Lulu Kitololo Studio design and illustration highlights from 2016

Happy new year! I hope you had some time to rest and rejuvenate as the year turned. A good chunk of my holiday was spent in Moshi, Tanzania. I stayed at my late grandparents’ home – resting, reading and spending time with family. I came back to Nairobi with renewed enthusiasm and clarity! There are several big (and slightly scary) adventures – design and otherwise – on the horizon this year, for me and for the Studio. I look forward to sharing them with you.

The first one starts next week, when 3 creative friends and I set off for a 15,000km+ road trip through southern Africa (see below).

As we prepare to set off, I wanted to share some highlights from 2016. Many of you have been a part of these projects and endeavours and I thank you deeply for your different contributions. Continue reading “Lulu Kitololo Studio design and illustration highlights from 2016”

Portraits of 2014

Portraits of 2014 by Lulu Kitololo
Last year, I started taking commissions for the style of portrait illustrations that I’d previously made for my design business and a few of our clients. The response was really exciting! People ordered illustrations for themselves and their loved ones, coming up with reasons and occasions that I hadn’t even thought of.
This is what they’ve been used for, to date:
  • Present for a wife, just because
  • Birthday presents (especially for ‘big’ birthdays, e.g. 50, 60)
  • Wedding presents
  • Christmas presents
  • Website banners
  • Social media avatars
  • Editor’s portrait in a magazine
  • Illustration of interview subjects for a magazine
The image above is a round up of commissions from 2014. I really love making these.
2015 commissions
To help me manage my time, I’ve decided that I will only take 12 of these portrait commissions this year. I’ve already got a few in the works so, get in touch ASAP if you’re interested in one: lulu [at] weareasilia [dot] com. You can also find more details on ordering here.
See larger versions of the portraits above, on my Pinterest page.
All illustrations copyright yours truly, Lulu Kitololo 

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Buy African: Last-minute Christmas Gift Ideas

It’s less than a week to go until Christmas so, ordering your gifts online is now pretty much a gamble. If the thought of braving the madness shops this weekend makes you want to crawl into a dark hole, fear not – I’ve got some ideas that will hopefully keep you in the festive spirit.

The gifts here are all things that you can buy, right up until Christmas Day. They are organised by interest so, hopefully you’ll be able to find something appropriate for all the people on your list – whatever they fancy!

Continue reading “Buy African: Last-minute Christmas Gift Ideas”

In Pictures: The Road to Renegade (+ An Epic Giveaway)

The Renegade Craft Fair London is 3 days away and Lusungu and I have been busy getting our ‘Fly South For Winter’ collection ready! It’s inspired by our motherland love and a yearning for the tropics in these wintry times. All the designs are hand-drawn by me and then hand screen printed by Lusungu (aka Creativity and Noise).

Continue reading “In Pictures: The Road to Renegade (+ An Epic Giveaway)”

Project Stories: ‘African Cities’ Greeting Cards

You may have already gathered my excitement, from Facebook and Instagram, about one of my latest projects – a series of greeting cards I’ve titled ‘African Cities’. Here’s a little secret: they were a bit of an accident.

 

Context is everything

I was working on calendar designs and I was inspired to embark on a side project, taking abstract elements from the drawings I’d created and reinterpreting classic festive themes. Upon experimenting, I realised the beauty of this approach was that the cards could be seen as holiday-specific but, they could also very much work well for any occasion, any time of the year.

 

African-Cities-Xmas-Foliage-Trees-Asilia

 

This made a lot of sense to me. Growing up in Kenya, I didn’t experience white Christmases. Nonetheless, all the greeting cards you could find depicted snowy landscapes, reindeer and other icons rooted in traditions, and places, far far away from us. It was hard to find designs that represented or spoke to our particular experience.

For that reason, these cards fit so well with my general mission to create contextually appropriate alternatives, for those of us from cultures outside the dominant Western one. And for all of us who desire something a little bit different – some diversity to add to the mainstream narratives.

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Travelling is Learning

 

Inspiration

I wanted to celebrate African cities. My team and I did a lot of visual research, looking at images from different countries. Pictures of architecture, cityscapes, landscapes, people and crafts. I did some initial drawings bringing these elements together.

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Initial Drawings

 

Then, pattern-obsessive that I am, I started to to pick out shapes from all these images and imagine how I could bring them together in a different way. I didn’t want to just recreate cityscapes – I wanted to create compositions that had a rhythm and playfulness that would intrigue and delight those who saw them. As I experimented with this process of abstraction, I noticed that a lot of the shapes could be read in different ways by different people.

