The Bright Moi

Words by Anja Bratt
Photography by Hans Edvard Hammonds

Life is full of detours and coincidences. For Anette Moi it took a bachelor degree in social work, years of working as a bar manager and a travel to the other side of the globe before she really could figure out what she wanted to do with her life. Today she works full time as a freelance illustrator, finding time for personal projects and exhibitions in between. With her bold and colorful style she wishes to make people smile and to show them something they have never seen before. 

Did you always know you had a creative spirit in you while growing up?
–Yes. I was a playful and creative child and I started drawing at a very young age. I remember looking in magazines, both youth and gossip ones, and I would get so inspired that I drew all the celebrities, such as Spice Girls, Leonardo DiCaprio and Whitney Huston. My friends and I made radio shows, I loved to dress up and all of my Barbies got short hair because I used to pretend to be a hairdresser. I had a lively fantasy. 

There was never really a clear path in your work life. Please tell me about this.  
When I was nineteen I applied to a graphic design course but because there weren’t enough people signed up for it, the course never started. After working and traveling some I decided to apply for a few courses at the university in my hometown Stavanger. I thought I had sociology ranked as my highest wish on the application, but later it turned out that I had applied for social work studies. So I started on a bachelor degree based on what you could say was quite a coincidence. Even though it turned out to be three really inspiring years of my life, I’ve never had a job as a social worker after the course. Instead I worked as a bar manager for some time before traveling around in Asia with some friends. I had a great amount of money saved up and the plan was to travel for about a year. While my friends worked some during our tour, I drew. After three months I was bored and I decided that I wanted to go home to study graphic design. So I did, starting at the Norwegian School of Creative Studies. 

So you’ve studied both social work and graphic design. When did you discover your love for illustration? 
–While studying graphic design, which I really loved, I started to draw more and I found myself using illustrations more frequently in my own projects. When I moved to London for the last year of my bachelor degree my passion for illustration developed. London was so inspiring and the time I spent there made me more secure of my path. Coming home from England I got a job as a graphic designer and an illustrator but because there were a lack of commissions I got permitted after a few months. At that time there were no other adequate positions available in Stavanger, so I decided to start working as a freelance illustrator.

How would you describe your style and how has it developed through the years?
–My style is bold, fun and colourful. People can look at drawings I made a decade ago, take a picture I drew of Pamela Anderson as an example, but still be able to see that it is my work. That makes me really pleased! For a period I moved away from my own style, trying to do other things. But soon I realised that you should be true to your own style and your own work, that’s what people want!

Strong colours recur in your illustrations. Would you say that these bright colours reflect your personality?
–I only use colours I like in my work. Deciding colours always happens very spontaneously, and I think it’s the most fun part of the process. Colours make me happy, and I like to think that most of my illustrations make people smile. You can say that the bright colours reflect me as a person as I try to be a positive, fun and happy person. That’s why my favourite colour is pink—it’s all those things.

Can you please tell me about your first solo exhibition? 
–Three years ago I held my first solo exhibition in my hometown. The name of the exhibition was ‘Funfair’ and it was all about crazy fun, colours and smiles. At the opening a friend of mine dressed up as a rabbit and I hired a cotton candy machine. The pictures for the show were all made within a busy month, containing everything from a purple Miles Davis, a tattooed My Little Pony, a nun showing her underwear and a tiger with a turban. I had so much fun making the illustrations and the exhibition was a great success.

A Santa Claus with a six-pack, a polar bear with a t-shirt saying, ‘All my friends are dead’ — would you say that your art is somewhat criticism towards our society? 
–Absolutely! I’ve made many illustrations as a reaction towards today’s society. It’s always a fun thing to do because I get so many reactions and so much support from people. Once I drew the prime minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, being kissed by to gay men in rainbow underwear. I posted it online back in 2014 when the Winter Olympics in Sochi started, and it got a lot of attention from people who thought it was ‘spot on’. I believe that my social work studies has had an impact on my fascination for people, and that during those years the values within the course influenced my political views. Those ‘social work values and views’ can therefore sometimes be reflected in my work. Otherwise pop culture, media, animals, architecture, design and everyday situations and observations inspire me.

What differentiates your own art from the products you deliver to your clients?
While working on and making my own art I am completely free. I can do whatever I want to do, use only the colours that I like and so on — I have freedom. Making products for clients you have to cooperate, and often you have to create exactly what they want. But sometimes I get a little creative freedom, which I find very amusing. I don’t have any specific criteria when choosing what to work on; I work on the commissions I get. But this is where I am so privileged—almost everything I get to do is fun!

What are you working on right now? 
–Right now I’m working on a children’s book called ‘Eg elske Stavanger’ (I love Stavanger). I’m drawing different animals that are hanging out in different areas of Stavanger city. It’s a very detailed book, almost like Find Wally. It will be released this September — I can’t wait! I’m also working on some paintings for two group exhibitions opening this spring.

What’s your philosophy, in both work and life generally? 
–Do your thing, don’t give up and stay positive.