Meet Artist/Painter and Coke Studio Art Director, Dale Kotengo

September 28, 2020

Dale Kotengo is a Kenyan born artist/painter who started his career in the Kenyan theater platform after studying graphics design in collage. He started off as a stage manager in theater right after school and worked his way to set designing in 5 years.

The film industry then came knocking where he started off as a props master, moved on to set design and construction, Art Directing and eventually Production Design. He had dedicated a total of 15 years in film and theater when he decided to leave to go back to working on his painting.

Mentored by his artist mother since age 13 year to 19 years, he felt it was about time he went back to his humble beginnings and tell his own stories this time. Mostly working with Acrylics on canvas, he sometimes does pieces on mixed and heavily capitalizes on Afrocentric Themes and Surrealism Expressionism.

Dale spoke to KenyanVibe about his artistic journey:

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

In design, it was managing the largest Christmas setup in East and Central Africa for 2017 at Two Rivers Mall working for The Village Creative.

In film, it was Art Directing for Coke Studio season 4 and 5, meeting over 40 international artists in person including Jason Derulo and Trey Songz.

What is the inspiration behind your art?

Love. Supernatural, divine, unconditional love.

What is the price range for your art pieces?

In Kenyan currency, between 20k and 300k depending on the size and intensity of work invested in a given piece

What’s the highest price any of the pieces has ever gone for?

I will not mention the figure but it was bought by a client from Germany who saw my work on Facebook.

So would you say most of your clients are abroad?

No, in regard to that I would describe my client share as 50/50. The other 50 being the Kenyan market.

How have you managed to monetize your gift?

Art is a future investment. You never quite know when the big bucks will come knocking as a reward for your creation, but you continue creating and look for ways of getting your work out there. This is through social media and alternative platforms.

How would you describe your journey as an artist this far?

Born out of passion, my journey began when I was 13 years old. I was mentored by my mum. She is an amazing artist just so you know. After high school, I studied graphic design and for about 20 years I focused on building set designs as a career. I started off by doing set design for theatre for 5 years, then transitioned to designing sets for film for 15 years and then finally decided to take a break from it all and focus on paint art.

As far as the business side of things go, how is this industry in Kenya?

Truthfully speaking, Kenyans appreciate art but the purchasing power, especially for high-end pieces, is lacking.

So how do you manage to pay your bills?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was doing well doubling up as an interior designer. I got a lot of gigs on a referral basis. Basically I have an eye for creative design, that has worked well for me over the years and provides other channels of opportunity.

How does an upcoming artist brand themselves so that they are able to make their work gain recognition?

Pick a path, pick a genre. Find a style that works for you; charcoal drawing, pencil drawing, etc. Often times, it takes a while for one to confidently pick what works best for them and that’s okay.

The second thing would be to pick a subject – politics and governance, family, religion e.t.c. then do it to the best of your ability. Start putting your work out there, even if you feel as if it is not as excellent as you would want it to be. Some curators might come looking for you based on what you put out on social media. The craft will be perfected in time and with consistency.

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?

Spiritual fulfillment. I get to do something that matters to me.

I also enjoy flexibility when it comes to managing my time.

More photos, courtesy of @dale_kotengo/Instagram.

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