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INTERVIEW: My Art Business Flourished During Lockdown – Brian Lister, a Visual, Tattoo Artist

Many people usually undermine artists because they think that art is a backup plan that people take on when they fail at everything else.

However, for Brian Lister Kansiime, art is his heart and soul. We met up with him to understand how he broke the society norm and started earning from his talent.

So who is Brian Lister?

My name is Kansiime Brian Lister, a 25-year-old Ugandan visual and tattoo artist.

I am also the CEO of Sons of Art. I just graduated from Makerere University Business School with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business.

I’m a self-taught artist. I trained myself to become a perfectionist in the art industry, that meant choosing pens over pencils, to put the perfectionism out there, and being unique since we live in a competitive world.

What is the story of Brian and art, how did it start?

I started doing art as a kid, and growing up, my mum always kept pushing me emotionally reminding me that I don’t need to be good at math to be successful.

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So, I perfected my art from home, joined campus and mastered the art of doing business, especially the marketing bit to see how to make it successfully in the art industry both domestically and on the international scene.

I grew up with a mentality of self-employment, and being an entrepreneur, I didn’t bother applying for job vacancies because no one will pay you what you want. So, I started up a company called Sons of Art, from zero and now we offer all kinds of art services.

I gathered the best artists in the country, Sayid, Rabboni, Walter and Elvis then me, making us a team of 5, all doing different kinds of art that is; paintings, pencil portraits, color portraits, pen portraits, with that helping us dominate the art industry.

So, why did you start up a company, why didn’t you keep on drawing as an individual artist?

Growing a business as one artist is really hard. When the work piles up, the fatigue kicks in, less sleep because you are trying to hit deadlines, and give clients what they paid for.

But now doing it as a team, there is reduced work load, increase on the clientele, increase in job opportunities for artists out there and making a living out of art.

Our art pieces range from Shs 200,000 to Shs 5,000,000 depending on what the client wants and our contemporary art pieces range from Shs 1,000,000 to Shs 10,000,000.

Many people tend to undermine artists, have you made any major achievements?

I won the African Bic Art Master competition 2019-2020 and that put me on the map as an artist making me one of the best artists on the continent and I made my country proud.

My business now pays all my bills, rent, and all the other costs. I have been able to inspire many, especially the parents that think art is for failures.

I have provided job opportunities with my company giving artists a place they can comfortably work from. I also decided to explore the tattoo industry to make more money, because at the end of the day it comes down to who is the best artist around so with help of Santo from K’la Ink, I’m also perfecting that skill.

Brian Lister Kansiime

What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business?

Well, with Covid-19 the company made more money than any other period, everyone was at home with paper, paint and pencils. It was the best time to make money.

This is where the time factor comes in, I had enough time to give every client attention off social media, and these pieces were delivered after boda boda’s were allowed to transport things around.

When it came to the tattoo industry, people made the decision of “you only live once” because of the pandemic and decided to get the tattoos spontaneously. So personally, it has been the best period to make money.

Any future plans? Do you intend to keep the drawing business forever?

Unfortunately, I do not think you can draw forever, but I’m planning on opening a Sons of Art gallery to give every upcoming artist a chance to showcase their work and give room to people that want to learn to draw.

I believe every child is born an artist, and that way, they will be getting avenues to earn income from.

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