Creatives across borders: Segun Samson

Adebayo Adegbembo (Baba Funke)
Creatives Across Borders
7 min readJan 23, 2024

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Segun Samson
Listen to the full interview with Segun Samson on Spotify

Samson is a multifaceted Nigerian artist with roles ranging from character designer, 3D artist, visual development artist, surfacing artist to mention a few. He has worked on multiple animation projects including Kizazi moto, Kiya and the Kimoja heroes (Disney+), Jungle Beat (Netflix). Samson is also an educator and currently has a 3D Character Design course on Domestika that currently boasts 1200+ students.

In this interview, Samson talks about his humble beginnings drawing with friends to an online course that eventually changed his trajectory and positioning in the animation industry globally. He shares the strategy that has seen him work with animation studios across the world, specific mentoring platforms that have served him pricelessly and other useful actionable tips for others to follow.

Upbringing and early influences

Born and bred in Nigeria, Samson’s inspiration came from watching cartoons like Marvel’s X-Men and reading Naruto comics from a young age. Then, in senior secondary school back in Nigeria, he met some friends, Segun and John, who were also fascinated with drawing comics. They started spending time together, drawing and developing their skills. That’s when he started moving away from his initial interest of becoming a doctor. Yet, much as Samson loved drawing, reading comics and watching cartoons, he didn’t know It was something he could pursue as a career.

Apprenticeship

Samson and his friends relied on self-practice, drawing regularly to improve their skills. For one, they couldn’t afford the money to attend any formal training on animation. Around that time, they discovered a Nigerian comic, Dark Edge, a first for them which was truly inspiring. They reached out to one of its writers and enrolled in his training program as interns. There, they continued developing their drawing skills and contributed towards their first comics.

Afterwards, all 3 friends got a job at Lantern Books, one of the foremost Nigerian publishing company at the time. According to Samson, Lantern Books was more of a training ground as they were the youngest in the creative team with dozens of people. Many of those creatives had been with Lantern for many years as professionals. He and his friends grew through the creative process, learning a lot while getting paid.

Discovering CGMA was a game changer

The art of Color and light by Tyler Carter, an online course at CGMA (Computer Graphics Master Academy), was the first formal training that Samson enrolled in. That period was tough because his parents wanted him to pursue a science related career beyond his secondary education. Instead, he stuck with his guns and decided he would explore CGMA to hone his drawing skills. He saved up what was a lot of money at the time to enroll at CGMA. In Samson’s words,

I took my first class online with CGMA and that just changed everything because that directly connected me to professionals within the arts/animation industry globally. So, CGMA changed the whole game for me.

Career highlights

Samson says being approached by Domestika to create his 3D Character Design course is one that ranks high up in his journey to date. It was a validation that there was something truly unique about his drawing style. To be handpicked to create a course meant that he could give back and inspire other young people by showcasing his skills and processes. In his words,

If I had seen someone like myself creating a course at that level, it would have changed everything for me. So being able to be that person is a major highlight for me.

Going global…. how it happened

Samson also cites his first international project as one of his career highlights. He got a random email from someone saying he was from a studio in Glasgow, Scotland, and they were just starting out. The email mentioned they’d been impressed by his works on ArtStation, and reached out to see if he would like to join their team. It caught him by surprise given the number of multi-talented A-list artists on ArtStation. That opportunity was his icebreaker for working with studios and teams globally.

Nigerian cultural influences on his arts

Samson cites a Nigerian-made comic Dark Edge (the first he’d seen at the time) as his inspiration for switching to a culturally themed style. Prior to that, he’d been mimicking characters from Marvel comics in his drawings. From then, he started drawing more characters that represented himself in colours, arts and lifestyles.

The pay-off has been great. For example, when Domestika approached him, they were specific about wanting him to teach a course on character development from his cultural perspective and creative process.

And over time, he’d get roles to develop African culturally themed characters which made him realize, these African characters are like stories only someone like him could tell because of his background. That realization and validation made him prouder and more confident that he had something different to offer.

Samson adds that the global shift towards representation has also been beneficial to his theme.

One of Segun Samson’s culturally-themed works

How a musical arts competition led to more international roles

In 2014, Don Jazzy, the popular music producer and founder of Mavin records, Nigeria, put out a competition to develop a Doro superhero based off a new music — Dorobucci — they’d just released at the time. Samson took up the challenge and gave it his best, ending up on the shortlist of 5 or 10 entries.

He forgot about it and moved on with his life. Then six months later, he got a random email from someone at TriggerFish Animation Studios, saying they saw his entry for the Dorobucci competition and wanted him to do something similar for a project of theirs.

Working remotely for TriggerFish, Samson gave it his best. A few years later, they reached out again, saying they were pitching some projects and needed him to work on the concept art and character design. Again, he hopped on it giving it his best for about six months. That project’s now on Netflix!

2 years went by and then another opportunity came through a contact he’d met while on the TriggerFish project to join a team to go work in Mauritius. He left Nigeria for Mauritius where he spent some months working on that project as a vis-dev, concept artist and character developer.

Samson’s submission for the Doro Superhero competition
Kiya and the Kimoja Heroes, a TV series which Samson contributed towards as Visual Development Artist

Navigating international opportunities

Now based in Toronto Canada, where he’s just completed a degree in Animation at the Centennial College, Samson shares how he’s been able to keep tapping global opportunities. Samson says before he left Nigeria for Canada, his mind was already functioning as an international artist. He attributes this to the CGMA course with its diverse set of students, instructors, and knowledge base. That affiliation opened his mind to the nature of the industry as a global one and subsequent opportunities that came his way reinforced that.

Once he came to that realization, he became intentional about his designs. That also meant finding the right balance between drawing African-culturally themed arts and ones that cut across borders. That flexibility helped him navigate diverse projects.

He adds that building relationships also helped him. From the online courses he took to projects he worked on, he established true relationships with his peers and mentors, many of whom occupy roles at major studios like Disney and Pixar.

One of Segun Samson’s works that cut across borders

Mentorship is key

Samson says mentorship has been key to his growth as an artist. He mentions a few he’s had as follows:

  • AnimSchool for animators.
  • Mold3d Academy, where he was mentored by one of the supervisors at DreamWorks.
  • Schoolism
  • With CGMA and Domestika, you get personalized feedbacks which is close to mentorship.
  • Patreon where you can support specific artists in return for mentoring.

Current and future projects

On his current animation project, he can’t disclose much for now but says, it’s going to be one of the biggest things that’s going to make a huge impact across the industry and inspire a lot of people. In the future, leveraging his Domestika course, he’d like to actively pursue teaching and public speaking engagements.

Collaboration wishlist

He’s looking forward to getting back with his old friends, Olubunmi John and John Zino. Following up on their initial plans to go in search of industry experience before regrouping to launch their own game or animation projects, the time is near as he says.

Contacting Samson

Samson says he’s open to conversations at this point on possible collaborations. He’s very active on LinkedIn so conversations can start from there. You could also check out his works on Instagram and ArtStation.

Tips for aspiring artists

Samson has a few tips for aspiring creatives as follows

  • Don’t be afraid. You’re enough.
  • Don’t be mediocre. Pursue excellence in your works even if it requires you to take courses or seek mentorship. Those helped Samson a lot.
  • Keep connecting with other creators.

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Adebayo Adegbembo (Baba Funke)
Creatives Across Borders

Writer, Backend & Interactive Story App Developer (Unity3d/.Net). Building a library for Funke one resource (books and apps) at a time.