Creating and presenting positive black imagery is so essential – more so than ever today. Judging from the major fail from that retail store that shall remain nameless (they do not deserve to have their name mentioned on my blog!), I think it’s crucial that we see ourselves and represent ourselves in the most uplifting light.
When I think of a person who is creating positive, beautiful, black images, Kofi Frempong’s name comes straight to mind.
Kofi is a Toronto-based artist who has been creating art since he was 5 years old. He started out drawing, but stayed far away from painting due to having an overwhelming fear. He sadly thought that his paintings wouldn’t measure up to his drawings, so he didn’t attempt to paint.
Through years of battling his fear, he ultimately overcame his anxiety by doing a “live painting” at an event in front of over 500 people. Brave, eh?
Lucky for us he has conquered his fear and continues to dazzle audiences with his beautiful, sensuous, regal pieces.
To read more about Kofi’s journey into painting, keep reading.
Astrological Sign: Aquarius
Day job: Community Health Worker
Fun Fact: If Kofi weren’t painting, he’d be teaching
How did you get your start in painting?
For the longest time I’ve had a fear of painting. I had a lot of anxiety around painting. I’ve been doing art for 25 years and I’ve always been really good at drawing, working with markers, pencils and pencil crayons, but I had a lot of anxiety because I didn’t think my paintings matched up to my drawings. I had a fear of judgement.
I managed to make it to college and took courses in Design Foundations and Art Fundamentals, and struggled when we did anything with painting. From there I left my courses in art and pursued my other passion – working in the social sector.
During this time, I met my wife, started a family, purchased a house…..while all that was happening, I put art on the side because I started working in the community. I was supporting my wife through school and also trying to help her figure out what her career path would be.
I wanna say I didn’t have time, but it’s more like I didn’t create the time or invest the time into my art. I took 6-7 years off from art.
The day that my wife got into her midwifery program at Ryerson, I was now able to focus on myself more. Around that time I had an event called “Freedom Fridayz.”
What is Freedom Fridayz?
I created a platform for artists of all types – performing artists, visual artists, and culinary artists, to do their thing. The whole theme around it was to get outside your comfort zone and showcase your talent. That’s how I pretty much started painting. If I’m preaching to people to get outside of their comfort zone, then I should be able to do the same thing. I painted my first piece in front of a crowd of over 500 people!
The first 10 minutes were nerve wracking and that’s actually how I found my process, and my process is enjoying the process – don’t worry about the final outcome.
What images do you like to create?
Early on in my career I painted a lot of women, as of 2018 I’m still going to paint women, but I will be introducing men into my body of work, as well as families, fathers and their children, combination of families – how they look different. I’m even going to feature same sex couples. Just understanding that beauty isn’t only attached to what the “standard” is currently.
Does your culture/ heritage influence your art?
I believe it does – I don’t necessarily need to think about it or try to be deliberate about it, it comes out naturally in the vibrant, warm colours that I use. I make a point to use vibrant colours, not with the intention of being cultural, but I feel like it’s attached to culture.
How do you balance life, work, and art?
As a Community Health Worker my hours are really flexible, and a lot of my paintings I do late at night – when the kids are sleeping. My shows are usually on the weekends, so I make sure that I have enough time to spend with the family and also do my job properly.
Any new projects on the horizon?
I’m working on my first solo exhibit. In the past 4 years I’ve probably done 200 exhibits, but they’ve always been for other people’s events. My pieces sell really fast, so I’ve never been able to hold onto them. Now that I am a little more established, I can now afford to hang onto my pieces and use them for exhibits.
As the interview came to an end, I asked Kofi if he had any parting words. This is what he had to say about what art means to him.
I firmly believe that everybody has an artistic gift but it really depends on what their medium or platform is – what their form of art is. For some people it’s painting, other people it’s dance, singing, even creating connections for other people. That’s how I define art. And I feel like one of the main purposes of art is to heal yourself and others. When you’re really mindful in creating spaces that are really safe for people, it becomes therapy.
Isn’t it mind-blowing how Kofi went from being completely terrified of painting to becoming a well-known Toronto artist recognized for creating beautiful paintings? He is a true example how conquering your fear and taking a risk, only leads to something phenomenal.
Thanks for the chat and for creating beautiful art, Kofi!
If you would like to learn about Kofi, please visit the following sites:
Facebook: click here
YouTube: click here