Looking at Uzo Njoku’s portfolio, you’d never know that this seasoned artist and businesswoman has only been making paintings for about 5 years. Originally enrolling in college to study statistics, she realized early on that she wasn’t following her passion and decided to take a year off. It was during this time that she began to pursue art, but more as a hobby. “In that year I would just recreate paintings, do paintings on the side, just for my apartment at the time - and I’d post it online. A teacher from high school reached out to buy a painting, and these types of small commissions pushed me to keep exploring until I realized ‘Okay, I like this and I want to see how far I can take it.’”
Uzo enrolled in her school’s art program, and while she loved being in class and creating, she was always thinking one step ahead. “In art school, they teach and give you guidelines on how to paint, but they don’t help you push your concepts. They also don’t provide much structure on what to do after graduation. So not only was I painting and working during class, but also outside of class so that I could explore that by myself.”
Uzo’s key to identifying her concept and pushing herself forward was research, research, research. “Research goes hand in hand with practice.” She found inspiration and artists she looked up to conceptually, such as Kehinde Wiley, Yayoi Kusama, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and David Hockney. Asking herself “what came before me?” helped her to understand the current art world as well as the art of past eras.
"There’s always going to be hiccups. You can’t expect the first try to be perfect. And it never hurts to ask for help."
Realizing that selling commissioned paintings was time consuming and was not necessarily going to bring her to the level of success she was looking for, Uzo began looking into other outlets to share her art with the world. “I knew in my head I always wanted to do a coloring book and thought, why don’t I make a book of women from all over the world that have done amazing things? I gave myself a month to create it, but not knowing anything about making books, I had to do a lot of research on copywriting, etc. before being able to post it.” Uzo put her book on preorder, and through just word of mouth, she had almost 800 orders by the end of the month. The next logical step was how to get her product into stores. “I started learning about the retail aspect of selling products and worked with independent shops as well as museums to get my product out there.”
Fast forward to now, Uzo’s built an entire brand for herself. In addition to continuing to make art and selling prints, she has an extensive product line ranging from candles to apparel and hopes to move into home decor by the end of next year. Her advice for a budding entrepreneur? “There’s always going to be hiccups. You can’t expect the first try to be perfect. And it never hurts to ask for help.”
View Uzo’s portfolio and shop her full product line at uzoart.com.