Ai LIVE: Danielle Coke Promotes Social Justice through Art
In this edition of Ai LIVE, illustrator and social justice advocate Danielle Coke speaks to E. Vincent Martinez about using art to make a social statement. Coke is the owner of the “Oh Happy Dani” brand, which uses illustration to educate people about pressing issues.
Utilizing her artwork as a communication tool is something relatively new to Coke. Until July 2019, she was working in the event planning industry in marketing and graphic design. She soon realized that event planning wasn’t what she wanted to do long-term; so she saved up her money, took on two clients, and branched out on her own.
Coke began her solo career working in social media management and graphic design. She soon found herself turning to illustration to make her points. “I’ve drawn and been creative all my life. I have a passion for social justice and advocacy,” she adds.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Coke shared her first illustration with the public. In it, she captured her personal image of MLK. “I did not want to water down his legacy. He’s a radical disruptor.” The positive feedback to her work encouraged Coke, who vowed to keep going because people were listening to her messages.
Coke continues to use her illustrations to “stir people’s hearts into action.” She begins each illustrative process with a significant amount of research and is motivated by a quote she once read: “The goal of the artist is to make the movement irresistible.”
She says that her work as an activist makes her ask herself how she can best contribute to a conversation. And she maintains that especially in tough times, people want to hear a hopeful message.
Coke recommends that people new to marketing and branding identify their strongest skills. When starting an online presence, people should pick one or two things they are the best at, to put their best work forward. As their image grows, so can their offerings.
She is following her own advice, branching out now that her illustrations have shone a light on her opinions, artwork, and activism. Starting in November 2021, Coke plans to launch new products including apparel, additional prints, and greeting cards.
If Danielle Coke’s work is inspiring you to use artwork to communicate your creative passion, learn more about The Art Institutes’ programs for people like you. Visit our Illustration programs page today!
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