was in secondary school and could afford getting some superhero comics, I started redrawing these comics. Then after secondary school, I started creating my own comics. By the way, using my school notes as drawing book after school vacation remained a tradition till around SS1 … I think! But I started drawing cartoons professionally after graduation from the university.

So professionally I would say I have been doing it for 12 years.
Funding was a major problem when I kicked off. When I started in 2005, I started with a friend of mine and we came up with a youth satirical comic magazine titled JOKER! We ran it from our own purse but Nigerian comics was not a “thing” then so most persons we met for sponsorship did not see the prospects in it. We struggled to bring out another 2 issues of the magazine before we finally put it to rest. So for a while I stayed off it and focused on my graphics design. So now most of my personal cartoon jobs are on hold; I do freelancing now. My outfit is called ARTITUDE Incorporated we do freelance illustration and comics for private and corporate bodies.

When it comes to generating ideas I just tell myself to think outside the box. I focus mostly on humor cartoons and one thing I have always learnt about humor is that the closer you are to being yourself, the funnier you will be. Even when clients give me jobs to do, I try to lighten the mood a bit if it wouldn’t distort the message they want to pass. And they always love it!
Apart from Illustrating I do graphic designs both for social and print media. I am gradually going into motion animation for my cartoons and I am a writer. Matter of fact, I have a page on facebook that I got to test-run a story idea for one of my cartoon characters, and people have really loved the page and are asking for more. But for copyright reasons I stopped posting there. But I still get messages from fans saying I should continue. So I see myself doing something about that in the near future. You can check the page out – www.facebook.com/SecretDiaryOfTuoyoAmaju. Also I have a published secondary school textbook on Civic Education in the market.

On an average I spend 6 hours a day on my job. It is cumulative though because I don’t work in a stretch to avoid burn out. I take small breaks to relax my eyes, or think of ideas.

My greatest fear is failing and not being able to get back on track. I see failure as lessons learnt so I have no issue with that; but it is when a person fails and can’t get back on his feet – THAT is what scares me! But like I have learnt, if you know what you did to succeed, even when you fail you can do those same things again, and even better, to get back on track.

I have a passion for animation. Because it gives you the power to create characters, decide their stories, decide their fate. You create their world where you decide what happens; it’s like being a god. There are scripts I have written in the past that I know I would find it hard to get actors to act them out, but in animating cartoon characters, that is never a problem. Animating just gives you endless possibilities.

Success for me is relative. Once my goal is achieved, then I count it as successful. So when I begin seeing my own created animated series on television, yes, that does it for me.

My major failure was waiting for people to embrace comics and cartoons before deciding to launch out.It kept me dormant for a long time. But when I started seeing comic books like Supastrikas and how well it was received by youngsters years back, I decided to actually pursue my art and make people come to me for write ups and put some of my works on some magazines for free just to get exposure, and it has been working really well for me. It even got me a gig from South Africa I am currently working on.

MAD magazine has been a major influence. KayceeOkoronkwo is a veteran Nigerian cartoonist that has influenced me, especially his column in PUNCH Newspapers ‘Memoirs’ of yesteryears. I watch a lot of Japanese animes(Naruto, Bleach, One Punch,etc) though I don’t use their art style but they inspire me. The old cartoon network was an inspiration also. When I say old I am talking of the Dexter’s Laboratory, Loony Toons, Johnny Bravo, Ed Edd and Eddy, Cow and Chicken era.As for the present cartoon network, I choose to reserve my comment (Laughs).

The major challenge I faced was funding. If it was going to be a black and white comic book, it would have been cheaper to run, but comics should be fully colored and this was more expensive than I had anticipated. Most sponsors didn’t see potential in this industry. No one wanted to be the first person to invest in a comic magazine. I kept waiting for them to catch up with the trend, but I was losing valuable time. That was when I decided on going independent and instead of working on a full-fledged comic magazine hoping to get sponsors and advert placements; I decided to create my own projects and fulltime freelancing for the few that understood what I was doing. From then, I took on a children’s storybook illustration gig for a client, I got introduced to another author that needed that service. Even my printer got me a gig from some clients that are publishers. That’s how I started slowly building my client base and moving into bigger projects.

Personally I value my time and my freedom a lot, so being an entrepreneur afforded me both. Though I get more gigs as a graphic designer than as an illustrator, but illustration and cartoons have paid me more than designs. Having complete creative control over my projects is something I also enjoy because it helps bring out more in me.

A successful entrepreneur should have passion in whatever area he/she decides to focus on because that will keep his interest in the business when he faces turbulent times. Financial management is essential because most entrepreneurs need discipline when profits roll in. Ultimately, good customer relations would help you retain satisfied clients and keep them coming back and referring your service/product to others.

Hmmmm. My long term goal is to produce animated movies, series and to make my brand a major name in the industry.

My advice to upcoming entrepreneurs is to be guidedby wisdom. Firstly, develop your brand to be able to stand both the test of time and major competitors in your industry. Lastly, do not despise the days of little beginnings; your goal might be slow coming, but each day, week, month or year should draw you closer to achieving your ultimate goal.

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