“Every canvas is a journey all its own.” These are the words of the legendary abstract expressionist painter, Helen Frankenthaler. There is a world of communication that can only be expressed through art and just like fingerprints, each artist seeks to find their uniqueness and express it to the world. Dale Kotengo has been a paint artist since he was 13 years of age, a skill he learnt from his mother and perfected as he found his voice in the world of art. This week he shares on where he draws his inspiration from as well how he has managed to monetize his gift.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
In design, it was managing the largest Christmas setup in East and Central Africa for 2017 at Two Rivers Mall working for The Village Creative.
In film, it was Art Directing for Coke Studio season 4 and 5, meeting over 40 international artists in person including Jason Derulo and Trey Songz.
What is the inspiration behind your art?
Love. Supernatural, divine, unconditional love.
What is the price range for your art pieces?
In Kenyan currency, between 20k and 300k depending on the size and intensity of work invested in a given piece
What’s the highest price any of the pieces has ever gone for?
I will not mention the figure but it was bought by a client from Germany who saw my work on Facebook.
So would you say most of your clients are abroad?
No, in regard to that I would describe my client share as 50/50. The other 50 being the Kenyan market.
How have you managed to monetize your gift?
Art is a future investment. You never quite know when the big bucks will come knocking as a reward for your creation, but you continue creating and look for ways of getting your work out there. This is through social media and alternative platforms.
How would you describe your journey as an artist this far?
Born out of passion, my journey began when I was 13 years old. I was mentored by my mum. She is an amazing artist just so you know. After high school, I studied graphic design and for about 20 years I focused on building set designs as a career. I started off by doing set design for theatre for 5 years, then transitioned to designing sets for film for 15 years and then finally decided to take a break from it all and focus on paint art.
As far as the business side of things go, how is this industry in Kenya?
Truthfully speaking, Kenyans appreciate art but the purchasing power, especially for high-end pieces, is lacking.
So how do you manage to pay your bills?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was doing well doubling up as an interior designer. I got a lot of gigs on a referral basis. Basically I have an eye for creative design, that has worked well for me over the years and provides other channels of opportunity.
How does an upcoming artist brand themselves so that they are able to make their work gain recognition?
Pick a path, pick a genre. Find a style that works for you; charcoal drawing, pencil drawing, etc. Often times, it takes a while for one to confidently pick what works best for them and that’s okay.
The second thing would be to pick a subject – politics and governance, family, religion e.t.c. then do it to the best of your ability. Start putting your work out there, even if you feel as if it is not as excellent as you would want it to be. Some curators might come looking for you based on what you put out on social media. The craft will be perfected in time and with consistency.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?
Spiritual fulfillment. I get to do something that matters to me.
I also enjoy flexibility when it comes to managing my time.