Karl Kani ‘Can I?’ ambassador Koby Martin gives us an insight into his creative journey so far

Koby Martin is a Ghana born, London living artist who is steadily rising with his distinctive, autobiographical pieces. His artwork has been exhibited under Tinie Tempah’s record label Disturbing London as well as on album covers and limited editions zines.

The baby of a Christian family of 5, Koby’s Dad was a Petroleum chemist and his brothers followed in similar footsteps, meanwhile he was the creative one.

He simultaneously became the black sheep and the golden child of his clan, as his parents noticed and supported his gift from a young age in various practical ways.

In secondary school he did visual arts and went on to apply to a university in Ghana. However, he was rejected at all stages due to low grades in stem subjects like Maths, Science and English despite excelling in creative subjects.

So his parents moved him to study at a university in the UK in 2009 as he received an opportunity to do so through an education agency.

The challenges in his career as an artist didn’t end there. Koby has had to sacrifice a lot to get to where he is including being separated from family and giving up his free time. Seven years ago in 2014, he lost his Dad and Grandad in the same week, causing him to reconsider his passion as an artist.

Luckily his vision and determination was strong enough for him to push through the adversity of his grief, something I can really relate to as I lost my Dad in December last year.

“Challenges bring out the best in you…” Koby tells me and I agree “…the challenges create the platform for your self-belief to propel to where it’s meant to be”. You may not always understand why you’re facing the challenge but you have to dictate it and not let it dictate you, Koby says.

2014 was a trying year for Koby as he was rushed to the hospital for an appendix that was one inch from bursting; a fatal occurrence. All of this happened whilst he was working on the cover art for Krept and Konan’s album The Long Way Home which he still managed to complete.

“I couldn’t go back on myself…if I gave up I would have to go back to where I started and what would be the point?”.

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Koby is a great example of the perseverance and commitment you must cultivate once you have answered ‘yes I can’ to the question ‘Can I?’, especially when the going gets tough.

Having guiding principles or questions to return to and answer when you’re facing challenges can be helpful. For Koby these are “Why did you start?” and “Why are you doing this?”. It’s bigger than him, Koby says, “It’s not about you, bro. Because there’s people you’re inspiring, who are looking up to you, going through ten times what you’re going through”.

This is not to disregard or invalidate the importance of anything you go through personally, but more so to highlight that long-term motivation can be found in being of service to others, as well as yourself.

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A committed Christian, Koby attributes his success and strength to his faith which gives him the confidence to be wholly himself. He makes the profound point that this can be a form of giving back.

As an artist, Koby usually works in isolation, so the first lockdown wasn’t a huge disruption to his daily work routine. Koby tells me “I don’t need a lot to be happy” but the initial lockdown “helped me understand, time is the most expensive luxury we have”.

Koby’s work is extremely expressive, inspired heavily by his experiences growing up in Ghana and London, but it’s not the only way he expresses himself. Koby also loves to play video games.

Check out Koby’s Karl Kani campaign on his Instagram and learn more about his work here

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