22-year-old Uwera on the highs and lows of being an illustrator

Odile Uwera is an illustrator at Inkstain Rwanda and a student at University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology where she is pursuing creative designs, with a specialty in communications designs. She spoke to Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa about her love for the craft, and the challenges of being a woman in the field.

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How did you get started as an illustrator?

I started illustrating professionally in 2016. As a young girl, I was a huge fan of Disney stories and cartoons and I wanted to do something similar to inspire young people.

When I was in high school, I used to help classmates with drawings during art classes, my friends encouraged me to do art professionally. I was also inspired by the people that mentored me and the stories that I wanted to tell. That’s how I chose this path.

What are your creative channels?

I draw traditionally using pencil and ink on paper but I also do digital drawing where I use software like Photoshop, and Adobe studio.

What inspires your designs?

I grew up in a family with boys mostly, and I wanted to prove to them that I can also do stuff. So I grew up believing in feminine power and that we are all talented, we just have to showcase our capabilities. That is why most of my art pieces portray power in femininity. I believe in individual power, talent and uniqueness and I explore people’s behaviours, personalities and individual stories.

What sparks your creativity?

I like to express my ideas more using visuals rather than speech.

Do you have creative slumps? How do you handle them?

It happens all the time, and to every artist. I just take my time and my creativity sets in. Inspiration comes from the things that surround us, our experiences, what you do and what you hear. It’s something that takes time so I just wait.

What is the best part of your job?

The thing I like about my job is that I am free to express my ideas, and the way I think things are. I like that people respect it and that I get to achieve some of my goals.

What is the most challenging part of it?

There are not many women in this profession and so there are not many models to look up to. I also do not have enough resources to perfect what I do, and the industry is not really that big, so it’s kind of challenging for some people to see how relevant you are. The industry is growing though.

Do you have any current or future projects and plans that you can share with us?

This year, I wrote and illustrated a children’s book and hopefully it will be published in November. It’s an interesting book and I was happy doing it. I am planning to write more stories and also take part in projects that will make a big impact in society.

What’s your number one art tip?

There’s a famous artist — I don’t remember her name — who said creation starts from feeling fit to living in the moment, in the surrounding and embracing nature. So I try to live what I do.

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