Ousman Cheek—creatively know as Potari World—is a 24 year-old visual artist from Washington, DC.
Cheek is an interesting artist, in that most of his work is centered around a culture that is not his own. From a young age, Cheek has been fascination with Asian culture and art. His love for this culture began by watching anime, and grew once he started learning Japanese, and eventually travelling to Japan.
Cheek explained, “One of the first things that got me into drawing was anime. I would go to this after-school program and there was this kid there who was vicious at drawing Dragon Ball Z characters, so he taught me a little something. And then with Pokemon and anime getting big with our generation, I just kind of kept going with that. Then, I ended up taking Japanese in 7th grade and I’ve been taking it since. I’ve also been to Japan twice and I’m trying to move there for a while…There has been an appreciation for some Asian culture that comes from learning Japanese and learning about Buddhism and other religions and cultural practices, and I want to show my appreciation for these things in my work. It really happens unintentionally most of the time.”
Cheek describes his art as both narrative and character-driven. He strives to create full worlds through his illustrations, so that viewers can feel that they are gaining a glimpse of the characters full lives through added subliminal details.
He said, “I would say that a lot of my art is character driven, or at least character-design driven. A lot of times I try to create an environment that exists outside of the character just through details and other small things that I add. It’s kind of narrative because a lot of what I have been drawing and releasing are directed toward a specific project, and a part of that project is world building and war building.”
In this same way, Cheek believes that the most important aspect about creating a piece of work is its depth. In all of his pieces, Cheek strives to create more than a simple drawing or illustration to include works that have feeling, background information about his characters and possible illusions to the future of his characters.
“My favorite aspect about creating is the process of adding depth to an image,” said Cheek. “It usually starts off with some basic shapes, and then it turns into just watching that image come together. My mind is always racing, so when I’m drawing I’m imagining action and interactions with that character, and what that could look like if it was animated. I have actually started getting into animation because I want to give these static characters more movement and life.”
Through interning with the Sierra Club—an organization dedication to preserving and appreciating nature— Cheek gain a newfound love for environmentalism. In the future, he plans to incorporate environmentalism into his artwork through a series of projects. Specifically, Cheek plans to initiate a Triple Bottom Line project that will connect D.C. farmers to sustainable goods and packaging. He also plans to host environmentalism-focused events at Howard University, such as Soil and Sprout—an event centered around using ceramics to make art that plants can grow out of to inspire cross-disciplinary engagement around campus.
Additionally, Cheek is in the process of building his own clothing line. The clothing line is called Uchi Housewear, and it is dedicated to pairing comfortable living with comfort wear, with an emphasis on utility and style. Similarly, Cheek plans to build virtual art galleries, murals, and a virtual art and culture center.
When asked what he wants his artistic impact to be, Cheek responded “Creating opportunities or people to experience things differently. I have a couple of projects that incorporate virtual reality, one of them being a virtual art gallery and another being a virtual culture center modeled after the W.E.B. DuBois cultural center in Ghana—pro people of color space where cultures can be celebrated…I am trying to create experiences that allow people to appreciate each other and where we are.”
You can view more of Ousman Cheek's work by following him on Instagram @potari.world.
Photos courtesy of @potari.world on Instagram.