Artist Nicole fell in love with art at an early age. Now Nicole is turning that passion into a new business. Check out our Q&A with Moreni K Art Store as we discuss the creative process and starting your own business.
How did Moreni K Art Store come to be?
I've always been into art, and I always knew that I wanted to be an independent artist and have my own business. I've been working towards the entrepreneurship side of things. I even had the name [of my business] in my head. My second name is Morenike and my last name begins with a K, so I thought Moreni K Art Store was clever. I've just kind of been going along and picking things up along the way. And now I'm here, I've got my website, and I'm just learning as I go.
My mum was a child minder for a really long time. She ran an after school arts and crafts club and she always involved me with the other kids since I was little. She always had us doing really creative things, like making Easter baskets, Christmas decorations and origami boats. It's funny because I realised I could paint when I discovered Bob Ross at about seven years old. I was watching one of his episodes, and I was just in love with the process. And the way he presented it was amazing. I followed [Bob Ross] along and I painted this window sill. I was absolutely amazed.
From that moment, I just kept practicing in my free time, after school and in the summertime. Then I went on to do my art GCSE at school. That was when things really picked up for me, and I realised that portrait painting was my niche, my area. Then I did art for my A Levels and I did a foundation year. I just really kept pushing myself, kept taking pictures- some to use in my work, and some just for me because I love photography as well. And it is really essential to my practice. So yeah, that’s how I got into art.
I’m taking commissions right now, so people can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the form on my website to make enquiries about. People can also follow me on Instagram @moreni_k_art where I make a bunch of reels and more in-depth posts about my work! I really enjoy painting new faces, so it’s an amazing feeling when someone wants me to do a piece for them.
Walk us through your creative process! How do you determine what to draw/what colours to use etc?
Honestly, it's very free flowing. I don't usually plan what I'm going to do. I’m one of those people who wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea that I must write it down. A lot of the time with my portraits, I will see it in my head before I've created it. So I might have an image come into my mind, and then I will recreate it using photography first. Then I use that as my reference point and I'll do drawings and sketches. Then I will start to use whatever medium I feel fits the mood best to build up the layers.
I allow it to be a natural process because that's when I make my most powerful work. It always has a message because I always have a lot to say. I always say that art is like my first language because it's the way that I communicate when it’s hard to say things with words. It's amazing to see people's responses as well, because when I share my work, it's like they're able to articulate what I was feeling when I made it. But also see it through their own lens.
What is your favourite art print? Why?
Oh, gosh, I'm terrible at choosing just one! I did a series called The Divine Feminine and my favourite is based on a deity called Aja.
It's a green one. It's number three in a triptych. And I just love it because I see myself there. But also, it's this completely different version of me in an alternate reality somewhere. I really see that when I look into her eyes. It's me, but not me. Different lives in different worlds. And that's why I love it so much. I haven't actually put this up on my website yet. But I think I will. Because I've had a few requests.
Tell us more about The Divine Feminine series! What’s the concept behind it?
The second painting is based on Oshun. And I'm sure a lot of people have heard of Oshun, as there's a lot on African traditional religions that is circulating now. I was inspired and used the information I found as a basis for my A level project. I'm Yoruba but I didn't know anything about deities, or like the pantheon of gods or the traditional religions that belong to our culture and our heritage. I just wanted to learn more and use that to find myself as well. I started to see my own femininity and divinity. It really helped my confidence. I started to see myself through the lens of these different deities, and I just wanted to paint them and their symbolism as well.
Oshun's symbol is a yellow flower. Her number is five so I did five flowers in the background. It was all these different symbols just compiled into each painting. The first one [in the series] is representative of both Yemoja and Olokun which are two different deities but they're often thought to be kind of one in the same. Olokun represents the deep sea. Yemoja is thought to be closer to the surface where the light is and where photosynthesis happens. So I've got a tree there. It’s just a lot of different meanings and symbols painted into one.
Greatest accomplishments and challenges as a business so far?
I'm business minded and entrepreneurial because I've seen my mum run her own business. Most of my life, I've seen her work for herself. And it's amazing. But I'm still really working out the technical side of things because as a creative, expressing and producing is what comes naturally to me. So the idea of having to deal with the technicalities can be a bit daunting. But with that said, it's still really rewarding to be able to do those things and balance the creative side, the business side and see the fruits of my labour.
My biggest accomplishment so far has been setting up my website and just seeing it all go live. That was something I’ve been working towards for so long - just wanting to have my own business, have it in my hands and say it's mine. To be able to say ‘this is how I want it [the business] to go’ and not having to follow anybody's rules. I can decide what prints I put on the website today or decide what competitions I'm going to run, I'm just kind of playing with it. It's really nice.
I recently ran a social media giveaway. Every few weeks, I do a free portrait drawing for someone. If you comment, tag somebody, it counts as an entry. I’m in the process of drawing a sketch for the most recent winner. It’s so fun!
What does it mean to you to be Black owned business?
I think it is of huge value for me to be in the space of expressing myself while melanated. Being seen and heard. I’m saying I'm here and taking up space; I’m not asking for permission and I’m unapologetic about that. I get to do that with my craft and my gift. And others who look like me can feel encouraged to freely express themselves in their own unique way.
I'm one more person in that space; that’s one more space curated- be it online or in person- for people to experience and recognise that the essence of my people is creative in itself. Art isn’t just for white people like I was taught to believe growing up. I enjoy being in creation mode. When I’m there, everything just flows in a way that reminds me I get to choose how my inner and outer worlds look and feel. I like the idea of people being able to share that with me.
Any advice for Black creatives or entrepreneurs?
My biggest piece of advice would be don't let people's fear, or their own discouragement discourage you! Don't let people tell you that there's only one way to do things. And just be bold and courageous in every decision you make. If you have an idea and you feel a fire about it, chase that feeling and go with it. There's nothing worse than having that fire and then just letting it extinguish itself.
So if you want to start that business, why not help set up your website and just learn as you go? That's the biggest thing; just starting. It's great to have a support network and it's important in it’s own way. But at the end of the day, you're going to be your biggest fan, you're going to be the one person who has to cheer you on at all times. You’ll have moments when it feels uncomfortable, but that’s exactly where the growth happens.
Even now, I'm a uni student, I just did my first year in fashion design. I'm a designer in the making. But I am taking a break from that to pursue my other passions. It’s scary. I'm not gonna lie because September's coming up and everyone's talking about uni! But I told myself I need to do this for me. Be bold, be courageous and trust the process.