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Another Pablo Picasso in the making?

By Ebele Orakpo
Mr. Ayo Philips popularly called AY, is the Chief Executive Officer of AY Art Link.
The artist who specialises in portrait painting spoke to Vanguard in Lagos recently.

According to Mr. AyoPhilips, after his school certificate examination, he could not go further due to lack of funds having come from a polygamous home with many children to take care of; his mother being the first of four wives and he, the first son, so he knew he had to move out and do something for himself.

Some of the portraits on display

“All I have done, I have done on my own with no help from anybody. After my secondary school education, I worked with an outfit for sometime and had to resign because although the salary was small, it was not regular. My salary then was N4,500.

And one day, I decided to quit because even if the salary was regular, it was too little. How on earth was I going to get married and take care of my family with N4,500 monthly salary?” he asked.

God had other plans for him because he had blessed him with a great talent which he discovered and put to use.

“Since I had this flair for drawing; I just love drawing, I decided to use my God-given talent,” he said.

Mr. Ayo Philips doing what he knows to do best

His quest for financial freedom took him to Isheri-Magodo, Lagos to one Mr. Bayo, an artist who is into portrait painting. He told Mr. Bayo that he wanted to learn the trade and then registered to be trained as a portrait artist for three years.

This was in 2007 and today, Ayo has his own outfit known as AY Art Link located at the ever busy Allen Junction.

“I was doing a part-time job somewhere while undergoing training. I would work for about two hours and as soon as I’m through with my job, I would go to the arts centre to continue my training.

To be honest with you, it was not easy at all so I put in extra effort to learn as much as I could within a very short period so I could be on my own as quickly as possible. I had initially signed a three-year contract for the training but I ended up spending only one year and six months,” he said.

“Before I came to my present location on Allen Avenue junction, I was working from our family house in Ikorodu. It was not easy. But thank God, as time went on, I was able to save some money to rent an apartment close by,” he stated.

On how he attracts clients, the portrait artist said: “I paint and display portraits of numerous celebrities like musicians, actors, actresses, pastors, politicians etc. In fact, when the king of pop, Michael Jackson died, I did his portrait and displayed it.

That really boosted my career as it attracted a lot of clients who loved it and wanted their portraits done. And depending on the size of the painting, it could take me one or two days to finish a job. And a portrait can cost as low as N5,000 or as much as N70,000 or more depending on the size of the painting. It also depends on what exactly the client wants.”

Apart from portrait painting, Mr. Philips also does banners, engravings, house painting and screen painting and has four people he is training currently.

Speaking on his challenges, the AY Art Link boss said: “My major challenge is office space. I need a space I can use as gallery.

That will help me a great deal. As things are now, although my works are of high quality but because they are displayed by the roadside, people tend to price them very low  but I believe if they are in a shop, the price would be higher.

For instance, a painting that I would sell N30,000 here will go for over N60,000 in a shop. Another challenge is lack of patience. This job requires patience because the jobs don’t come as often as we wish. It could be once a week, or once in two weeks, so it is a job that requires one to be patient.”

Asked whether he has done any exhibition, he said: “No. I have not because I don’t have a gallery.

What is the use of going for exhibitions where people will get to know you and when they need to see you, there is no office to come to or are they going to come to the roadside? No. I am believing God for a miracle. I urgently need a place where I can conveniently display my works.”

Mr. Philips who says he aims to be the best in his profession, stated that though the going has not been easy,  he is grateful to God for bringing him thus far, adding that in the next two, three years, he hopes to travel out of the country for further training to improve his skills.


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