The admirable digital illustrations of Eric Takukam exhibit traditional African Bamiléké culture with an underlying theme of peace, spirituality, and identity.
From a young age, Eric has been fascinated by illustration. With inspiration from Marvel comics, his early works were focused on beauty and women. Since then, his creations have evolved to express deeper meanings and personal philosophies.
What sparked your interest in illustrations and how did you learn illustration techniques?
When I was in primary school, my teacher used to draw and I was amazed by the shortcuts he used to draw animals and humans. Since then, I have become a fan of drawing. I am an autodidact. I've been learning from free tutorials on the internet and through YouTube videos.
When did you begin creating digital illustrations?
I started digital art when I finished my bachelor's degree in 2004.
In the beginning, I was fascinated with drawing women. I was a big fan of J. Scott Campbell from Marvel. But now I am in love with my village’s symbols like statues and masks.
What do you aim to express through your work?
I want to share my native village’s culture. Since childhood, I was mesmerized by the intensity of our traditional dances, rituals, and the accessories dancers wear. Today with the modern world, our culture is fading and even the traditional kingdoms are losing their originality. My creations aim to bring to the city the authentic African and Bamiléké spirit through art and fashion. It is my way to keep our cultural heritage alive.
ROCK DESIGN 2
What are you trying to portray with the elements that you use?
When is was living in Chad, I discovered fantastic and amazing art on the rocks in the Ennedi region (a UNESCO heritage). I fell in love with these ancient paintings and I studied them for 3 months. I took those symbols for myself and have been using them to do so many creations. I like authentic designs.
Today, I came back to my village’s symbols (figurines and elephant masks) because I can easily identify myself with them. I have been with them since I was born. What I do particularly is to bring life to the masks and figurines by putting them in everyday situations.
On the other hand, spiritually once we begin to ask ourselves who we really are in this life, we understand that we are all living within masks, playing the game of life with multiples personalities.
QUI SUIS JE
In terms of the colour palettes that you use, are there any colours that you prefer?
I like black and white. They are light and darkness, the up and down of life. In addition to black and white, I like red and yellow to highlight some important parts of the drawing. Sometimes I use blue and green when I need to give a peaceful feeling to the frame.
Do you believe you have a style?
Even if I think I would stick to my figurines and elephant masks, I am not in a hurry about the style. I don’t want to give limits to my mind. I trust my intuition and I let go of my creativity. Since what I draw is beautiful and can create some emotion, it is ok.
What are some interests that influence the art you create?
My culture, beauty, peace and the fact I can use digital art in other domains like fashion.
LA PETITE AFRICAINE
Do you feel your portfolio is an accurate reflection of your personality or your interests?
My portfolio reflects my personality at some level. Deep in my soul, I have so many visions of art, about life, spirituality, love, and environmental protection that have to be expressed. These will be me to the fullest.
Can you elaborate on the facial characteristics of the people depicted in your illustrations?
The faces of the people in my work are inspired by the Bamiléké elephant masks in the Grassfields regions in Cameroon. The mask in my village is a sign of secret, respect, and power. Those who wear them are initiated to certain rituals and power. They belong to a certain class of notability in society.
When people see your work, what would you like them to notice?
I would like people to say “these are pure African spirit creations”.
AN OVERVIEW BEHIND THE CREATION OF "PAIX":
[I started by] drawing on paper, then on Adobe Illustrator. At the time I created it and even right now, the aim of this creation is to promote peace. I created this artwork when I was in Chad. Muslims and Christians are living in the same country but not fully together. There are still some quarters for Muslims and some for Christians. This artwork is a call to all Chadians to live hand in hand no matter their religious beliefs.
The initial release was an urge in my heart. Today, as President Deby has been killed, the country is in tension and this picture has never been so crucial and meaningful. While waiting for elections, during the elections or after, it is crucial to keep peace in mind because Africa needs stability to grow. Sixty percent of the African population is under 30 years old and they just need peace and good governance to manifest themselves.
[There were] no difficulties at all [while creating this work]. It was with passion and joy that I created this piece of art. [My favourite thing about it is] seeing two hands going to each other!
FILLE MUSULMANE - PEACE IN AFRICA
What helps you get into a creative mindset and how do you work through creative challenges?
If the challenge is a commission, I study it and get more information about the subject. I also ask specific questions to the client to make sure I get to the core of what they need to express. The client’s brief and my own research inspire me, then I start sketching ideas.
If the work is personal, more often ideas come by themselves. Sometimes I just feel like I am overwhelmed by too much inspiration. But music is a powerful stimulus for me.
What accomplishments are you proud of?
I am satisfied and proud of what I gave to the advertising industry as an Art Director, and today I am satisfied to be an entrepreneur in the fashion and design industries with my brands Bo Tchad and Froma.
What is it like to create a pattern and see your art designed into textiles?
Creating a pattern is like creating any piece of art. It’s a great satisfaction to see people enjoy my designs on textiles, which is for me, the largest museum to exhibit my art!
FABRIC ROCK DESIGN FROM CHAD
Recently, Eric placed within the Top 5 in the 2022 High Art Contest for the category 'Would Look Good on a T-shirt'.
Your logo is interesting, it includes your initials but it also depicts a face. Why did you design it in this way?
I wanted something that can represent me. My philosophy is to keep smiling in every situation in my life. The symbol is a smile. So it’s me smiling :). Randomly it looks like an elephant mask and I didn’t think about it when I created my logo.
What is it like to see your work recognized by other people and to be used to help them promote their businesses?
I have been an Art Director at Ogilvy for five years. We worked for brands like Guinness, Airtel Bharti, Nestlé, Novartis… It’s amazing to see how we can use creativity to help corporations solve marketing issues and impact the lives of their customers.
"I was an intern in a Parisian studio named NTE (Nous Travaillons Ensemble) where I learned about engaging art. Through the French publisher Édition Nathan, my works have been used in primary school books in Cameroon as inspirational art.
My works are also featured in the book of the Projet “Vivre Ensemble” (Living Together) supported by IFT (Institut Français du Tchad) of the French Embassy in Chad.
My first exhibition is scheduled for this year 2022!"
LE BUCHERON BLEU
What do you envision for your work in the future?
I feel the need to make art for peace, human conditions, love, and environmental protection.
Has your work changed over the years? If so, how?
Yes, my work has changed. In the beginning, I was just drawing for beauty. Today I draw to express feelings and identity.
How can people best support you and your work?
The simpler way to support me is to share or/and buy my work. Any commission is always welcome.
My art and products are available on Redbubble in my shop https://www.redbubble.com/people/Eric-Takukam/shop
In the process of creating work, what have you learned about yourself?
I learned I am an intuitive person.
Check out more of Eric's work on his website: www.erictakukam-art.com
and Instagram @eric_takukam