Some young people have difficulties holding unto and possibly pursuing multiple career ideas at the same time. In an interview with Itoro Ukpong, a 20 year undergraduate student of Computer Science, he shares his ambition of being a pilot, and at the same time a graphics artist. He is convinced that with a vision, and the right kind of support, young people can pursue more than one occupation at the same time.
Below is the interview. Enjoy the read.
CareerFoundaxns: Thank you for accepting to be interviewed Itoro. Tell us briefly about yourself.
Itoro Ukpong: Okay, I am a 20 year old artist (I draw), I aspire to be a pilot but at the moment I study Computer Science in the University.
CF: How long have you been drawing for?
IU: I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, my mum used to draw so…
CF: Ohhh. Awesome, I see, so you kind of took drawing from her..?
IU: Yeah…. yes
CF: Awesome. So have you been thinking about doing it professionally?
IU: Errrm, I won’t say professionally, but i have been thinking of going further with it. I don’t plan to pursue arts as my career but it is a thing I have passion for. When i was much younger I used to do comics, but I think as I was growing up, I grew out of drawing comics a little bit and I started drawing portraits. Sometimes I wonder “what is the purpose of all these things I draw?” and one of the ways I have been thinking of making it useful is by telling stories with it.
CF: Ohh, I like that. Telling stories with it. That sounds cool. And you said you’re studying computer science?
CF: So, how did you get to decide what course to study in the university?
IU: Uhhmmm. Okay when i finished high school, the thing I really wanted to do was to go to flying school, to train as a pilot. But when I finished high school I was too young to be admitted into flying school. I was 16, and you know in flying school you have to be 18 before you start. So my Dad advised me to pick any course of study in the university instead of staying at home, afterwards, I could do what I really want to do which is flying. So i just chose computer science which is what I’m doing for now.
CF: So basically, the computer science was just like a second thought? (IU: Yes). Are you still hoping to attend flying school after university?
CF: Oh I see. What university are you attending at the moment?
IU: Ashesi University in Ghana.
CF: When you are not in school, what does a typical day for you look like?
IU: When I am not in school, If I’m doing an internship of course i go to work from morning till afternoon and then come back home. At home, I do the things I love which are basically drawing, listening to music….when I’m not doing an internship, I just draw all day.
CF: Wow that is interesting. You said earlier you are out of drawing comics, is there any other particular area of drawing you are now interested in?
IU: Ermmmm. I’ll like to go into animation drawing; you know I said I would like to tell stories with my drawing. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of all these Disney movies, that’s like the grand plan for my arts.
CF: So piloting is going to be your primary occupation?
IU: Yes exactly.
CF: How do you hope to balance these two, because I believe when you go into animation drawing, it will be very demanding. How do you plan to manage that?
IU: (Laughs…) that is something I have really been thinking about? I don’t know how much time flying would actually take from me but, I know it will be a lot. But i also believe that drawing is something I already have in me, so it is something that i don’t necessarily have to spend so much effort on.
CF: Okay… I think that makes sense. How do your parents respond to your passion for drawing?
IU: (Laughs). They have been supportive, they enable me to acquire my drawing tools, and they give me things to research on. My Dad in particular would say… “This thing should start making money ohhh, start making money” (laughs). That is what my dad says, but my Mum just encourages me. Sometimes when I think my drawings are not nice, she tells me “this is good, this is good, keep it up” She is always the encourager. Although my Dad talks about making money, I don’t want my arts to be motivated by making money, so money is not really a priority.
CF: Wow! That is really deep, for someone your age to go into arts for other reasons outside money, I think that is really impressive.
IU: Thank you.
CF: When you think about your drawing, do you have any role models or mentors? You know, people you look up to or maybe gain inspiration from?
IU: Yeah… I have a few; though they are not necessarily very popular ones. People like Arinze Stanley, the guy with super-realistic drawings, and quite a few others… anything that I just like and find quite interesting I just follow really.
CF: Okay, that’s interesting. Have you ever thought about doing an exhibition? (IU: Yes, I have). Oh okay. Tell me about that.
IU: Uhhh. This was when I was in school last semester, I thought about doing an exhibition where students come in and I draw them, then I get to showcase the drawings and others can identify the persons in the drawings. Yeah… I tried to do that but i couldn’t pull it off because of limited time. But I hope to do that when I resume in September.
CF: Okay. Awesome. Now for young people who admire your work and are maybe inspired by you, what could you do to encourage them?
IU: I would tell them to have a vision, a plan, they should clearly define what they would like to be, where they would like to get to. Because, if you say you are an artist and you are just drawing without a vision or purpose, it’s kind of pointless. Secondly, when you have a vision, you will get to a point where you do not have the right resources that you need to achieve your goals, during such periods, they should not use their lack of resources as an excuse to be laid back. They should keep building and sharpening their skills with the little they have. For instance, my current goal is to get into animations and I need an iPad to do that well, at moment I don’t have that, but I keep working with what I have until I can get one for myself.
CF: Nice. When you get back to school, how do you balance your arts with your studies?
IU: It’s about sacrifice. People use their free time, playing, partying and doing fun stuff generally. For me, those are the times I spend doing my drawing after lectures.
CF: And does that affect your academics in any way?
IU: Ermmm. (giggles…) sometimes it actually does, because, drawing is something that pulls you, when you start drawing a piece, there is this eagerness and strong urge to finish the piece before doing something else. So yeah, if you are not careful, you can lose track of time.
CF: So how do you manage that yourself? When you feel you are getting consumed by the drawing, how do you handle that?
IU: I hang out with serious and academically minded friends who keep me conscious of my priorities; these are people that would drag me along when it is time for studies.
CF: Awesome. What would you say is the most challenging thing for you as an artist?
IU: The most challenging thing would be… (a long pause) that’s a hard one. I would say, growing and improving and that is because you do not get people who readily share their knowledge with you to hone your skills. You have to go out there for yourself and research. Some of the artists prefer to hoard their skills
CF: Wow… that is interesting. So how do you deal with that?
IU: I am very vigilant; I decided that these guys won’t leave me behind at all. So you see me on platforms like instagram, I am not just there to admire the works of expert artists, I am looking closely at the tactics used in drawings, the quality of pencils they use, the kind of markers and erasers used, I join Arinze‘s Q&A sessions online, you just have to be aggressive.
CF: That sounds really cool. So tell me, as an artist, what is the thing you are most proud of?
IU: I am proud of what my art does, people tell me they are inspired by my arts, some people say it makes them happy, sometimes i don’t even understand how, but those compliments are great.
CF: Thank you very much Itoro, is there any other thing you would like to add?
IU: No I am fine.
CF: Okay. Thanks a million for the interview.
IU: You’re welcome.
Check out Itoro’s drawings on his Instagram page here