Photo by Lafayette Barnes/The Washington Informer
Photo by Lafayette Barnes/The Washington Informer

In Washington, D.C., the culture of visual art has ranged from the world class art on display in the Smithsonian to the graffiti that used to adorn the Red Line on the subway. It was in this environment artist and native Washingtonian Aniekan Udofia honed his skills and has now become the premier muralist in the city. He has had an indelible impact on the city’s artistic landscape, From the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl Mural to the Marvin Gaye mural in the heart of Shaw Aniekan’s works have become some of D.C.’s most identifiable cultural landmarks.

Aniekan Udofia, D.C. area painter and illustrator (Lafayette Barnes/The Washington Informer)

Growing up in between D.C. and Nigeria, Aniekan began his artistic career as a comic book enthusiast and used his passion for the artwork he admired to develop his own style of editorial illustration. His work is also heavily influenced by hip-hop culture noting that when he saw the album covers for the GZA’s “Liquid Swords” and Organized Konfusion’s “Stress: The Extinction Agenda” among others “I knew that’s what I wanted to do.” While attending UDC and MCAD (Maryland College of Art & Design) his work was published in FRANK151, XXL, The Source, Vibe Magazine and several other outlets. As an artist Aniekan says “Experience was the difference.”

Aniekan has been one of the most visible muralist in D.C. for the past 10 plus years. Initially murals weren’t his thing at all. He never even used spray paint as an artist before. Beginning with local businesses interested in beautifying their locations he set out to learn how to master this new challenge by educating himself on the finer points of mural creation from spray paint techniques to how the weather and environment affects the finished product. He says he wanted to learn in order to create his own unique expressions stating that “you have to learn how it works first and then you can break the rules.” He sits with clients and comes up with one of a kind wildly imaginative visions for their projects with the goal of “turning businesses into landmarks.” Between his work with Murals DC and other private projects Aniekan has over 25 murals (indoor and outdoor) in Washington, D.C.

The process of covering an entire city block in some cases with an original piece of art is more than a notion. Aniekan stresses how important it is too learn the “discipline and structure” of the business of art. Emphasizing that its not only his talent but his “dedication to the work itself” that sets him apart. “Educate yourself and Do the research so you can command the money you want” and “don’t do things just for ‘exposure’…” are some of his advice to up and coming artists looking to make a real living and impact by creating. Aside from staying busy with projects commissioned by MuralsDC as well as Toyota, American Express, Major League Baseball among others, Aniekan is looking to contribute to the artistic community by teaching more about portfolio organization, consultation and representation in order to “bring that awareness to up & comers as well as some of my peers” adding “the most important thing is to focus and see where you really want your career to go.”

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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