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Artist Admiration: Toyin Ojih Odutola


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Artist Admiration: Toyin Ojih Odutola




Toyin Ojih Odutola is a Visual Artist from Nigeria, West Africa and grew up in Alabama. She studied a BA in Studio Art and Communications from the University of Alabama in Huntsville back in 2008.

She received her MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) from in 2012 from the California College of the Arts so it’s obvious to see that her Artistic and Academic credentials are impressive. 

Toyin’s Artistic style is distinctive and unique; she is best known for self – portrait drawings and has a particular aesthetic focus on her work being produced entirely, or primarily in black pen ink.

The portrait below of her Artwork entitled Lonely Chambers was produced back in 2011 and uses her Artistic flare of pen ink and marker on paper. This picture, in particular, is a signature Toyin piece of Art.


Her more recent work has evolved to incorporate the use of pastels, pencils and charcoal – offering a different aesthetic feel and tone to her Art. Although, it took some time before Toyin began to use colour in her work, due to her former reluctant approach to the idea.

A big part of her Artistic objective was to get viewers to see the layers and fine lines that compose a character – and through colour, this helped Toyin achieve this beautifully. Toyin’s portrait below entitled Hold It In Your Mouth A Little Longer is currently at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York, USA.



Some of Toyin’s artistic creative inspiration comes from world – famous animated films such as The Lion King, Mulan and Vampire Hunter D. Her work has a recognisable mark-making form (a term used to describe different lines and patterns in Art), and reads as somewhat of a unique language of its own.

She has even be quoted as saying: “ I like the idea of reading a work as a code, the way one might read a letter or novella”. This is telling of Toyin’s approach to Art – not only do literal meanings matter in Art, but subliminal, symbolic and thematic components matter too.



Her engagement with polychromatic patterns in her Artwork is evident in the piece below. The left portrait entitled: “ A Misunderstanding with the Mistress” (2016) and the right portrait entitled “ First Night at a Boarding School” (2017).

Notice how that with multiple uses of colour, Toyin’s mark-making style is more visible and striking to viewers, and ultimately enhances the finer, more detailed embellishments in her work.




Toyin’s Artwork has featured on the front cover of George S. Schuyler fiction book Black No More (2018), illustrating that her work has crossed over from Artistic worlds into the realm of Fiction and Literature seamlessly.




Toyin’s portraits often illustrate the image of skin in unique and beautiful ways. Her mark-making style is distinctive on the skin of her portraits – highlighting her interest in the representation of Skin as a visual, in Art.




In reference to the topic, she has been quoted as saying: “ The style I employ for the skin is riddled with tensions inherent in the mark making, and I always like to tease those intentions”.




Toyin’s brothers have appeared in her portraits and unlike her early work, this one in particular shows off her polychromatic palette in an interesting and beautiful way. It shows her ability to take risks with the palette and how her use of colour became a skill that she wanted to include in the language of skin as well as the environment and surroundings in her work.




Category: Art

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