Artist Interview: Ejiwa “Edge” Ebenebe
Ejiwa “Edge” Ebenebe
Could you tell us a little about the artwork that you create?
I create figurative fantasy illustrations that are ornate, whimsical and sometimes dark. I especially love symmetry, pattern and colour, and I’m finding myself exploring these aspects with a lot more intensity in my current work – there are so many possibilities!
I also focus on expanding the representation of black women. As a black woman myself, I definitely feel the impact of the negative stereotypes that are perpetuated about us. I aim to create positive depictions of us in order to counteract these destructive stories.
What is the story behind “Glimmer”?
Funnily, quite a few of my finished pieces have started as simple experiments that then took on an unexpected life of their own.
Glimmer is actually one of those pieces! I’d originally planned to quickly test out a way of combining 3d elements with 2d, but as I worked on it she slowly started to emerge, until before I knew it there she was in front of me – I just couldn’t leave her unfinished.
It was quite a journey working on her, and I’m really glad that she pushed her way out of my subconscious and into existence because she is one of my favourite paintings I’ve ever made! Every time I look at her I feel like she has a presence of her own.
What is your preferred medium? What draws you to it?
That’s a hard question to answer actually, because I’m still trying to figure that out myself! I’m primarily a digital artist, and I enjoy the freedom and flexibility it gives me, but I don’t think I can actually say it’s my favourite medium….
Even though I don’t have nearly as much experience with them yet, the tactility of traditional mediums is what continues to resonate most strongly with me. There’s just something about being able to feel the paint on your hands, and feel the texture of the surface you’re working that immerses me.
Right now gouache is the one I’m drawn most to, mostly because it’s one of the mediums I’ve really begun to dig deeper into. And then there’s textural work like embroidery and beading – I love how visceral the textures can get, and it’s so satisfying to see the work build up! So it’s an ongoing journey for me at the moment!
Right now digital remains as a significant part of my process, and I definitely don’t plan on letting it go, but I definitely feel the pull to incorporate more traditional elements into my work and I hope to have discovered a more concrete answer the future.
What are some of your current and future projects?
The month of May comes with some fun challenges such as MerMay and May-Sketch-A-Day, which I’m currently participating in, so that’s functioning as a mini project for me at the moment. I’m learning a surprising amount about my process and where I want to take my work moving forward!
Following that, I’ve got a huge backlog of personal pieces that I’ll move back to working on. This year I really want to focus
on fleshing out the consistency of my current portfolio and creating a cohesive body of work, as my voice and technique has evolved a lot in the past couple of years.
As for other, more specific projects, I’ve got a few on my back-burner at the moment, but they are in the very early stages right now! I’ll definitely be talking more about those once I’m able to turn my complete focus towards them, but I’m really excited about bringing those to life in the hopefully near future.
How do you feel 3D rendering has affected the way you look at art?
That’s an interesting question! I think it’s widened my horizons a lot in terms of process, and has given me more perspective on how different works come together. This actually makes it really fun to deconstruct different artworks – I find myself visualising art (both mine, and others) as though they are 3d pieces I could rotate around and observe from different angles.
I also find myself seeing real-life objects around me through a 3d lens – often breaking them down in terms of how I would approach 3d modeling them, even though I’d be painting them instead. I can’t yet say exactly how helpful this is with developing my own work, but I find but it definitely makes looking at and thinking about art very interesting!
And I do feel as though it’s added a layer of dimensionality into how I’m able to experience people’s art, that I don’t think I would have without this perspective. But then the question I have right now is whether I’m drawn to the 3d mindset because of how my mind already works, or if the understanding of 3d processes has altered how I now perceive things – I’m not sure about that yet!
With a diverse catalog of characters, do you believe that helps “disrupt” something?
Definitely. I think that exposure to sensitive and rounded depictions of varied perspectives helps to disrupt previously unquestioned preconceptions, some that we may not have even realised we had. I think this is a vital component in developing empathy – being able to see the real, solid, human characterization before you, rather than an abstract concept.
I think that through presenting and humanizing these diverse perspectives, we’re able to then open up the essential dialogues needed in order to bridge our differences and effectively tackle the deeply rooted major issues in society. There are so many destructive stereotypes and tropes surrounding underrepresented groups, that I believe are made far easier to perpetuate when the actual human being, that these narratives have been forced onto, isn’t seen.
And so I believe that representation is hugely important – I know that positive and diverse representation has definitely affected me positively and expanded my views on many things. And I believe that being exposed to a wide variety of perspectives is crucial for finding common ground and moving forward collectively.
What was your experience with fantastical works growing up and how do you feel it’s influenced your style now?
I was an avid reader growing up and my parents would actively encourage this interest by buying lots of different books, including illustrated fairytale collections and various legends and folk tales from around the world.
As I grew older and gained access to the school library, I became immediately fascinated by mystery and horror stories, which I would borrow constantly. I was eventually also introduced to video games of varying genres by my peers, and I took to those immediately – I absolutely loved being able to roam around these fantastical worlds, discovering things I’d never seen before.
These influences have definitely stuck with me throughout my life – my fascination with creating ornate and whimsical art is fueled by my love for the gorgeous illustrations in the books I used to read (and still look at frequently). The same is true for my love of the macabre and terrifying. My love for these art forms have led me to numerous artististic influences that I’m constantly drawing from, ranging from the old masters (such as Arthur Rackham, Alphonse Mucha, J. C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell), to contemporary masters (Brom, James Gurney, Donato Giancola, Tran Nguyen, Edward Kinsella III, Claire Wendling, James Jean, Sam Weber and Andrew Hem, to name a few)… I wish I had space to list all the incredible artists that my childhood influences have led me to – it’s phenomenal!
One of my dreams is to create a native, ornate tome of art whose entire purpose is to be a beautiful and explorative collection of work that someone can get lost in – that definitely comes from a place of trying to recreate that feeling of awe that the art of my childhood inspired in me.
I definitely find myself seeking to live up to the delicacy and sensitivity of the illustrations that resonated with me within those books, and within the artistic influences that have followed since.
- On May 13, 2018