Musonda Kabwe is the latest artist to create customized graphics for Over. A self-confessed “Jack of all trades,” Musonda has an incredible depth of artistic talent – as comfortable with digital software as he is with good old fashioned pen and paper.
For ‘Connections’, Musonda opted for a playful, minimalist approach, with chunky linework, vivid blocks of color, and slogans of self-care. Encouraged to consider his lockdown experience as a starting point, Musonda reflected on the idea of solitude, which he regards as “one of life’s greatest untapped treasures.”
In his own words:
“I created these graphics as a visceral response to the time spent alone during the lockdown. My career as solo illustrator has taught me how to love solitude. But even for me this has been a stress test. The series is inspired by an eclectic mix of content that I've been consuming over the last three months.”
We chatted to Musonda about his process, his creative growth, and of course his lockdown experience.
Your portfolio is incredibly diverse – abstract geometry, hand-drawn realism, vector illustrations, GIFs… Phew! What kind of training built the foundation for such a multifaceted style.
I think of myself as a jack of all trades; a master of adaptation. I went to a fine arts high school where I received most of my fine arts training. We did all kinds of projects from claymation to still life drawing… even ceramics.
In college I studied graphic design, and the course was also very generalized. We had projects that tested the full spectrum: photography, branding design, layout, and illustration. After graduating, I worked as a designer at a branding & design agency before becoming a full time illustrator.
With so many techniques to draw on, how do you work out which one to use when you’re staring at the blank page, or screen?
I’m inspired by a lot of people, and my references are constantly changing depending on the kind of work that clients are commissioning, as well as my personal preference.
Right now I’m really inspired by the work of George Condo, Alexander Rodchenko, Malangatana Ngwenya, and Josef Albers. In my personal practice I’m drawing on my raw emotional energy. I’m feeling a bit narcissistic. I’m using my artwork to try and understand what narcissism means from a first person perspective.
Tell us about the difference between Musonda Kabwe (the designer) and MUS (the brand).
Musonda Kabwe is the creative director, with no stylistic limitation. It’s all about the why, and the right execution to complement the brand.
Mus is the alias given to me by my friends while studying. It’s come to represent the angular linear illustration style I’m known for.
Do you spend much time marketing yourself? How do you do this?
I’ve always marketed myself by sharing my work literally everywhere I can, without any concrete plan. Lately I’m taking this much more seriously. I’m creating more targeted social media content on Instagram and LinkedIn
What kind of software or tools do you use to create your work?
I use Photoshop, Illustrator, Fresco, Procreate, and ink on paper.
How did you find working with the Over by GoDaddy app for the first time?
I think it’s a really efficient tool for creating social media content if you’re on the move, and don’t have time to design everything from scratch.
The graphics you’ve created for Over are a response to the time spent alone during lockdown. First off, how was your lockdown experience this year – both professionally and personally?
Personally it was like a detox. I couldn’t run away from my personal problems so I faced them using my artistic practice. I was able to reconnect with the reason why I started drawing in the first place: because it helps me process my emotions in a constructive way.
Professionally I had one of my most lucrative years, even though the work came from three big clients in the space of a month. It was a blessing because I used the rest of my time to study and create new experimental work.
One gets the sense that you enjoy solitude.
Hahaha! Not toooo much of it though!
Looking back, has 2020 been a year of creative growth because of all this time alone?
Definitely. It’s been my most productive year ever.
Your graphics also reference how our lives have changed in subtle ways. Working from home has been an especially big adjustment for most of us. How have your work/life habits changed as a result?
Not that much I just couldn’t go out for lunch with friends & family. My life has always been a musical chairs dance between my desk the kitchen and my bed!
Working from home intersects quite well with the idea of self care. Naps, snacks, comfy clothing, peace and quiet… this seems like progress, right?
Definitely. Lately I’m realising that self-care also means exercising restraint.
As a Zambian artist living in South Africa, how (if at all) does your personal identity inform your approach to your work?
I choose to let it influence my work in organic, subconscious ways.
What’s your dream project?
I’d love to work with Arsenal football club on an illustrated campaign.
Can creativity save the world?
Creative people with solutions have always been saving the world.