Monica Ahanonu’s Instagram is a treasure trove of fashion-forward, brilliantly graphic illustrations that exude strength and style. Eye-catching type sits in genius splashes of saturated colors and feminine shapes, highlighting strong, commanding characters that exude #blackgirlmagic.
It’s no surprise that Monica’s designs and artistic talent have been catching more than a few eyes as she helps to usher in new feminine aesthetics that are at once playful and powerful. Professionally trained as a motion designer (and an alumnus of DreamWorks Animation), she went full-time freelance in 2017. Her impressive client list includes Jada Pinkett-Smith for @RedTableTalk, designs for Adidas and Ferragamo, movie posters for Lionsgate Films, illustrations for the New York Times, reimagining of Disney princesses for Disney Style, and many more.
And now you can join the artful cause by adding your own messages to Monica’s fashion-forward illustrations. Click any of the templates below to remix her star power and add a little bit of playful high fashion to your social feeds. Just remember to give artistic credit by tagging @monicaahanonu and #adobespark!
Monica’s Social Media Tips
What inspires you and your creative process?
I’m very inspired by fashion and the ways I see people (both online and around Los Angeles) mixing their clothing to create a look for the day. Maybe it’s an interesting silhouette, a texture, or a color combination that starts the process. I can also be inspired by an unusual feature on someone’s face that I haven’t illustrated before. I love seeing odd shapes combined in a way where they still feel organic.
Once I have that inspiration, I use the pen tool in Adobe Photoshop to start forming shapes. I come up with my color palettes either in my head or from an interesting color combination on a piece of clothing. When illustrating, I usually start with the silhouette and work my way into more of the details until I create something that satisfies my soul and gives me a certain feeling of excitement on the inside. There’s a very specific feeling I get when a piece is complete—that’s how I know when to stop.
Any insights into your color selection process and tips for working with bright colors?
I usually start by deciding the background color. I choose this based on the energy I am trying to give the viewer as they look at the piece. Next, I choose a color that nicely complements the background. As an example, if I had a deep, saturated plum background, I would choose warmer, vibrant colors for the second-to-largest elements. I balance these elements with small areas of pastel that are similar to the background color—in the case of plum, cold colors like blues or greens—or the same hue only a bit lighter. I also like to add an accent color somewhere on the page. This accent color doesn’t really go with anything else, but adds a nice touch.
When creating designs, don’t just throw multiple bright colors together and think they will automatically work. If there are too many clashing bright colors next to each other and no breaks for the eyes to adjust or flow through the image, it can hurt the eye of the viewer. It’s about balancing the colors in the composition along with the shapes to create a flow of visually appealing bright colors. Make it easy on the eyes, even if it’s bright.
I studied color in school and learned to mix paints to create color palettes. I would absolutely advise anyone wanting to improve with color to take a color theory class. Some people understand color and pick it up naturally and for others it never clicks. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t click. You could have another skill that clicks for you that isn’t specifically color.
I have trouble not using bright colors. Sometimes I try to do a piece with more pastel and muted colors, but I never reach the point where I feel satisfied inside so I end up increasing the saturation and brightness for the completed project.
How do you use Instagram for your art and business?
Instagram has helped me reach new audiences and companies that I would never have thought to work with or had the opportunity to work with. Sometimes doing a passion project and sharing it on Instagram inspires a company to do a similar concept for their brand and they’ll reach out to me to work with them.
To grow your community on Instagram and keep yourself inspired be very selective about who you follow. Stay aware of whether or not an account is feeding you inspiration or draining you. You want to scroll and be continuously inspired. This will help you naturally want to connect with those in your feed.
To build new clients, reach out to companies directly or see who did illustrations for companies that you want to work with. You can reach out directly to the artist and see how they got that job. The good thing about Instagram is that you have access to people who you normally wouldn’t be able to get in touch with. Additionally, you can get instant feedback on your work as you continue to post.
Be sure to tag #AdobeSpark as you create and remix @monicaahanonu’s beautiful templates.