We continue our series of interviews of digital artists with our interview of Dananayi Muwanigwa from Harare, Zimbabwe. Dananayi is a digital artist and concept artist who I met years ago as part of Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Residency in Johannesburg. Dananayi is a phenomenal storyteller who incorporates digital art and illustration to explore concepts and characters. Dananayi has been using digital painting as a medium for the past 6 years drawing inspiration from Afrofuturism and fantasy.
Let us begin by getting to know you Dani can you please tell us more about yourself, where are you from and how did you begin your journey into art.
I’m a 2d character artist from Zimbabwe, I started painting digitally in 2015. I was always interested in sci-fi, fantasy, games, movies, and anime from a young age.
I was introduced to digital art when I attended a multimedia design school in my country. The moment I saw what professional artists were creating with photoshop I became obsessed and taught myself how to draw and paint using ebooks, youtube, and imitation of professionals.
Dani, Can you tell us about the process of making your work?We want to know a little about the significance and scope of your work. How do you make your work? Are there particular tools/materials/software/technology that you use? Is there a connection between your process and your artwork’s message?
I think I naturally have an affinity for fantasy art, I’m interested in occult imagery, tarots cards, zodiac signs, and dark fantasy in general. I try to depict these subjects through my own unique lens. I think it’s important to know what you like so you don’t struggle to come up with ideas for a character design or illustration. It also makes your portfolio more thematically coherent and Art Directors seem to like that kind of thing.
At the beginning of a painting, I come up with a brief. I need to know where the character is from, create a simple backstory and come up with keywords that come to mind. I use this mini mindmap exercise so that when I collect references I’m a bit more specific and not all over the place.
I use a combination of Pinterest, Google, and self posing/acting in my process. For the more rendered illustrations, I use 3d apps for complex lighting. At times I use matte painting for skies and minor elements.
When I’m done with the brief and reference collection phase, I like to create small low resolution thumbnails so I can visually see if I like the silhouette, big shapes and overall composition especially if it’s an illustration. I think it’s important to iterate early so you can get rid of the bad ideas.
My tools are pretty basic in the digital art space. I use a Wacom Intuos tablet, and a laptop. The two softwares that I use are Clipstudio paint for the initial painting and Photoshop for effects and touchups.
I want my work to look otherworldly and digital tools help me achieve that.
Do you think coming from Africa affects your work? How so?
It probably does because I view things differently from someone outside Africa. But honestly, I don’t think that deeply about that. I just try to focus on what I like and I try to inject those influences into my pieces and characters.
Dani, your work features these mythical figures, where do you find inspiration for your characters? What are important themes or messages do you think they tell? Why are they important?
The inspiration comes from all over the place from hypnotic music and weird stories to professional photography and paintings.
What I try to do instead of coming up with a deep message is capture a feeling. I’m big into emotional impact so when I create and share a character piece I hope that it has enough soul that the audience cares enough to look and engage with the character and have their own experience with it.
Suddenly everyone became interested in digital art because of the NFT market, what do you think about this interest in digital art, how is digital art important to society?
Honestly, I don’t think I have enough information and data on the topic. What I’ve observed is that The Nft space is definitely a gold mine for creatives. Lol I may be wrong, but there’s this voice in me that says that the space is fueled by greed over substance. That being said you would be a fool to not explore nfts, the blockchain, and the metaverse. These are interesting times and I’m excited to see what happens!
What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
Hahaha in my country that would be electricity.
If you could communicate one thing to aspiring African digital artists what would it be? What piece of advice would you give?
Believe in yourself, trust your gut, and never give up. Lol, that’s not one thing but hey?
Lastly, Where is your favorite place to work? Please share a photo.
My living room at my flat, simple, boring but effective I think