Obi Arisukwu is a hit on Instagram. The Houston-based artist posts hilariously relatable comic strips for his following of over 150,000. Not only is Arisukwu making cartooning relevant for the “over 18” crowd, but he’s also providing commentary on hot, and sometimes controversial, topics. But that doesn’t scare Arisukwu; he welcomes pushback from fans and trolls alike. It means people are listening, and he’s got something to say.
How did you get into graphic design and illustration?
When I was 3 years old I was a huge fan, like obsessed, with the Ninja Turtles. I loved drawing them. So my parents–they’re really the ones who pushed me into art–which is really interesting because you don’t really see immigrant parents really wanting their kids to be like, into the creative field. It was just an anomaly that my parents were like, “we’re gonna support your talent”. They still do now.
You left your job in Corporate America to pursue your passion, how was that transition? Was it challenging? Scary?
It’s always scary because you’re coming from something that you get a stable income from, and then you’re completely going off the grid and trying to fend for yourself. But I have friends who did the same thing and they were saying it’s the best thing they ever did. And so when I did it, I knew it was gonna be rough. But I knew there was gonna be a light on the other side. And it’s been probably the best decision I ever made in my life.
So how do you deal with finances?
So my biggest thing is, I’ve been in situations where I get projects and people want to pay for jobs and things…but right now I’m in a space that “do what I keep doing and the money will come”…I don’t really focus too much on making the money and I have a great support system, my parents.
When I quit my job, I moved back in with them and you know, I was doing work…but once they started seeing the success, they started following me on social media, they started seeing me taking meetings in L.A. and have other people call me, they got to the point where they were like, “we don’t want you to worry about anything else, we’re gonna take care of you. You just make sure you do what you need to do”. And then my mom was like, “You just buy me a Chanel bag and we’ll call it even.”
Is a lot of your comic strip based on your real life? I see some of the posts you create about dating… or does it come all from your imagination?
It’s both. It started off where the first one I did was like a satire of my real life, saying like, I quit my job and I make cartoons….I had the woman run off scared. And from there it kind of took off. So, a lot of the things I do is real life, so it may be…a situation I remember being in…I just exaggerate it to where everybody can kind of resonate with it.
What advice would you give, having made this transition from corporate life to entrepreneurship?
I can give advice, however, it’s never gonna go as planned. You’re never gonna be ready. Like I saved up thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars, and then everything that was bad just hit me back to back to back. I was supposed to move out, but I didn’t put my two months in and I had to pay two more months of rent at the market rate. Then it was summertime, my car’s air conditioner broke down, bills pile up…stuff just happens. You just got to realize that it’s a storm and you gonna get through that storm. And if you do have a support system, if you need to move in with somebody, if you need to take odd jobs, you need to drive uber, do what you need to do. But always remember that your main focus, your main goal, is why you quit in the first place.
**Just recently a cartoon Arisukwu created, involving Taylor Swift, caused a bit of controversy and had his followers sounding off in the comment section.
After a while, I started realizing that all my comic strips aren’t going to be hits and I’m fine with that. However, I believe that…have you heard the album by Solange, “A Seat at the Table”? Master P has a skit in there when he says, “if you don’t understand my music then that means it’s not for you.” So when I did the Taylor Swift one I knew that it wasn’t going to get a large audience but the people that got it, that’s who I did it for.
So I want to show that I can be someone who talks about dating, I can be someone who talks about politics. I can be someone who talks about cartoons… I have something for everybody no matter what the situation is. I don’t want to be put in a box.
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Featured Image: Greg Noire