The Story of Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe – Resilience, Power & Inner Strength

Journey to Artistic Recognition: Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

“When I first see my subjects, whether in real life or in photos, I see in them their resilience, their power, their inner strength. These are the character traits that arrest me, that jump out at me and grab my attention… My subject’s attitude is very important to me. I try to put myself in their place. See what they see, experience what they experience, be who they are.” – Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe and discuss his remarkable journey as an artist. He’s known for his unique style that mixes monochrome subjects with bursts of color to create a beautiful balance between light and dark. It’s a tale of unexpected encounters, bold decisions, and a deep-rooted passion for art. From his humble beginnings in Ghana to making a name for himself in the international art scene, Quaicoe’s story is as vibrant as his striking paintings.

Quaicoe admiring his sketch of a boxer - Seminal
Quaicoe admiring his sketch of a boxer – Seminal

Quaicoe was born in 1988 in Accra, the capital and largest city in Ghana. While studying painting, he drew inspiration from the artistic flair and cinematic quality of handcrafted movie posters. After graduating from the Ghanatta College of Art and Design, he further immersed himself in photography in 2008, particularly exploring studio and portrait techniques. His fascination with how the camera could alter the dynamic between artist and subject greatly influenced his early painting style. In 2017, Quaicoe relocated to Oregon, USA, where he currently resides. Building upon his experiences in Ghana and his background in photography, Quaicoe delved deeply into figuration and portraiture, with a particular focus on Black portraiture.

After Quaicoe came to the US to pursue his passion for art and further his artistic career the pivotal moment in Quaicoe’s career came when he took time off from his job at FedEx to attend the opening of his friend Amoako Boafo exhibit at Robert’s Projects gallery in Los Angeles. It was during this visit that he got his first glimpse into the inner workings of a gallery and the dynamics of the art market. While reflecting on his experience at the exhibit, Quaicoe realized that the art world differed greatly from his previous perceptions of the art market back in Ghana. Ghana’s art market is deeply rooted in tradition and still growing, differing from Los Angeles’ vast and global art scene. It’s known for diverse styles and established infrastructure, a completely new way of engaging with art that he was eager to understand and harness. During this time, Quaicoe began engaging in conversations with gallery patrons and industry insiders, slowly beginning to grasp the nuances of the enormous art market in Los Angeles. Quaicoe decided to buy a few canvases with the mission of taking his paintings to the next level.

Undeterred by the challenges of a completely new and unfamiliar art scene, Quaicoe seized every opportunity that came his way, determined to immerse himself in this dynamic artistic environment, gain exposure, and explore new avenues for his artistic expression. At this time Amoako Boafo eagerly began to showcase Quaicoe’s work to Robert’s Projects gallery, eventually prompting a request to see Quaicoe’s art in person. Encouraged by this opportunity to showcase his art, Quaicoe made the daring choice to resign from his job, took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles. Little did he realize that this pivotal decision would ignite his path to success.

Following the success of showcasing his art to the Robert’s Project gallery, Quaicoe encountered Mariane Ibrahim, the owner of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, who showed keen interest in his artwork. When Ibrahim inquired about the pricing of his pieces, Quaicoe found himself uncertain, given the stark contrast in economic landscapes between Los Angeles and Ghana. Reflecting on what his peers were charging for their work, he hesitated before responding, saying.

“So I just threw in some amount and I said… that I’d sell it for $3000 and then the lady said, ‘I would give you $7000,’ and I’m like, ‘what?’ So I thought she was just joking and then she took a check out of her bag and signed it, then gave it to me.”

Quaicoe was shocked by this and began to get a little bit excited about the possible prospects of a career within the arts, immediately beginning work on other pieces.

