In the era of social media where there is a constant flow of visual information, it becomes harder and harder to appreciate what we see. But looking at Norwegian artist Anette Moi’s bold, colorful illustrations, it’s easy to discern the high quality. It is not always easy for an artist to brings a smile to a viewer’s face.
Not only are her illustrations beautiful, so is idea behind them. Moi sees Frida Kahlo as an icon of womanhood, freedom, female empowerment and strength. She says “More people should start doing their thing” and I coudn’t agree more. The time to pursue your dreams is now.
I spoke with Anette Moi about her illustrations, the celebrities and icons she represents, and political statement through art:
When did you begin working as an artist?
I started working full time as an artist in February 2013. Before that, I had already started doing some commission work and even had my first solo show in October 2012. The show was beyond my expectations, and I am forever grateful to Martyn Reed from NuArt Gallery who gave me the chance to showcase my work after having seen just few illustrations of mine.
I have two Bachelor’s degrees. One is in social work, even though I never became a social worker, and another one is in graphic design. After having learned graphic design, I became more interested in drawing and started to realize that I wanted to become an illustrator. During the final year of my studies, I was getting small commissions and simultaneously continued illustrating. When I first started pursuing a career as an illustrator, I was constantly looking for a part-time job that I could not really find. I guess this was the point when I decided to work harder and focus 100% on developing myself as a full-time illustrator. And it has been like this ever since.
What does your working process look like?
I illustrate everything by hand. Afterward I fix them in Photoshop and color in Illustrator. I learned this process during my studies and have never wanted to do it any other way.
You work with icons like Prince and Picasso. How do you they inspire your work?
I choose celebrities who I find interesting. They are a big source of inspiration for my work and I think people like to see their icons in a different way. I really love drawing portraits though!
You make pretty strong political statements through your work. What are the problems we face as a society?
When I watch or read the news, I often get a feeling that “I have to make a drawing of this.” I need to express my feelings. Take Trump for instance. I cannot describe in words how much I hate him, so I make a drawing expressing my feelings. I want people to open their eyes and I try to help them understand that through my drawings. The real problem is that people are too selfish and that power is in hands of the wrong people.
You often transform humans into animals. What are the common features between the two?
I love animals! I strongly believe in animal welfare and have been a vegetarian for ten years now. In my little world, animals are the same as humans. I feel more free when drawing animals and its often more fun than drawing people. I do sometimes imagine real humans as look-alikes of different animals. A half-naked pig in a string bikini is funnier than a woman in a string bikini, at least in my mind. I just want to make people smile.
Which of your commissioned projects was the most memorable?
Recently I got an email from The Washington Post and was asked to make two illustrations for the Local Living section of the newspaper. I was blown away by this opportunity, as I have always dreamed of drawing for The Washington Post. I made the cover of the Local Living section and an illustration for the paper. That definitely is the most memorable project.
You illustrated the children’s book Eg elske Stavanger. How do your illustrations help kids to understand the book?
Eg elske Stavanger is about different animals that you follow throughout the book and has five very detailed drawings of a small city called Stavanger in Norway. I live in Stavanger and have illustrated different parts of it. For example, you follow the tiger “Funky Frank” who wears a headset and funky clothes through the drawings. It might take you some time to find him in each drawing, similar to a “Where’s Waldo?” book. You also come across questions like: “How many animals are eating an ice cream?” It was such a fun experience and a lot of work! I will illustrate more books, but not as detailed as this one.
Women are vividly represented in your works, particularly Frida Kahlo. What are your thoughts on women in art?
I LOVE Frida Kahlo. She is my favourite woman to draw and I am a big fan of her life and work. I wish there were more women artists and especially more women who dare to give a fuck and show off what they do. Lots of people are afraid of what other people might think and therefore they don’t become artists. I know so many people who are really talented, but they just don’t believe in themselves, so art becomes something they do after work. This goes both for women and men. I personally haven’t experienced any obstacles while working freelance or as a woman in art, but have experienced other sorts of obstacles in jobs I previously held. I am really happy to be my own boss and do my own thing. More people should start doing their thing, I really recommend it!
What do you think of the current Norwegian or Scandinavian art scene?
The Norwegian art scene is kind of difficult to get into because there are lots of old-fashioned people who think you need to have a certain arts degree to exhibit at their gallery. Luckily we have galleries like NuArt and Gallery GEO that see beyond this and showcase artists who might not have the right education but make good art. I am represented by both of these galleries, and really want to make it in the Scandinavian art scene. It takes time but everything is easier when one becomes a well-established artist. I haven’t had a solo exhibition since 2015 as I’ve been so busy for past several years, but I will be moving more in that direction soon.
Where can people find or buy your illustrations?