“Painting for me is like breathing,” Nina Fabunmi says. Dissuaded by her parents from studying art in college, Fabunmi studied real estate, but still gravitated toward creative classes like design and architecture and spent much of her free time in the college’s fine art studios. After earning her bachelor’s degree in a parent-approved subject, she promised herself she would one day earn an MFA in painting on her own terms. She worked only briefly in real estate before taking a job in the financial industry, but never stopped drawing and painting. In 2001 she was introduced to a gallery owner who purchased five of her watercolors, and from then on she continued to sell paintings as a hobby.
A turning point in her pursuit of a fine arts career came in 2011, when she was commissioned to supply artwork for a guesthouse in Lagos, Nigeria. Rather than find works by other artists to fill the space, Fabunmi did the paintings herself, completing 21 works in just two months. The money from the job was enough for her to finally make her dream of earning an MFA at the Academy a reality, so she moved to San Francisco to enroll in the School of Fine Art.
In 2013 Fabunmi was awarded Best of the Show in the Fine Art Studio Online Bold Brush painting contest and two Honorable Mentions in the Turner painting contest. In 2014 she won Best of the Show in the Artist Portfolio Magazine Portraits 18th edition. She’s a two-time recipient of the Academy’s Academic Achievement Award, has sold works in the university’s Annual Fine Art Auction, and had private showings of her work in the Academy’s galleries. She certainly recognizes the role that the Academy plays in her success. “Academy of Art University is not just about teachers and students,” she says. “It’s a community. Being an alumna of Academy of Art University, you always have that community with you.”
“Academy of Art University is not just about teachers and students. It’s a community. Being an alumna of Academy of Art University, you always have that community with you,” – Nina Fabunmi
Making a Living as an Artist
Fabunmi’s parents were adamant that she shouldn’t study art, telling her it was the profession of people who were starving. But now she’s able to show that it is possible to have a successful career as an artist. Today, Fabunmi is represented by Studio Gallery in San Francisco, Joyce Gordon Gallery in Oakland and Gallery Guichard in Chicago. Since 2011 she’s worked as a docent at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, where she’s led youth workshops, illustrated books for the museum’s curriculum, and exhibited her own paintings. She continues to receive commissions for paintings, and since 2014 has worked as a tutor in the Academy’s Academic Resource Center, teaching Analysis of Form, Figure Drawing and Fine Art Painting. You can discover more about Fabunmi’s work on her artist website.