This is the first piece in an ongoing series about the women behind the art on Frida Vibes. We are their biggest fans and are excited to share their stories with you!
I first came across New Zealand artist Anna Mollekin’s digital Frida Kahlo portraits on Instagram 3 years ago. They were so vibrant, beautiful and unique. They had Frida’s familiar face and were based on photographs of her, but had their own modern point of view and style. I was impressed with how much emotion Anna was able to capture even with crisp, sharp digital lines.
Over the last couple of years of working together and getting to know Anna, I’ve seen the huge role art plays in her life, even while she juggles many other life priorities. As a mom and full-time freelance graphic designer, she’s had to fight for the time and space to make art. Her dedication to making time for her creativity is so inspiring.
Here, Anna shares the inspiration for her pop art aesthetic, how she tries her best to balance everything and how her two young daughters are following in her footsteps to live a creative life.
How did you start your career?
Anna: I knew I wanted to do something creative but was unsure of what direction. I chose to major in Graphic Design, as I couldn't afford to buy the equipment and materials for some of the other fields.
At the beginning of the final year of my Bachelor, I was pregnant with my first child and was diagnosed with Toxaemia. I knew once my child was born, the likelihood of finishing my studies was slim. I worked hard to finish that semester and get my degree, and immediately after was admitted to the hospital for a month of bedrest before my daughter Mia was born. Being a young mum, with a newborn, no car, living in a small town, not knowing anyone, I thought my design career had hit the breaks.
I saw a Graphic Design job advertised for the one and only (at that time) local Graphic Design and Print Shop. I applied and got it! I learnt so much at that job, and it gave me a unique set of skills. My strong love of the Ben Day dot (present in some of my work) is strongly linked to my passion for commercial printing processes.
What’s Ben Day dot?
Anna: The Ben Day dots is a commercial printing technique using small coloured dots (usually cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) that are of equal size and distribution in a specific area, to create shading and secondary colours in images.
Detail of Frida’s Legacy showing Anna's printing inspiration.
Why did you like about it when you worked in the printing and why you decided to use it in your work?
Anna: I loved seeing the process of printing, the skill and art of the person running the machine. We had a two-colour press (four colours make up a full-colour image), so on the first pass it laid down only two colours. When it was dry, it was passed through the offset press again printing the final two colours making it come to life. I chose to use the Ben Day dot as a nod to my love of both retro, pop art and my love of printing. As my artwork is typically drawn on the computer and printed digitally, I feel the Ben Day dot shows the artist’s hand. My linework and colour alignment are intentionally not always perfect.
What inspired the Frida pieces you made?
Anna: My earlier Frida pieces were inspired by her strength. I had seen photos of Frida and to me, she always looked so strong and confident in herself, and I wanted to capture that essence. In my recent Frida pieces, I wanted to create unique compositions of her from my own interpretation and imagination.
Anna’s with her first Frida portrait, Frida Knows Best
How do you manage your work, family and art career?
Anna: My husband is overseas a lot in China, so quite often I am flying solo with the kids and balancing it all. I think a lot of it is keeping a good, positive mindset thinking ‘I can do this! The pendulum will swing soon, and I will have more time to get back to my art again.’
I get up early on weekends, sometimes around 5 or 6am and create art then. My children are still asleep, so I am not missing out time with them.
How do you think becoming a mom has affected your work?
Anna: When I first became a mum, I feared I would never start a career in the design industry. We started as a family with no money and found it extremely hard to make ends meet. I remember one payday, we paid all the bills we could and had nothing left, so all we had to eat that week was rice. But becoming a mum also gave me the determination to succeed. Both my husband and I have worked very hard to keep growing to be able to provide the best life we can for our family. My artwork has given me a creative stress outlet to help keep me sane.
Now I try and lead by example and show hard work ethic and confidence in myself and my work. If I don’t believe in myself, how can I expect my girls to believe in themselves? Their creativity inspires me so much, and they keep me motivated to keep growing and trying new things.
Anna with her daughters Halle and Mia. They live in beautiful Hobsonville Point in Auckland, New Zealand.
What are your daughters like? What kind of art do they like to create?Anna: Mia is 17 and is a book lover through and through. She is a movie buff too, new and classics. She knows so many facts we call her Miapedia. Mia likes doing typography quotes and is practicing a lot to get better in her Bullet Journal. She is also practicing doing patterns and illustrations. I am loving her typography direction and seeing her grow.
Halle is 11 and is funny and cheeky. She draws all the time. She likes to draw in pencil then ink it in her sketchbook and she loves doing portraits. I have been teaching her to use Adobe Illustrator to do digital portrait illustrations, and she is doing so well. Her work inspires me so much.
How do you want to live as an artist?
Anna: I want to be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle for my family and be able to work from home. I want my artwork to tell a story and evoke emotion. I want to connect with people and inspire, and be inspired.
Do you think you are able to fully express yourself as an artist while also making things that sell?
Anna: Creating artwork is my escape from restraints. It comes from my heart without a commercial hat on. I do not mind if pieces aren’t "commercially successful" as it is all part of the journey and telling my story. When I do Graphic Design, I have my commercial hat on and leave my personal artistic aesthetics at the door. I'm focused on getting to know my customer's business and who their ideal client is.
Where do you want to take your art career? Are there any subjects you want to focus on?
Anna: I want to complete a cohesive collection of work and have an exhibition. I want to focus on strong women and their connections to their surroundings and heritage, exploring the fabric of life. I want to continue to explore the juxtapositions, union and boundaries of mixed media in my work – hand-drawn ink married with digital art.
Anna’s work is available at Frida Vibes exclusively on throw pillows, shirts, sweatshirts and mugs. Every purchase made of her work helps her spend more time working on her art. See all her work for sale here.
Frida's Legacy Art Print, $20-80