(POSTED 18 FEBRUARY 2019)
Anne Gichuku (aka bissu_art on Instagram) is one of our next generation Kenyan artists who can fairly describe herself as being truly ‘self taught.’ Or perhaps more accurately, you could call her ‘YouTube taught’ since she’s learned all she knows about digital art (which is her medium of expression) through YouTube tutorials.
Her exhibition of digital art currently on until 24th February at Alliance Francaise is evidence that Anne is proficient in her chosen field of expression. ‘A girl like me’, the title of her first-ever show, is dedicated to young ‘girls’ like herself. The exhibition of 30 digital works on canvas is filled with images of girls who are black, fun, free spirited and unpredictable. There’s only one guy in her show and he is drawn inside a fruity ice popsycle that a girl three times his size is getting set to lick the life out of!
Otherwise, her girls come in all sizes, shapes and activities. Some are beautiful, others have TV sets for heads, while others are ‘aliens’ coming from outer space, although one alien girl who didn’t make it into the show is green and coming ‘out of the ground’, says Ms Gichuku. “That’s because she’s already here among us.”
Her aliens girls tend to have a third eye and hair that is either turquoise blue, pink, purple, green or white. It doesn’t matter to her. But as far as she’s concerned, they’re all black girls even if they’re from outer space.
‘I love drawing girls and girls who are black since we are always marginalized and this is my chance to turn the tide,” says Anne who’s quite fearless about her feminist cause.
What I find fascinating is the fact that no digital artist on the local scene inspired her to develop her artistic skills in the IT field. But she did discover some women digital artists online and sought to buy them. “But as they would have come from overseas, the shipping would have been expensive,’ she says. So rather than forget this new-found interest, she decided she ought to create digital art of her own.
That’s how she discovered programs like Photoshop and Painttool SAI, IT programs that after discovering their potential for use in creating digital art.
But Anne is actually an artist who’s quite modest about her own capabilities as an ‘analog artist’, meaning an artist who can draw lovely imagery with paper and pen. But after she’s drawn the basic image that she wants to develop, she scans it and then completes the artwork with photoshop and painttool.
Placing most of her art on her Instagram account, Anne says she also likes digital art for an economical aspect. Going to shops and buying art materials can be extremely expensive, she says. But once she’s bought those essential programs, she feels there’s no end to her creative capacities.
Anne even posts short videos on the web that illustrate the way her computer, armed with yet another IT program, can retrace her artistic steps that led to her development of a specific piece.
“After I complete a work, I transform it into a PDF and then take it to a printer off River Road that takes my painting and prints them on canvas,” says Anne who found this particular printer just walking around Nairobi’s back-streets till she found this ‘reasonably priced printer’.
Anne admits there’s nothing really deep in her digital art. “I originally made my digital art for myself. But then I realized that somebody else might like it too. That’s when I decided to sell some of it and also have an exhibition of mine.
Anne just started doing digital art in 2017, but she’s already won one of the Sondeka 2018 awards in the ‘Digital Art’ category. 2017 is also the year she graduated from Daystar University with a major not in art but in music