About a year ago, a childhood friend of Texas-based Roma Osowo reminded her that when they were 11, they dreamed of being artists. But that’s not the path that the British Virgin Island born-and-raised creative took. She earned a degree in marketing, with her eyes set on being a lawyer. A solid career trajectory made sense for Roma, who was influenced by her parents: A mother who was an entrepreneur, and a stepfather who was a politician.
After several career and personal successes—a big marketing position revamping the British Virgin Islands postal system and a family that grew to include two children—Roma was still missing passion for what she was doing. And then her calling arrived through paint and artistry. I look at her colorful paintings and they instantly fill me with a happy spirit. Her color selections are daring but harmonic. I would love the opportunity to design around one of these beauties and wanted to know more. I spoke with Roma and was so inspired by her story, and how she attributes the soul of her work to her faith. Meet Roma Osowo.
Why did you start painting?
It came through the encouragement of my husband. After we moved to the United States, I found myself starting over. I had babies and was a stay-at-home mom. I guess you could say that I was a little lost. I did marketing for non-profits and small businesses but wasn’t content. My heart told me that there was something else that I was supposed to be doing, but I couldn’t figure that out. It was a constant thorn in my side. That’s when my husband mentioned to me that I used to paint, but I had gotten so far away from that. We were young and just starting and paint supplies seemed like a luxury. But in 2017, I took his encouragement along with a couple of workshops and classes, and it all worked out. Painting is what I was meant to do. It doesn’t feel like work and I never get bored.
The palettes of your paintings seem to be filled with such joy. Where does that come from?
My paintings are a manifestation of my heritage and my faith. Some works are happier than others. Most of the time I am evoking the joy that I am feeling.
The buildings and structures in the British Virgin Islands are bold and bright. You’ll see a pink house or a pink office building. Color is naturally a part of me. I’m drawn to it, especially physical and psychological pattern. My mom always told me that I should be a psychologist because from early on I’ve been an encourager of people. I listen to them and can see the patterns in their behavior and families. All of this plays into the way that the colors work together. There’s something magical about color therapy and knowing that I’ve played a part in evoking a feeling in someone.
Well, I certainly understand your love of color. I feel the same way. But color can be intimidating to people. Why is that so?
People just don’t understand how color effects them, even though it’s what they see and how they are constantly being spoken to. They’ll tell me how much they love color, but when it comes down to it, they only own black and white. Psychologically color is about connection. For instance, a lot of artists use blue, because it’s calming. I think that most people don’t know the connection that they feel to a specific color, but they know that it’s there. It oftentimes triggers a memory. If color is used correctly, it asks what you aspire to feel.
Art can be intimidating. Abstracts seem to be something that so many people are attracted to right now. What are your thoughts on what draws someone to an abstract like the works that you paint.
As humans, we are drawn to differences even though we don’t realize the power of something different. If you are in a routine, just going for a walk gets your mind in a different place. It’s the reason that we relish a vacation. It clears the mind.
There is tension that’s created from clean and classic traditional lines to something that leaves you to fill in the blanks. Something so predictable against something that makes you think for a minute. As human beings we like differences like a smooth edge next to a jagged line. In all areas of life, differences work to our benefit. Traditional art is certainly beautiful, but I’ve been drawn to abstracts because it allows the viewer to create their own story. There are times when I don’t title a piece and ask people what they think. An abstract allows you to see what you NEED to see at that moment.
Tell me about an ideal client.
I love when my art resonates with someone and sucks them in. For me, I try to stay authentic to my own experience, so my ideal client is usually around my age. It’s easier because it’s like I’m talking to myself. One client was talking with her friend and they were talking about how much meaningless “stuff” they have. My art has meaning that resonated deeply for her. For her, it became important to start collecting art and having something with purpose around—pieces that spoke to her and didn’t stop at pretty. Especially during this period when people have been home, it’s important to have things that really matter. I’ve heard from several people that my work has helped me through he pandemic.
Speaking of the pandemic, it has led to so many people tapping into the opportunity to create. What is your opinion on why this has happened?
Based on my faith, God is the ultimate creator. We are from Him and He gave us an innate creativity. Everyone has some area where they can excel. Being stagnant in quarantine, prompts us to move. It goes back to that tension. Having to be still there is always going to be a desire to birth something that didn’t exists before. We’re being restricted right now. Creativity is one way to be free within the constraints of what we are told to do.
You attribute much of your gift to faith. How does that play a role in your paint?
When I do little behind the scenes videos, you will always hear worship music. That’s what I listen to while I’m painting. Faith influences my work because God answered my prayers when he led me to do this. I want to honor Him. My art is a vessel for me to encourage and inspire. I use it to speak positively without being a minister or pastor and point people back to light and the source of all goodness. I try to tell stories through my art.
People will tell me that I’ve made them look up scripture. My paintings illuminate the love of Christ. Roman 12:2, for instance, speaks to a black-and-white painting of mine. The idea of it is to “Be in the world but not of it. Stand out, be the light, you don’t have to fall into what everyone else is doing.”
Some people might be afraid to weave faith throughout their work. Is there ever a time when you fear bring your faith forward?
I love poetry and all creative things, but I don’t always know how to channel thoughts. There are a lot of artists of faith, but they never mention it, and you are right. There is a thought that people don’t want to hear about it. What’s more important to me is not who I lose, but who I draw in. I have a whole ministry in my direct messages on social media because of the back-and-forth conversation about God and faith. People will tell me that my work is impactful to them. Knowing that I have that impact is more important than the paintings that I sell. It’s humbling for sure.
How has this path changed you?
It’s given me a vehicle to encourage people to find their purpose as well as point them back to Christ.
I had prayed for 12 years about what I was supposed to do. Purpose is what I talk about a lot. I believe when your purpose is an intersection between what you are good at and what helps people. In my case, my purpose is what brings glory to God.
I was late figuring out what I wanted to do. Within a short period of time, I was able to sell. I am so grateful for this path.