ODERA IGBOKWE (they/them and he/him) is an illustrator and painter located on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Odera loves to explore storytelling through Afro-diasporic mythologies, Black resilience, and magical girl transformation sequences. Odera was born of Nigerian parents who immigrated to the United States, and as a result their work explores the magic of the Black imagination, and responds to the fractures that occur via diaspora and displacement. Ultimately their paintings celebrate joy, mundanity, and fantasy coexisting alongside pain and healing. As an artist and illustrator, Odera works with clients and galleries to create work that is deeply personal, soulful, and intersectional.
What was your introduction to working in the field of science fiction and fantasy art? What were the influences that drew you in?
This question tickles me a bit, because I am constantly wondering how much I identify with the labels of science fiction and fantasy.
They have absolutely been part of a greater gumbo-elixir-fusion of early influences (Octavia E. Butler, 2000s RPGs, X-men, etc.), but I think there are certain genre checkpoints and a continuous centering of European-Medieval history and/or space colonization that always kept me on the outskirts during my most formative years.
I recognize that my artwork takes on certain qualities that work wonderfully with speculative fiction. But at this point I create what I create, and allow the images to live where they need to live.
What’s more important – inspiration or perspiration? Is being an artist a higher calling or a craft like any other?
Inspiration and perseverance are equally important, and work best when they are in harmony with each other. Often when we think of inspiration, there is this idea of it being a fleeting lightning bolt, ‘‘A ha!’’ moment. But to create art that is generative and sustainable, it’s important to craft a life and create systems where inspiration and perseverance are a part of the daily process.
How do you keep it fresh for yourself and keep learning new techniques and improving your craft? Have there been any recent changes or discoveries in your art process, or do you feel settled into something that’s really working for you already?
The major through-line, from my earliest creations until now, is that I always honor the inner child who wants to freely generate, express, and experiment. The artwork might shift and evolve in style, concept, or technical execution, but that foundation of joyously creating will always be part of me. In terms of keeping things fresh and exciting, that comes from being both grounded and in awe of creation. There is so much to experience and see in one lifetime, and that is a constant source of excitement.
In the past few months I have been creating work that is very spirit-based. Sometimes that can get overwhelming, so going back to the basics of figure drawing and life drawing can keep me balanced. In the early stages of my life, life drawing was so much about learning technique and aiming for rigid realism, so it’s been really fun to revisit, and feel so much more free and expressive.
Is there something about what you do as an artist working in the SF/F field, or an upcoming project, that you’d like to tell our readers about?
I am currently in the early stages of creating a hybrid Tarot-Oracle deck. The deck is inspired by Nigerian cosmologies, collective healing, intersectional identity, and the magic of the African diaspora. I am super excited about it as I will be reimagining and shifting some of the major arcana. Some of these images have taken on really rich syncretic qualities, and I am having a blast unearthing how each card’s meaning shifts and enriches with the context of each new image. You can keep up with the deck by joining my mailing list or Patreon at <www.odera.net> or following me on socials <@oderaigbokwe>.
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