Welcome back to the Artists of Color interview series! This week I am speaking with Minnesota-based illustrator and concept artist Muna Abdirahman. I first discovered her work via instagram, and instantly fell in love with the personalities of her hip and stylish characters. I'm thrilled to have her, and hope you enjoy reading about her journey!
1). Tell us about yourself! What is your background, and how would you describe your work?
My name is Muna Abdirahman. I was born in Somalia, but was raised in the United States, more specifically in Minnesota. I'm not sure how I can describe my art to be honest, that's one of the things I'm still learning myself.
2). When did you first fall in love with art, and realize that you wanted to pursue it as a career? Did your parents approve or disapprove?
In 4th grade was when I fell in love with art. There was a girl in my class who drew everyone as Bratz dolls except for me, so I went home that day and drew myself as one. Ever since then, I just fell in love with the concept of being whoever I want to be...cartoon style!
I didn't take art seriously until my last year of high school. I saved money and bought my first drawing tablet my first year of college, and really went in with the studies and finding what I wanted to draw. My mother grew up in a very different environment, so it's hard for her to really understand art as a career. But as long as I got paid, she was cool with it. But I had to have a backup plan, which is teaching for me, since that is what I went to school for mostly.
3). Are you self-taught, or did you go to art school? How important was this training to becoming a professional artist?
I'm self-taught, and I'm still learning and unlearning things and really trying to develop my art even more than it already is. For me, I still have a long way to go before I can call myself a professional artist!!!
But I also want to say to upcoming artists that we live in a very amazing time when it comes to learning art, and there are limitless resources on the web to help you improve on art and teach yourself!!!
4). Your Instagram is full of fabulous street fashion characters. What inspires you about fashion? Do you sketch from life in public places to come up with your characters?
To be honest, I tend to draw clothes I wish I could wear!! Sometimes I'm just scrolling through my social media and I see a really cute shirt someone posted, and that gets stuck in my head. Maybe a few days later, I draw a character revolving around that shirt. Most of my outfits are made up, since I tend to change a lot of things. I don't sketch from life, though it's something I wish I could do. It's very hard for me to sit in one place and sketch one thing at a time, so it never really works out.
When I come up with characters, I'm stuck in my room blasting music, layering color on top of color, until something pleases my eye, and I just stick with it.
5). What is a major obstacle that you have faced in pursuit of your art career? How did you overcome this, or is it something that you still struggle with?
Transportation/moving is one huge obstacle for me!! Sometimes I get amazing offers from studios I really like, but then I have to decline because I can't really just leave the house and pursue it. Coming from an immigrant family, it's really hard to leave your home since your family is very dependent on you, so I really struggle with that. Thankfully, freelance projects where I can work from home exist, but working in a studio is something I want to do in the future.
6). Does representation matter in art?
100% it does. Growing up, I had to defend my love for art- my friends and family really thought that art was a “white people hobby,” and I really struggled with that. It was worse when you couldn't find people that looked like you doing the thing you love, and sadly it wasn't until I was in my 2nd year in college that I did find some artists who were black. But it felt like I had to do the extra jump and find hidden jewels or something. I feel like it shouldn't be that hard to find the voice for people of color artists, but thank god for the internet, because now I follow so many amazing POC artists that I wish I knew when I was in high school.
7). If you could communicate one thing to artists about representing a background or experience that isn’t their own, what would it be?
RESEARCH!!! We live in the era of the world wide web- it shouldn't be difficult to do a quick research about a subject you don't understand. People's backgrounds aren't some aesthetic, you always have to respect and just do a quick google search, and you will thank yourself in the future when you do it.
8). Do you have a favorite character of color (from film, television, literature, comics, or any piece of art)?
Yes I do, her name is Storm (from Marvel) and I'm very much in love with her. If you look through my gallery, you will see that I did a lot of fan art of her.
And I also have another favorite which is Sakata Gintoki (from Gintama), he's a character that got me through some of my lowest moments. He's a character that I very much love to death, and one day I would love to have a lot of merch of him!!
9). Who is the most underrated creator of color you wish everyone knew about?
Tako_universe to me is an underrated artist, and I really hope more people look at their art!! I follow them on Instagram, and I'm always blown away by everything they do and I can't wait to see what they will do in the future.
10). What piece of advice would you give to young aspiring artists of color?
Just do it, art is something you can't really lose with!! If you're afraid to pursue it, make it a hobby, and work on it. Don't give up, and always keep drawing. If you don't feel like drawing, don't force yourself. You don't really need expensive tools, just draw on what you have, and what you can afford. That's the beauty of art, there are no set rules!!
11). Any current projects you can talk about? What is your ultimate dream project that you canʼt wait to work on, or be a part of someday?
I am working on some game projects I can't talk about because of NDA, but I will talk about my personal projects! I'm working on an art book, though there isn't a date, it's something I wanna try out and plan it, inshallah!! I'm also working on a comic called Sideline. It's something I've been slowing drawing the characters for, and one day I will sit down and actually get the script started. I also want to work on a comic with a friend of mine- his script is beautifully written, so I really hope work gets less busy so I can have the time do these amazing projects!!
My ultimate dream is to do some sort of concept art for films.
Thank you so much, Muna, for sharing your story and your beautiful art! And thank you, readers, for joining us for this interview series. If Muna's answers resonated with you, please comment and share her interview far and wide!
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