‘Artwork in a Different Light:’ Jamilla Okubo and the Craft of Calendars

Many contemporary artists struggle with creating original art while still being able to maintain accessibility – both stylistic and economical.

Kenyan-American illustrator, painter and textile designer Jamilla Okubo solved that issue by adapting her vibrant artwork to a medium she had previously never experimented with: calendars.

“I thought the calendar would be a perfect way to showcase my artwork in a different light,” Okubo told KenyanVibe recently. “But most importantly I thought it was such a cool idea for my supporters to have all of my prints in one form.”

Jamilla Okubo

Jamilla Okubo

Okubo came up with the idea after discussing ways of reaching fans that “aren’t able to purchase prints” with her manager, Sharon Obuobi. After shooting ideas back and forth, the concept of a calendar finally dawned on them over the summer.

The calendar features one drawing per month in addition to a cover page. The finished product is a selection of some of Okubo’s best work, including her “We The People” and “Love You” series.

Okubo’s characteristic use of bright colors is thoroughly substantiated in every illustration, each month reflecting a different mood.

The versatile artist said that music has a huge influence on her work, this project included.

“It helps me put what I envision on to paper,” she said, mentioning that she was listening to a lot of soul, funk, R&B and jazz while putting together the calendar, referencing greats like Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brother and Erykah Badu.

When asked about the future, Okubo – who is graduating from New York City’s Parsons School of Design this May – announced that she has plans to return to the continent.

“I’m currently working on creating new work, bigger and better work,” Okubo said. “I’m also hoping to plan a trip to Nairobi to visit my father and meet my other family members, and get inspired by the culture over there,”

“2016 is going to be an exciting year,” she added.

Okubo’s calendar is available for purchase here. Hurry! It’s on sale for only $25 until Jan. 31.

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Originally from Sweden, Chris is a journalist with an extensive interest for African culture and the arts.