We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Ahanonu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monica, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important thing for me was the ability to ask for and take criticism from people knowing that it’s trying to make the work better. When I started for the first few years after graduation I had to work through the hard parts where you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, or that things look bad, I would just push through and keep trying. And I was constantly asking for feedback from people. I would seek it out and work on the specific feedback. In addition, I would always do things that I was interested in at the moment and put all my energy into it. For example my first internship at DreamWorks Animation required experience from someone who had spent time assisting a photographer and I had randomly become interested in photography while at USC and assisted a photographer, so I had that experience. I also had worked at the auditorium at USC as an usher and the experience ended up helping with a section of the internship involving the art department because they needed someone who could help run events. I also had learned HTML coding so it was a combo of all three of my experiences that I segued into getting an internship at DreamWorks Animation. Doing the tedious jobs ended up helping me get my first internship at the studio. Once I was in the internship position, I was around artists that all had different specialties and it helped me realize how diverse the art that is needed at the studios to create these incredible films. This opened my eyes to understanding that that style of art I love to create is possible to do not only as a hobby but at one of the big studios as well.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art is typically set apart form other because of the color choices I use as well as the graphic style that I use to create my work. I am most proud of myself for becoming confident in the way I create my work and being comfortable with using colors I haven’t seen other mix together before but making them work in my own way. After graduating from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2013, I started her career at DreamWorks Animation where I honed my unique artistic style. I overcame the fear of doing art that wasn’t the norm for my industry after being encouraged to keep going by many of my mentors. I made the jump to become a full-time freelance artist in April 2017. Inspired by the growth in the digital space, I started to create an Instagram following from my diverse range of portraits subjects using my signature style and daring color combinations. In my short time working as a freelancer, I have worked with companies such as Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Samsung USA, TIME Magazine, Adidas, Sprite, Salvatore Ferragamo, NYX Cosmetics, Simon & Schuster, Adobe, Always and more. My portraits and pop art make learning about people from other cultures, industries and backgrounds accessible. One thing I always like to remind people is that just because you’re different from the people around you doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful. I believe in diverse beauty. It brings color and variation into the world …and more excitement. I’m glad that I can bring that to light with my work. I want to make sure everyone honors their own uniqueness and beauty.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
– Soho House Warehouse – Soho House Malibu – Wasteland on Melrose – Wisdom Tree Hike – Drive on Sunset from Hollywood all the way to the beach in the Pacific Palisades – USC Football, Lakers or Clippers Game – Tramp Stamp Grannys Bar – The Broad – Rosebowl Flea Market – The Getty – The Getty Villa – Mh Zh Restaurant
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The various friends and mentors who guided during my development as an artist: Christophe Lautrette, Devin Crane, Kathy Alteri, Bonnie Arnold, Joel Fajnor, Sam Michlap, Raymond Zibach, Dominique Louis, Tom Sito, Brian Smith, Angela Lepito, Archie Donato, Peter Zaslav, Kevin Dart, Tuna Bora.