Ugandan Artists: Meet 3D Artist/Animator Solomon Jagwe
Solomon Jagwe.

Ugandan Artists: Meet 3D Artist/Animator Solomon Jagwe


"Art, to me, is such a joy. It enables me to express myself in ways I never could with mere speech. I am able to mount to heights un-inhabited by bounds and limitations. The poetry of colour and sometimes the lack there of, feeds that river that provides the life of creativity. I would be a quibbler if I said art is but a small part of my world. So I will let the wings of my mind soar and float on the breeze of imagination."

Solomon Jagwe

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
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First published: November 9, 2007


Ugandan born, USA resident Solomon Jagwe is one of those few lucky people whose work is really play. He is a visual artist who gets paid to be creative - the dream of many artists. The handsome 32-year-old artist has worked as a website developer and artist, as a photo processor, photographer, web development instructor, illustrator, animator and 3D graphics artist. Jagwe has been a traditional artist for almost his entire life. His background is in oil painting and sculpture, which he did when he was in Uganda.


Click to play animation from Solomon Jagwe
Click to play animation from Solomon Jagwe.

Jagwe grew up in Mutundwe and Masaka, Uganda before he moved to the USA to finish his degree in Art and Visual Technology. While in Uganda, he also sculpted in clay, wood, metal and painted in oils. The artist also loved making mechanical military crafts out of any dumped material. He transitioned to digital arts in 1990 working with only a keyboard and Microsoft Paint in Windows 3.1. He holds a degree in Art and Visual Technology (Illustration, Animation and Computer Art) from George Mason University in Virginia, USA. He graduated in 1999 and majored in Art and Visual Technology with an emphasis in character animation and modeling. He also attended Ohio Valley College, (Ohio), and Montgomery College, (Maryland.)

Art of Solomon Jagwe
Art of Solomon Jagwe.
Soreel GraFX All RIghts Reserved.

Jagwe is employed full time as a 3D artist/animator and 3D modeler for Camber, a defense contractor in the US, supporting the Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His company creates animated characters that are used in scenario-based training and simulations. He specializes in creating 3D models: characters, creatures, vehicles, buildings, environment plus texturing and animating. In the past, he also worked for a gaming company called Rival Interactive and has worked on several military and commercial games including Real War, Rogue States, Joint Force Employment and PRISM (a game funded by the Army National Guard and used as a recruitment tool).

He is also musically inclined. He played lead guitar for 6 years for a church band in Washington DC.  Although he focuses more on his art, he still plays music when writing songs and poetry.  

Solomon Jagwe
Solomon Jagwe.


Jane: Who is Solomon Jagwe?

Solomon: This is a very thought provoking question. The core of who I am is a child of God. My relationship with God through Christ Jesus is the force that moulds and shapes my being. My relationships with those I love most are extremely important to me. I am also a very introspective person. I love to sit and meditate on the why's and how's of life. I suppose that is why I love art so much. It is a way of creating and expressing internal complexities in a concrete way.

What does Soreel Graphix stand for? 
 
It is a play on my first name, but based on the surrealism of art.

Your background is in oil painting and sculpture, which you mentioned you did in Uganda, before you arrived in the US to finish your Degree in Art and Visual Technology. Are you still active in oil painting and sculpture? 
 
Yes, I still paint and derive the same joy from being lost in the creation. Traditional sculpting, not so much. That I have replaced with 3D modelling, which is essentially sculpting using a computer instead of traditional tools. My favourite sculpting 3D program is Zbrush, which I use frequently at work. (www.zbrush.com)

I noticed you like painting in abstract. What inspires you? 
 
I love abstract art because it is a less confining approach to expression. The human eye is so sensitive to anything that is even remotely unrealistic. We are designed to pick out those things that look different from what we are trained to accept. If you paint a person, making one eye bigger than the other results in the viewer criticising that it is incorrect. Paint the same person in abstract form, and you open up a door to all sorts of interpretations and appreciation that is not limited to the known. A case in point is Picasso's work.

Art of Solomon Jagwe
Art of Solomon Jagwe.
Soreel GraFX All RIghts Reserved.

Which artists inspire you? 
 
Rembrandt, Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci and Rockwell

Your images are hard to pin down under any stereotypes. They are not quite East African and I see tendencies of African-American artistic style in them, yet it is not quite African-American. How do people tend to react to your art?

Hahahaha... you are not the first to wonder. Honestly, not many people have been able to describe my style. They either love it or are intrigued by it. I think the style that you observed in my collections has been a result of the experiences that I have been exposed to from living in Africa and the Western world. If you had seen my art before I left Uganda, you would have said that it was African art. Up to that point, it was the only exposure I had been afforded.  

I specifically like the piece in which a guy is playing a guitar. He looks like such a tortured soul, yet at the same time he is in bliss because he is playing his music. What were you thinking of when you created that piece? 
 
I love music and play guitar. I played for a gospel band when I lived in Alexandria, US. I was thinking about what a solitary experience it is when trying to find a voice to express oneself. It is a journey that starts inside, like a tune, unknown to the outside world. The instrument of one's mind is an unfamiliar tool. The piece is titled "Soloist"

Solomon Jagwe
Solomon Jagwe.

Then there is the futuristic image of a guy with a face screen sitting on a futuristic-looking animal. He looks like a warrior of sorts. What were your thoughts then?

