Interview: Tales of an African Watercolorist with Jonathan K Aggrey  

The work of Ghanaian Artist, Jonathan Aggrey is depicted in striking imagery of places and people he sees and experiences. Of what has come to be his signature paintings are the beautiful scenes of the sea, fishing boats and life of coastal people in Ghana. Over the years, his unique art has allowed him to travel several countries creating recognition and exposure for his work. 

Memories of Elmina fishing bay

In conversation with Spark Magazine, Mr. Aggrey talks about his life and journey as a watercolorist, collaborations with international art collectors and organizations, and his new book Tales of African watercolors. 

(Responses have  been edited for length and clarity) – All images courtesy of Jonathan Aggrey

Spark: Who Is Jonathan K. Aggrey?

JKA: Jonathan Kwegyir Aggrey is the youngest of eight siblings. A little boy who followed his dream to become an artist, having received immense support from  family and friends. My journey into the arts started in 1995, studying and working part-time as a roadside artist until 2003. After completing secondary school, I got mentoring from my uncle, Mr. Richard Acquaah-Harrison and a professional painter, Mr. Enoch Yaw Mensah of Freehand Studio, Adenta. During this time, he was also mentored online by Nancy Howe of Triple Jump Studio, Vermont, USA and Ann Thibaudeau (a Canadian watercolorist) and that set the tone for my craft as a watercolourist. 

Spark: Why water colouring?

JKA: Water colouring because it is the best medium for me to express my deepest feelings and thoughts about portraying the beauties of nature. Basically, it allows my creativity to flow throughout the working process. I love the medium because it helps me to think and work fast. I like the simultaneous results it produces – without restricting myself to any reference materials either from life, a photo or my imagination. With watercolours, I am able to vary my application of the paint depending on the subject at hand. This helps me to establish a connection between my works and my viewers, to enable them tell their own stories through my art. 

James town fishing bay
Jamestown fisherman
Morning glory
Leisure activity III

Spark: How different is your style?

JKA: To an extent, my style is very different  because even though watercolour is a general medium, my choice of subject and technique differentiates my work from most other watercolorists/artists.

Spark: Did you study to become a watercolourist?

JKA: I suppose. For my bachelors, I pursued a degree in Art Education (BA. Arts) from the University of Education, Winneba. And got mentoring and exposure as an artist, all defining my journey as a watercolourist.

Spark: And what would you say sparks your creativity?

JKA: Everything. I see the beauty in most things, stories in the life of people. The experiences and culture in Africa inspires my creativity, and my subjects are centred on people and places; the inspiration and genuineness of the life and culture of the African people.

Our Venice

Spark: Three words to describe your art?

JKA: My art is alluring, novelty & idiosyncratic

Spark: What techniques and tools do you use in painting?

JKA: I could use either loose washes or very fuzzy with a lot of details or a combination of lost and found edges as in soft and hard edges. For tools, I use watercolour paints (Mission Gold brand made in South Korea), Watercolor papers (Arches 300 gram), various sizes of watercolour Brushes, wooden board, masking tape, pencil, masking fluid, a container of water, and a plastic tray palette.

YouTube: JoKA84

Spark: Share your experiences working as an artist in the Ghanaian industry especially?

JKA: Well, it’s been quite wonderful and yet challenging. The Ghanaian art industry is growing and the level of creativity is commendable. I see more Ghanaian artists moving into the international art scene, and our works are being appreciated and collected all around the world. For the challenge, I’d say it’s the lack of art appreciation among the general public in Africa and poor or no government intervention for visual artists. 

Exploring Ghanaian art from around the world

Spark: How did you become Ghana’s Ambassador in the International Watercolor Society (IWS)?

JKA: It started with an email invitation from the newly established  International Watercolor Society in Turkey in 2012 to join the organisation. After attending this event, I was exposed to a number of international artists which opened doors to many other international watercolour events around the world, which I mostly attend as the only Ghanaian participant.

Sail II

Spark: Awesome! So what’s new for you in 2024? Work, Exhibitions etc.

JKA: I recently published my book on watercolour entitled; “Jonathan K. Aggrey Tales of African Watercolour” and more information can be found here. “ It’s a collection of my work as an award winning watercolorist, my perspective on my Ghanaian heritage – the people, culture & landscapes, and publications excerpts from collectors and fellow artists etc.” Also, I have an upcoming live exhibition in April, 2024 at the 6th International Biennial – Breizh Aquarelle, France. So mark your calendar to catch my live demonstration and workshop. For the rest of the year, I’ll keep you posted on any new updates. 

Jonathan Aggrey has demonstrated the lengths his works has reached on the global market working with numerous exhibitions in several countries including Ghana, Turkey, Romania, China, Thailand, Colombia, Mexico, Kosovo, Nigeria, Italy, France, Norway, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Russia. And art collectors like the Qingdao Art museum – China, Silk Road International Art Festival and the Nubuke Foundation Art Galleries – Accra, Ghana.

See more images below

Morning reflection
Nomads tradition

Special thank you to Jonathan Aggrey for honoring this interview with Spark Magazine. Connect with Artist – here

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