Frankfurt-based illustrator Rosa Viktoria Ahlers is all about having fun with her work. Characters take on distorted cartoon shapes and express themselves in joyful colours, creating wonderful and wacky scenarios for the eye to follow. They’re highly commissionable pieces – just ask her latest client, Coca-Cola. “My parents are both artists, so me and my brother were kind of surrounded by art and creativity all of our lives,” Rosa tells us. “Two years after graduating school, I decided I have to do something creative myself.” It was within those two years between graduation and pursuing an artistic career that Rosa had to battle feelings of insecurity and doubt over the vocation. But still, the feeling of being a “free artist” captivated Rosa, to the point where she began studying communication design in Düsseldorf. “When you study design, there are so many options of how you can transport your idea or the task you were given: you have typography, photography, film,” she explains on how she wound up settling for illustration as her calling. “I had all those different classes, but in the end I always managed the projects in an illustrative way.”
So what keeps Rosa so in love with drawing? “It’s the total freedom I feel in it,” she says. “I’m absolutely independent from my surroundings, I don’t need much to produce something and so there is always the possibility to sketch something quickly.” It’s what Rosa acutely summarises as drawing being “like a friend, which I can always carry with me,” something to keep her company wherever and whenever. The ‘free spirit’ nature of illustration is what has continuously inspired Rosa to distort the realistic form of shapes and bodies to how she deems fit. “I can draw flowers and people exactly how I want and how I like them to be and mix them up,” she explains. “It gives me a peaceful and free feeling.” It’s Rosa’s unique way of distilling complex and complicated parts of the world in to a visual stimulant – something more figurative.
“Generally, my style is always changing and developing and I think that’s good and necessary,” Rosa clarifies. “But, I would describe my current style as definitely colourful, bold, funny, clear and kind of constructed.” Rosa’s motifs are always neatly condensed into the frame of the image, and as such produce incredibly graphic pieces of work. Still, a warm and soft feeling strikes through in Rosa’s pictures, as if an extension from the artist to the audience. “I wish for my drawings to be like a hug, or something that makes the viewer smile,” Rosa adds. “On the other hand, my tattoo illustrations are more free and funny and it’s only line work. I like that I have those different traces in drawing.”
A good example of Rosa’s signature style is in Gute Nacht Bus, a beautiful illustration that highlights a group of volunteers who “drive through Düsseldorf in a van and spread good deeds to people who need help,” Rosa explains. “People could buy one of those pullovers and a second one would be given to a person in need. I really liked that concept and I was happy to be part of this important organisation for this project.” Another incredibly rich and detailed piece of work from Rosa is in her Coca-Cola advert, where she plays on magic and the power of hugs to bring people together. “For me, it was a crazy experience to be a part of such a big project,” she recalls. “When I got invited to the zoom call for the Coca-Cola briefing, it felt unreal.”
Now, Rosa is still working as an illustrator and tattoo artist. “I really love both of the jobs, but my goal is to do more jobs for magazines and social or ecological institutions,” she tells us. “And I just started to study again, so that is what I also focus on right now.” In the meantime, Rosa promises us she’ll be developing her drawing and painting style, especially in the physical realm. “It feels more real to draw on canvas and I love that I can physically be connected to my drawings again.”
Rosa Viktoria Ahlers: Bodies (Copyright © Rosa Viktoria Ahlers, 2021)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.