Meet Oluwaseyi Akintoroye, a Mint creative leader, artist, and mentor

Meet Oluwaseyi Akintoroye: A Mint team leader, artist, photographer, student at Wayne State University and so much more.

Calm, creative, and caring, Oluwaseyi Akintoroye has been a member of Mint Artists Guild for about four years. She has worked with Mint Artists Guild as a summer mentor/team leader for more than two years. During that time, she’s helped Mint grow the number of artists served, interviewed summer worker candidates, and helped with their busy summer job, running in partnership with Grow Detroit’s Young Talent.

Our Q&A interview shares more about her journey as an artist, photographer, and mentor.

How have you transformed yourself and your art since joining Mint Artists Guild?

I definitely started painting a lot more. Beforehand I wasn’t really much of a painter. I mean I dabbled in it. You knowI could put paint on paper, but I didn’t really know all the methods. So I’ve definitely improved.

What have you learned from being a mentor?

Tons of communication skills! When I mentor groups, I want to be able to keep everyone on the same page, informed, and productive, while not seeming overbearing or too pushy. I’ve definitely made some mistakes but I’m grateful to be in a position where I can learn from them, and continue making an open, enjoyable, and creative environment for my team.

What do you like most about working with creative young people?

It’s cool! I feel like creative people have interesting personalities so I love reading people. And I like learning about them so that’s probably just my favorite. Having interesting conversations, and learning things that I never knew before.

How has working with Mint impacted your creativity?

With Mint, I’ve been able to take a lot of rest because when you’re kind of painting by yourself. It’s like easier to be caught up and stay in your comfort zone. Doing what you will usually always paint like the same subject. When you’re with mint you kind of get more of a task, so it’s not completely up to you and when you can’t choose what projects you’re working on you have to adapt to what you’re given. So I think it’s made me work a little bit harder and more creatively in what I should make.

What is one of your favorite projects with Mint?

When I first got to Mint we made these mascots with our teams. We basically took all the supplies that we had around our studio and just made characters. It was so fun. (As a leader), I like being able to see everybody’s art, you know? And I like helping them out with it if they have any questions you know? It’s a good feeling.

Tell me about your work with Darkroom Detroit and your experience with them.

Oh, my God! I never get this question. I’ve been with Darkroom Detroit since 10th grade, so around the same time as Mint. But I’ve recently been working a lot more with them. Basically, I help with their youth programming and I kind of create things for Darkroom Detroit, which s focused on photography so that’s what I (Editor’s note: Seyi is being modest. She serves on the Darkroom Detroit board of directors. See some of Seyi’s photography on her Instagram.)

How did your love for photography and art start?

When I was in 5th grade, I joined this program at Focus Hope, it was like a photography program. I was like okay, I have nothing to do after school except just wait on my parents, so I’m like do something creative! Yeah, I just started doing a lot of photography I got really interested in it.

After I grew out of that program, my mentor was like um you’re too old so we’re going to need to put you in something else. And then she led me to Ms. Vickie and I started doing Mint Artists Guild (Learn and Earn).

When Seyi Akintoroye started with Mint, she created and sold photos, including this one taken Up North in Michigan. © Oluwaseyi Akintoroye

What inspired The Small Joys Project and what are some of the things the project entails?

We had to draw something or paint something that represented Joy to us on this very tiny canvas. I guess what inspired that, I like the small joys paintings a lot like the past year’s of Mint and I really wanted to do something different that wasn’t like really cute animal or like just poppy colors so I’m like what else can bring people joy or also represents joy and I immediately thought of like 90s psychedelic…something really interesting like that so I decided to go with that theme for my painting.

(Mint also is working on a series of community giving activities called Small Joys, including one at Coalition on Temporary Shelter and one in Palmer Park this summer.)

How do you involve music in your art making? What inspires your photography or painting?

I feel like every time I paint, I’m listening to music. If I’m not just watching a show, and I try and really like pick a genre of music that relates to like my artwork. I really like discovering new artists or listening to things that I haven’t listened to before, I know for one of the projects that we do with Mint I gotta design and make a piece connected to Motown so I’m definitely gonna be listening to that. My photography and paintings are usually inspired by other artists I see and appreciate.

Has Mint Artists Guild opened up possibilities and nurtured your open-mindedness for other mediums? Are there any mediums that you haven’t done/tried and would like to?

Definitely! I would have never picked up acrylic painting thoughtfully if it were not for Mint, and I’ve also noticed I’ve been more open to other mediums. I would love to try pottery and glassblowing! And this summer, I am trying some clay sculpting or pottery. OK?? I love the idea of creating for both aesthetics and practicality.

Do you have a favorite art piece?

I do have pieces that I look fondly back on. One of those is doing a Little Free Library commission Mint offered me for a local gardener and artist Cheryl English! (Here are some of Seyi’s Little Library paintings, which perhaps will be used in a greeting card series someday.)

What methods are you applying now to your art? Do you have a favorite method?

I’ve been focusing on getting proportions and composition right in my paintings recently. To do this, I cut my sketches and my canvas into a 3×3 grid. I follow the rule of thumb “Rule of Thirds,” to keep the subjects of my painting balanced and interesting. My favorite method of painting is wet on wet painting for clouds and skylines. It makes it easier, quicker, and cleaner to blend- and it’s incredibly satisfying seeing the colors come together!

Painting by Oluwaseyi Akintoroye; © Mint Artists Guild 2020

What would you say is your passion?

Hard question! I love doing many things and exploring tons of creative spaces. I would say that discovering new skills, meeting new personalities, and learning new things is my real passion. Getting involved with my community creatively helps me find those new things.

So what’s next for you? Where do you see Oluwaseyi Akintoroye in the future?

Creating more art of course, but also expanding the different parts of the art-making bubble. I’ve been working on aiding in creating creative programs like the ones I grew up being involved in. I love making art, but I also appreciate the art of working with and helping others go through the process of creating, editing, and showcasing their art-every step of the way.