 
That piece was a result of a simple doodle while waiting for a 3D model to render and I was reflecting on the burden that tools bear in order to carry out the demands of their owners. They are beasts of burden, not unlike a mules or camels. You will be amazed at how long some 3D models can take to render and yet the machines, slow or fast, just continue to chug away.  

Art of Solomon Jagwe
Art of Solomon Jagwe.
Soreel GraFX All RIghts Reserved.

What about the image of the African child with a red blanket wrapped around him... What is the story behind that? You use a lot of symbolism in your work. 
 
That is a piece about the blood that Africa has let as a result of her beauty and resources being plundered and spirited away, leaving behind a shell like that of a stunted child. Sometimes it is just not possible to put every emotion on canvas. Symbolism offers that channel to what otherwise would have been a journey of verbal frustration. You, as a fellow poet, must know how that feels.

Do you sell it? 

I have sold my traditional art pieces in the past. I guess I am still selling my art but in form of digital images.

Do you show it in galleries?

Not currently.

You also majored in Art and Visual Technology with an emphasis in character animation and modelling. What tilted you into that direction? 
 
I have always been fascinated by physics, math and biology. I really enjoyed my science classes and I loved to draw every little bug, critter or animal that I encountered. Therefore, when I came across a medium, in this case a computer, that enabled me to take the creation of those same subjects to a different level, I jumped on the opportunity. I wanted to be able to create those creatures so people could see every side of them and not just a flat, two-dimensional rendering.  
 
I remember, back in 1996, while on a flight to Boston from Brussels, staring in enthrallment at an animation playing on a small LCD screen on the back of the seat in front of me, wondering how on earth it had been done. I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do - to create objects in 3D and use them to tell stories.

You mentioned that you are hired full time as a 3D artist/animator and 3D modeller. How fulfilling is your job and why?

Art of Solomon Jagwe
Art of Solomon Jagwe.
Soreel GraFX All RIghts Reserved.

I love it. It is the kind of job that I can do even without pay. That is how enjoyable it is to me. I just absolutely love creating 3-dimensional objects. It reminds me so much of sculpting in clay, wood and metal. Imagine you would feel if you could take a piece of clay that you had sculpted or modelled and have the ability to scale it or shrink to any size, colour it in infinite ways without spending hours on end waiting for it to dry or harden, be able to store it in a storage space the size of a business card or even smaller, be able to make it dance, talk and cry, be able to break it up and still have it whole, make duplicates of it and never run out of clay, anything! Take the above abilities and apply them to a model of a human being, any animal, bird, insect, house, car, the list continues. That is 3D modelling and animation. In a nutshell, it has infinite possibilities.  

You seem to be a multi-talented artist. You paint and write poetry as well. Which one do you prefer over the other? 
 
I love both. Each one offers a different avenue of self-expression to me.

Solomon Jagwe's workstation
Solomon Jagwe's workstation.

I know this might be obvious to you, but can you please tell us the difference between 3D art and 2D art, since you do both? 
 
Explaining the difference would require an entire essay to really do justice to the answer. Nevertheless, to explain it in simple terms, 3D art is the type of art, created with a computer, that enables the viewer to see the front, back, top, bottom, left, right, and the perspective view of an object at the same time. 2-dimensional art typically offers the viewer only one of the above views at any time and hence lacks depth.

You also design website. Where can people looking for web designers go to see samples of your work?  
 
I have sample of websites that I have designed on my website at http://www.sowl.com

You know, we live in a global village and you never know who is reading. Where do they contact you if they are interested in hiring you? 
 
They can contact me through my website at http://www.sowl.com - email is grafx@sowl.com

Solomon Jagwe
Solomon Jagwe.

Now to some fun questions... what is a beautiful woman in your eyes? 
 
My wife. Full stop. I stopped searching for that when I met her.

What did you think of the UGPULSE African Woman week celebrations? 
 
It was wonderful. I actually got to hear from Omega, one of the ladies celebrated. She and I sang in the same choir while at Makerere College, in Uganda.

What do you think of the UG government's preference of the sciences over the arts? 
 
I think that anytime people are deprived of an experience to expand their knowledge of the world around them, it is a disservice and a crime.

How can Uganda improve her image when it comes to attracting more tourism? 
 
I think that Uganda needs a state-funded website exclusively focussed on educating the world about the opportunities available to tourists from across the globe. The site needs to feature lots of images, sounds and videos where possible, presented in a professional and visually enticing manner. We live in a digital age and that is the fastest way to get any message out with the assurance that someone is going to actually view it. The internet is a global community that offers just that.

Who are your favourite musicians? 
 
Bob Marley, Cece Winans, Eric Clapton.

Favourite writers? 
 
Hemmingway, Oliver North, Willard Price, Robert Ludlum, Paul (the apostle).

What is next for you? 
 
Creating an animated movie for kids and several children's book illustration projects. Ultimately, to become better and better at my craft and share the knowledge with those willing to learn.

For more information on Solomon Jagwe, please go to www.sowl.com.

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
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First published: November 9, 2007
Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto, Canada. She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda, some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark, Cuba and Canada.

Jane won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named one of the new voices of Africa after reciting one of her poems. In 2004, she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005, her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit.

She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art and playwriting and is becoming a household name in Toronto circles. Please visit her website at www.nteyafas.com.