MAKE YOUR MARK: Jessica Omitola

Jessica Omitola _ Ilatoda

What’s you name?

Jessica Omitola

Where are you located?

Manchester, England

If you could describe what you do for a living on your own terms, what would you say? 

I am a visual artist. I create portraits using mixed mediums such as charcoal pencil, acrylics and watercolour paints.

Aside from your given title, would you say there are any other titles or hats you wear in this position?

Would a makeup artist count? I literally stumbled into it by accident when I assisted a photographer friend on set of a fashion shoot. The official makeup artist did not show up and I was dragged in to replace her because apparently I should be good at freehand stuff right? Surprisingly it turned out pretty good and hence my photographer friend decided I would be her own personal makeup artist. It’s actually landed me a few jobs with other photographers since and even now I still do the odd wedding or event makeup job.

Is this what you always wanted to be when you grew up? 

NO WAY! I’ve wanted to be a lot of things, and they were usually all academia based. I’ve wanted to be a Pharmacist, a Biochemist, even a Medical Doctor. But I never wanted to be an Artist. When you are brought up in a traditional Nigerian household the last thing you are taught to aspire to be is some form of an artist. It’s just a no-go area.

Can you put into words your career history to date? 

Haha this is a funny question. I may need to check out my résumé to give my memory a bit of a jolt.  I have done almost every type of layman’s job. I’ve been a Maths and English tutor for little kids, I’ve worked in a cinema selling confectionaries, worked at Primark, I’ve been a Care Assistant, babysitter, I was even a newspaper girl at 14. And this is just touching the surface.

If there was ever a time where you weren’t working for yourself, how did you make the leap from working for someone to working for yourself? Was it an easy transition?

I think the hardest part is when people asked “So what are you going to do once you leave your job?” Then comes the awkward pauses after you tell them your plans. It is hard convincing people you want to pursue your natural talents because we are taught there is no space for that nonsense in the real world. But once you get over that unction to please people your load gets a lot lighter. Making the leap also became easier once I decided not to look back. I realised that I didn’t want to get to the pearly gates with half a life lived. So this really pushed me to focus on what was ahead and not what I was leaving behind. In general it was not an easy transition so to speak but nothing worth having is ever easy.

Coming back to the present, (haha) what is your morning routine before you start the day? 

- I try to start my day with a conversation with God

- Check my emails and social media accounts for any updates

- Workout or a run around the park for at least 30 minutes

- Shower and brush my teeth.

- Breakfast usually includes a green smoothie or porridge (I know it sounds pretty boring but I’m not a breakfast person)

- Make my face and hair presentable (this is if I am stepping out of the house by the way, otherwise it’s a sports bra and sweats kind of day)

Describe what you do between stepping into your work space and then calling it a wrap at the end of the day (Basically, your average work day):

My schedule usually varies each day. Some days I am just completing orders; which includes parcel and packaging, then going to post office to ship the items. Then other days I am creating new work or completing old work, getting them scanned professionally and updating the website and my social media platforms. Then there is the research side of things. It all depends on what needs doing to be honest.

What is your favourite part of the day? 

Bedtime! Hands down!

How do you define internal and external success in all that you do? 

I don’t know how to answer this question without sounding super cliché. For me success in general is when I know without a doubt that what I am doing puts a smile on people’s faces and their hearts. When people see my work and talk about it like it has somehow moved their emotions I am left thinking, ‘This thing I do must be a gift that I dare not bury.’

What has been the biggest success so far and why? 

When I launched because that was when the actualisation of my dreams began.

With all that success there’s bound to be some overwhelming moments, how do you overcome the bumps along the way? 

My faith keeps me grounded. When the stress hits I find that remembering that I am but a grain of sand in the bigger picture of things brings me back down to earth. If I let my own worries and failures get the better of me and I cease to see that life is worth much more and means much more than my own personal ambitions then everything I have accomplished and wish to accomplish becomes in vain. In short I try to be grateful.

Ok, so you’re sitting at a cafe across the table from your biggest career inspiration, who is it and why? 

Right now it would be Nelson Makamo, a portrait artist from South Africa. Google his work and you will see why too.

Now, someone new to the career field is sitting across the table from you, what advice do you give them? 

It depends if they even wanted my advice. Haha they might be more clued up than I am. But if they did ask I guess I would tell them to surround themselves with those that are dreamers and accomplishers; people that will critique with love and pull them up along the way.

Would you go back and do any of it differently or just the same?

Oh I would DEFINITELY go back and do things differently. It’s part of the cons of being an artist. We are our biggest critique.

So if that little kid you used to be before looked at you now, do you think they’d be excited to grow up? 

I think they would be because the little kid I used to be was timid and hurt and very insecure. I think she would realise that confidence and fulfilment was not out of her reach after all and that it would soon be tangible.

What do you want to do next? 

I don’t know the specifics yet.  I am trying to let go of the reins of control a little bit and just go where I am led but I’m sure that what I will be doing for the next few years will definitely involve creating and displaying.

What is your favourite saying/inspirational quote? 

“I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a low-down dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife” Zora Neale Hurston