Take the image below – are those trees, sails or pyramids; are those hills, waves or fish scales?!

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Starlit Asilia 2

 

Bringing them to life

African Cities Greeting Cards Proofs

 

We worked with one of our favourite printers, London co-operative, Calverts, to produce our first run of cards, on 100% recycled paper. We launched them at the 2014 Africa Utopia festival and received a wonderful response.

Shortly thereafter, we set up a photoshoot. Asilia’s graphic design intern, Nuri Abdur-Rauf, happens to be a great photographer so, she took the reigns.

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Photoshoot

 

I also got to indulge my plant obsession – it made sense (of course) for the art direction that I had in mind. I found some beautiful natural adornments to complement the cards.

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Complementary Plants

 

Everybody on the team had a turn at styling and the whole experience was a lot of fun. It proved how much you can accomplish without fancy equipment and a huge budget (more behind-the-scenes photos here)!

 

African Cities Greeting Cards LowTech Photoshoot

 

I’m still over the moon with how the photos turned out. You can see many of the final selects on Asilia’s BigCartel shop.

 

The celebration continues all month

Throughout the month I’ll be sharing more stories behind the cards, as well as celebrating the African cities that inspired them. This will include a handful of blog posts right here, some Instagram action and almost daily activity on Asilia’s Facebook page.

 

I need your help

I will also be undertaking some market research this month, mainly to inform my future product lines. Would you like to take part? If you’re interested, please get in touch via studio[at]weareasilia[dot]com and I will send you some more information.

 

African Cities Greeting Cards Photoshoot Composing

 

Last but not least, I’d love to hear what you think and which cards are your favourites. See them all here.

 

All drawings, illustrations and designs by Lulu Kitololo. Photos by Nuri Abdur-Rauf, Lusungu Chikamata and Lulu.

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Recent Art Adventures: Appreciation, Inspiration and Making

One of the things I'm really enjoying at the moment is all the art that I'm discovering, experiencing and making. Here are some photos from recent adventures …

1-Mandela-Street-Art-Manchester-Akse-P19

 

While in Manchester recently, it wasn’t all about plant photography. I chanced upon graffiti artist Akse (P19 Crew) working on a Mandela portrait.

 

2-Return-of-the-Rudeboys-Exhibition-by-Dean-Chalkley-Harris-Elliot

 

A few days later, I finally checked out the Return of the Rudeboy exhibition at Somerset House. Created and curated by photographer and filmmaker, Dean Chalkley, and fashion-industry creative director, Harris Elliott, the exhibition “showcases a sartorial subculture through a series of portraits, installations and set pieces” (exhibition site). Beautiful photography and amazing style – inspiration to up my own game!

 

3-Return-of-the-Rudeboys-Exhibition-by-Dean-Chalkley-Harris-Elliot

 

The exhibition features a few rudegirls too. Here: Zoe Bedeaux.

 

4-Return-of-the-Rudeboys-Exhibition-We-Are-Cuts-Installation
 

I was digging the colours, textures and patterns in this corner of the We Are Cuts barbershop/salon installation.

 

5-Asilia-Team-En-Route-Pangaea

 

A few days after that, the Asilia UK team went to check out Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America, at the Saatchi Gallery. You’d think from this picture that I forced them to go!

 

5b Boris Nzebo Art Pangaea Exhibition
 

I loved the colour, lines and layering in the work of Cameroonian artist, Boris Nzebo.

 

6-Asilia-Team-Pangaea-Exhibition-Saatchi-Gallery-Aboudia-Art

 

Kathryn and Lusungu mesmerised by a painting by Ivorian artist, Aboudia.

 

7-Vincent-Michea-Art-Detail-Pangaea-Exhibition

 

This is a detail from a piece by Dakar-based artist, Vincent Michea. This and the piece below celebrate African music. Vibrant, simple but striking.

 

8-Vincent-Michea-Art-Pangaea-Exhibition

 

Over in my maker's corner …

A couple of years ago I shared my desire to spend more time creating. Even though I own a creative business, over the past few years, I’ve found that I haven’t been doing as much making as I’d like. You may have caught my post from a couple of months ago – "Beyond Making" – explaining all the other things that are involved in running a creative business. 

