The Age of Pop Art: A talk with Monica Ahanonu

Publication: Niji Magazine                                                          Date: 2nd September 2017

Who is Monica Ahanonu? Tell the readers a bit about the women behind the illustrations.

I’m a former competitive gymnast of fourteen years, one of four siblings, an Arizona native and a lover of fashion and design. I’m obsessed with colour theory. From playing with, to observing all the different combinations of colour that we see on a daily basis. These same colours subconsciously choreograph our mood and the decisions we make. I’m an expert at Guitar Hero and I also don’t like to wear the same combination of clothing twice.

When did you realise that you wanted to pursue a career as an artist?

I realised fairly early on in my life, that I wanted to pursue a creative career. I always loved taking photos, writing my own scripts, drawing my own magazines and creating calendars for my friends during my childhood. In regard to being an illustrator, that part came later on as I developed my artistic style during my junior and senior year at USC.

When I first started at USC I hadn’t taken any drawing classes, so I initially thought I wasn’t meant to be on the artistic side of the industry. I struggled in many of my hand-drawing and painting classes.

“Things took a turn for the best when I got my first internship at DreamWorks Animation.”

I learnt all about the different artistic roles that are required to create a feature film. This allowed me to learn about other areas where I felt I could contribute as an artist based on my skills. After I graduated college I also had a strong interest in being a creative producer. I knew my skills weren’t strong enough to land me an artistic role at DreamWorks Animation right out of undergrad, so I decided to pursue my creative producing interest.

I started as a production assistant on a DreamWorks Animation feature film directly after graduation. As I continued to work as a PA, I noticed that my interests and drive were pushing me to the artistic side. I would spend many hours outside of the studio working on my art, learning from the artist at work, so I could get myself to a point where I would be strong enough to work as a professional artist. I had many mentors that I worked with.

I would have them give me small assignments and deadlines, so I could get myself to a level that would allow me to smoothly transition into an artistic position. A level that would allow me to continue my career as an artist in the entertainment industry if it didn’t end up being at DreamWorks Animation. Towards the end of July 2015, I started my first day as an artist at DreamWorks Animation.

Wow, that’s amazing! Working for such a big organisation must be so rewarding. How would you describe your artistic style?

I would describe my artistic style as vibrant, minimal, abstract, design oriented and pleasing to the eye. I love design and playing with proportions, as well as attempting to combine two colours that you may not expect to work together well. I think I’ve always been this way – when I make two colours work together that aren’t usually seen together I get a weird satisfaction and excitement. I feel insanely accomplished. Then, I’ll usually look around the room to nod my head at someone who agrees but quickly realise I am alone in my apartment.