Quaicoe painting the face of a boxer - Seminal
Quaicoe painting the face of a boxer – Seminal

Quaicoe’s major breakthrough came shortly after his encounter with Mariane Ibrahim after the Gallerist from Roberts Projects who had worked with his friend Amoako Boafo in the past expressed keen interest in his work. Offering to showcase one of Quaicoe’s pieces at Basel in Switzerland, the Gallerist remarked,

“If it goes well, and people respond positively, we’ll work with you.”

Seizing the opportunity, Quaicoe took one piece to Basel, where it garnered overwhelming praise, saying.

“People loved it!”

Shortly thereafter, he was offered a residency with Roberts Projects, propelling his career to new heights.

As Quaicoe’s reputation grew, so did his exploration of identity in his artwork. Influenced by his love for black and white photography and his newfound awareness of self, Quaicoe said.

“I love black and white images. Black and white photos. My old grandma’s photos, my old grandpa’s photos. I always feel there is some sense of like, rawness to it.

Quaicoe’s style relies on vibrant oils on canvas paintings juxtaposing colorful attire and backgrounds with monochromatic skin tones, adding depth to each subject’s cultural and personal identity. He also uses striking fashion choices like cowboy hats for his signature African American cowboys as well as branded clothing. Quaicoe explores the global influence on African American style, revealing the interconnectedness of American and Ghanaian culture. Through his distinct style, Quaicoe aims to bridge the gap between cultures, blending elements of his Ghanaian heritage with contemporary narratives from America, reflecting themes of identity, race, and societal issues.

Quaicoe's painting, 'Take Two' 2023 - Seminal
Quaicoe’s painting, ‘Take Two’ 2023 – Seminal

Quaicoe’s style also reflects his appreciation for impasto work, a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the surface thickly, usually thick enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. This style allows Quaicoe to find harmony in the fluidity of brushstrokes and the merging of colors. He said.

“I’ve always loved impasto work. I’ve always loved to see the movement of brush is just the idea of following the contours and lines of the body shape, the shape of the body and the anatomy. And it almost kind of feels like a rhythmic thing to me.”

Each stroke tells a story in his creative process, contributing to the cohesive narrative of his paintings, mentioning how his work is like a puzzle.

“You are seeing all these details and lines and following all this and you step back. Everything just merges together and becomes one image.”

Additionally, Quaicoe’s creative process relies heavily on his meticulous approach to selecting models and themes for his exhibitions, stating that.

“The reason why I usually use models back home is that it’s a way of me kind of like blending two cultures, using people from my culture back home by talking about issues that is going on in America, So it’s just me blending two cultures, and that’s like two homes that I live in.”

By intertwining individuals from his native Ghana with themes relevant to American society, he creates a unique dialogue that resonates with audiences worldwide.

A more complete version of Quaicoe's boxer - in progress at the time of the interview  - Seminal
A more complete version of Quaicoe’s boxer – in progress at the time of the interview – Seminal

As Quaicoe continues to evolve as an artist, his journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring creatives worldwide. His unwavering dedication to his craft, coupled with his commitment to authenticity, cultural representation and incredible style, has positioned him as a formidable force in the contemporary art scene.

Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe’s story reminds us that art knows no boundaries—it transcends geographical borders, cultural divides, and societal norms. With each brushstroke, he paints a vivid portrait of humanity, urging us to reflect on our shared stories and embrace our diverse world.

We love sharing the stories of artists, and we’d love to share yours! If you’re interested in representation for your IP, Seminal will help you secure elusive licensing deals and ensure your art is safeguarded across the digital space.

A quick story about us: we unlock global copyright protection and monetization for all artists. Once an artist, estate, or gallery uploads and verifies their copyright with Seminal, they gain access to industry-first services: AI-powered infringement detection to fight image theft, consumer product licensing opportunities with Seminal’s artist discovery platform, and passive licensing opportunities through Seminal’s enterprise network

Explore more artist interviews!

Check out the Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe video interview:

Join the Seminal newsletter

Join the Seminal newsletter

Get the latest on industry news, company updates, new art collaborations and licensing opportunities.