I’m happy to declare that, things are changing! Particularly since June. I’ve been getting my hands ‘dirty’ much more and not only has it brought me much creative satisfaction but, opportunities too! I’ve been receiving such a great response to my illustrated portraits, for example. Here are a few snippets of things I’ve worked on recently.

 

9-Lulu-Kitololo-Art-Asilia-Design-Work-in-Progress-Painting-Patternmaking

 

I’ve been designing the upcoming album cover for musician, Namvula. I created a pattern, inspired by some kitenge (wax print) fabric on a dress she owns. The first step was painting the elements that would make up the pattern.

 

10-Lulu-Kitololo-Art-Asilia-Design-Work-in-Progress-Pattern-Making
 

I then played around with them on the computer and the pattern began to take shape. It was a really hectic week for me – moving offices and preparing to travel, while trying to keep on top of the usual demands. For the first time ever, I took to working on the bus, between meetings and errands! I prefer taking the bus to the tube anyway, especially when it’s as hot as it has been lately. Since the bus usually takes longer, I thought I’d capitalise on that time and be productive.

 

11-Lulu-Kitololo-Art-Drawing-Work-in-Progress-Illustrate-Me-Asilia-Design
 

Above, detail of a drawing I made to be used as a background for an illustrated portrait I was working on …

 

12-Lulu-Kitololo-Illustrate-Me-Asilia-Design-Illustrated-Portraits-Lizzie
 

… for marketing whiz, Lizzie Phillips. This is the final product. Another satisfied Illustrate Me customer!

 

And that's all for now. Follow me on Instagram (@lulukitololo) for daily adventures in appreciating, finding inspiration for and making art.

 

What are you working on this week?

 

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RIP to the Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou

Maya-Angelou-Art-Illustrate-Me-RIP

 

Maya Angelou lived such a full and creative life: poet, dancer, film and television producer, playwright, film director, author and actress. Not to forget the creative acts of educating and changemaking, in her work as a teacher and civil rights activist.

I remember reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings when I was younger and feeling like I'd found a role model who I could relate to. Maya Angelou's spirit of adventure, her prolific creative output and her positive mindset are all things that inspire me and that I aspire to.

 

Above – an illustrated tribute that I made today – to the phenomenal woman. Below – some more of my favourite Maya quotes:

"Nothing will work unless you do." 

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." 

"If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be." 

 

(Check out more powerful Maya Angelou quotes on policymic.com)
Illustration by Lulu Kitololo

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Inspired: Prints by Jamilla Okubo

I love the colour, pattern and personality in these prints from Jamilla Okubo’s series, ‘We The People of the Diaspora – Black Culture Exploration’. African-American/Kenyan native Jamilla is an Integrated Fashion Design student and a self-declared painter, textile artist, designer and graphic artist.

Regarding her prints, her site reads:

“The prints, fun as they may be, acknowledge a deeper struggle which is rooted in black culture. She acknowledges the history, but similar to an upbeat song about heartbreak decides to shine a different light on the situation by claiming the story back for herself.”

Jamilla Okubo Art Print finalp2_905

 

I’m really impressed by Jamilla’s entrepreneurialism. Her prints are on sale online and she’s already received some great press mentions and interviews for her work. In my own experience, the hustling I did before graduation (including spending most of my holidays interning) definitely made a difference when I entered the so-called real world.

Find out more about Jamilla and her diverse work.

Images via Jamilla Okubo’s website

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Asilia’s ‘African Flowers’ Collection of Customisable Event and Wedding Stationery

African-Flowers-Customizable-Event-Wedding-Stationery-Design-Asilia-Shop

 

Last month, I spent a good deal of my time developing the 'African Flowers' collection of customisable event stationery, for Asilia's new online shop. The collection comprises of hand-illustrated save the date cards, thank you cards as well as wedding-specific materials such as wedding invitations, wedding order of service/menu cards and table number cards.

Continue reading “Asilia’s ‘African Flowers’ Collection of Customisable Event and Wedding Stationery”

SIGNATURES – Featuring Ghana’s Creatives: Animator & Illustrator Gyimah Gariba

 

"SIGNATURES" is  a new video series by Jason Nicco-Annan, dedicated to promoting and encouraging Ghana's local and international creatives.

In the first episode above, animator and illustrator Gyimah Gariba talks about his influences, inspirations and aspirations.

Continue reading “SIGNATURES – Featuring Ghana’s Creatives: Animator & Illustrator Gyimah Gariba”