Tell us a little bit about your background.
My name is Ibrahim Adeola Abidemi Ganiyu, (AKA Sir GAI). I’m a creative person by birth, graphic designer by education, illustrator by choice, animator by design and an all round artist by everything else. I was born in Ojota, Lagos on November 28. I am the second child in a family of three boys and two girls.
I’m a graduate of graphic design from the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, and presently run a creative products and services company called Imperial Creations Studios Limited (ICStudios). I am also a partner at Playfactor Games Limited and have worked with and consulted for companies in product design and development, video production, advertising and TV content development.
My core strength is my creative mind channelled through my illustrations, animations and, most importantly, through my comics. I also lecture at Orange Academy and Graig Phillips College of Technology, both in Lagos.
I am an entrepreneur and creativity coach. I believe in creativity as a channel for human growth, development and societal advancement. I believe in creativity without limits.
I am married and have three boys, two of them are twins. I enjoy drawing, creating, developing ideas, reading, watching a good movie, playing video games, travelling and cooking.
What comics or characters inspired you to be an artist and illustrator when you were growing up and why?
Hmm … I would say the first major comic character who influenced me was Superman, though I had come across Spiderman earlier. Superman just embodied the ideals of heroism to my young mind. I was greatly influenced by the art as much as the stories then. I got a lot of artistic influence from the works of artists like Bart Sears, John Byrne, Brian Bolland, John Romita Senior and later Junior, Jim Lee and others.
My greatest artistic (and creative) influence and drive came from Leonardo Da Vinci. When I came across the name in early secondary school, I was struck by his passion/thirst for knowledge and his continuous creativity. Even when he had no way of immediately actualising his ideas he would still draw them. The man’s thoughts, zeal for knowledge, exploration, diverse skill-set and style have remained constant sources of inspiration. Da Vinci remains my number one mentor.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a comic book artist in Nigeria?
The most challenging part of doing comics in Nigeria is hard to pin point to a single thing. It’s a composition of things: Creative excellence on the part of contractors (often arising from limited knowledge of the comic book business), the unavailability of good hands in story writing, art and graphics, and of course distribution remains a headache. Print production is still a game of chance. In all, these challenges are being confronted and I can see a break happening. We are creative people after all; we’ll find a way to change the situation!
You’re involved in a lot of other projects outside your regular job. Can you tell us which ones you’re currently most excited about?
I am quite excited about our new games development partnership and the projects we are working on. We have a fighting game set in a bus garage tagged GARAGE KOMBAT. We also have one loosely based on Chief Duro Ladipo’s work tagged FOREST OF A THOUSAND DEMONS in the works.
On other fronts, I am enjoying my integration into the Nigerian literary circle as I am seeing great opportunities for comic book production and partnerships. Our contact marketing arm EMPERATA is looking more into that. Also, our flagship comic book title DARK EDGE is coming up with some exciting stuff! We are looking at a short movie early next year as well as a stage adaptation of the DARK EDGE story. Our work on the INDOMITABLES Indomie Noodles advertising campaign also has me giggling with excitement. The brand is growing and a lot of stuff will be coming out from them soon!
We just also set up SYRUP COMICS, an entry-level, creator-owned comic book imprint that’s getting lots of young guys to create and draw some amazing new stories, characters and concepts. In fact there’s so much I am excited about!
What strategies do you use to carve out time for sketching?
Drawing is my therapy. I use drawing as my stress relief and I always find an excuse to do it. My sketches are only therapeutic when I’m not doing client’s work.
Sometime in 1997 I drew an Igbo lady dancing in a trance pose and this morphed into the first sword carrying woman I drew in 2001, and by 2003 I had started my collection of Angel drawings who were women representing various emotions: rage, love; ecstasy, love, etc. and usually carrying some bad weapons! (The whole Angels idea is now developing into a comic book and a novel graphic book – not a graphics novel).
I try to squeeze in at least 48 hours of free sketching time per week – snuck in between meetings, during lunch, on the BRT heading to a meeting, at home at night after the kids have gone to bed, as a time-out when work gets too tense and even in the bathroom! The trick is to know that the sketches are your life blood and for me I think best when I am drawing.
What are the most exciting comic books on the Nigerian market right now?
Well for me, comic books excite me based on content, concept and public reaction. Without mentioning own my stuff like JUNE XII and DARK EDGE (I just mentioned them didn’t I?), It’ll have to be GUARDIAN PRIME, UHURU, STRIKE GUARD and ERU.
What was the most discouraging time in your career and how did you overcome it?
Hmm … I guess the first one came when we had to close our second office at Onipan in 2003 due to Zenith Bank acquiring the building when we had not gotten enough strength to start out. It looked like a reset back then and that was the good thing about it. It was an opportunity to reset the business, check the model and reassess the structure of our operations so that when we finally rented an office in 2006, I knew what we had to do differently. And we did it.
The second was in 2009 when the company, ICStudios, practically folded up due to the global financial crisis. The company was in debt to the tune of N3 million and my staff all had to move on. Only my admin manager, Taiwo Lawal, stayed on and together we worked to get things back on track. It taught me about making hard decisions and it was during that period that I realised that if you’ve never ever have to question what you are doing then you may be in the wrong business. Also I knew that was the time to test if we had a solid business model or not. Thankfully we did and the waves passed. Determination, willingness to learn and grow and a large dose of creativity got us out of that crazy period and it’s kept us out of it since.