With the Conversations Series, we create a positive image for Black girls to refer to, by having conversations with different business owners, entrepreneurs and creators. Here, we are catching up with Ngadi Smart, an award-winning Illustrator. Ngadi's illustrations are featured in Musical Truth - A Musical History of Modern Black Britain in 28 Songs by Jeffrey Boakye
Our latest Issue The Music Edition features an extract from Jeffery's new book. Buy our latest issue here
Musical Truth is your recent project. How closely did you work with Jeffrey Boakye? And what was the experience like?
This was the first book I had ever illustrated so I was elated, not to mention the work involved drawing some of my favourite musicians I had listened to since my teenage years in the U.K. I actually worked closely with Emma Eldrige, the children's Department Art Director at Faber, and she would relay everything to Jeffrey and then back to me. It was a great project because I pretty much had creative freedom, aside from a few edits Jeffrey particularly asked for!
Illustration by Ngadi Smith
When did you discover your love for art? What was that like?
I have always drawn, from when I was little. It's a little strange because hardly anyone in my family is creative. I would obsessively draw and make stories about various characters, in multiple drawing pads. It was only after taking a 1 year foundation course in Art & Design, when I had finished school, that my art teachers pointed out that my work always seemed to have a narrative to it, and suggested Illustration as a degree. It took me a while after my degree to get enough confidence to pursue it as a full-time career, but I am really glad I eventually did.
Describe your illustrations in 3 words.
Bright, expressive, colourful
What advice would you give a young illustrator?
I would say, start by focusing on personal projects that matter to you, as the work opportunities you eventually receive will be similar to that. The more consistent you are with showing your work, the better. Also listen to your own voice and not others opinions. This will sidetrack you as an artist.
Who are your three favorite female curators?
Missla Libsekal, Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Touria El Glaoui
What would be your dream project? And why?
I have been spending some time with my nephew who loves books, and would absolutely love to illustrate a children's book for younger audiences. I would also love to work on a fashion illustration collaboration with a fashion brand, as I have always had a strong visual interest in fashion. The images and the theatricality of it, the beauty of the clothing, always drew me in even as a kid.
Musical Truth by Jeffrey Boakye | Faber & Faber |
About the Illustrator
Ngadi Smart is an award-winning Sierra Leonean Visual Artist and Designer based between London, UK and Abidjan, Côte d'lvoire, who specialises in iIIustration and Photography. Ngadi won the 2020 FAB Prize for illustration.