The Time is Now, Melanie Johnsson
Hi Melanie! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Mélanie Johnsson, I am an Illustrator and letterer based in the UK. I am currently living by the sea in Margate with my boyfriend and dalmatian puppy Luna. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, France, and spent my childhood surrounded by creative people. In my early twenties, I studied graphic design in Paris before embarking on several trips all around the globe. I lived in Chile for a while and then the U.S. I moved to the UK back in 2014 and went freelance a year later. I originally worked as a freelance graphic designer but soon decided illustration was my true love and have been able to pay the bills as a full time freelance illustrator for the past year. It’s been amazing!
What, or who, influences your creative style and/or ethos?
I have so many influences, I could hardly count them or mention them all here! In terms of creative style, I’ve always been attracted to artists that tell stories through colours and shapes. I thrive to tell my own story in the most simple and striking way...but I also like weird and quirky stuff! So I love Matisse, Calder, O’Keeffe, Magritte, Hockney, Kahlo, Rothko, Klein...and so many more. I’m very fickle when it comes to art, I fall in love with new artists everyday! I’m also a cinephile and films are a huge source of inspiration for me. There’s something about the immersive experience of cinema that I’m really drawn to. I love the work of Wes Anderson, Tim Burton (early days), Wong Kar Wai and Alfred Hitchcock. But at the end of the day, I believe anything is inspiring and I usually mostly get inspiration from the natural world.
What is something that we wouldn’t know about you?
I have always been into action sports. I think it’s been the best way for me to manage my mental health ever since I was a kid. I first skydived when I was 13 and started skydiving solo from 15 onwards. I kite surf and surf regularly where I live, by the sea. I scuba dive and freedive whenever I go to Corsica where my grandmother is from. I’m basically an adrenaline junkie! I also feel much more at ease in the water rather than on land.
Talk us through your design process, from the initial idea to the finished piece.
When I first get a brief, I actually wait a little bit before I start working on it. I like to give my brain a little bit of time to work in the background. When I feel ready to start working on a project, I will start by writing down on paper all the words that come to mind. Maybe I’ll even do some crazy doodles in a notebook. After that, I’ll hopefully have a clearer idea of what I want to say with my artwork. Now it’s time for the sketching phase. I actually don’t really like to sketch but I have been forcing myself to do it, because I’ve realised that it makes me a better Illustrator. It pushes my ideas and illustrations further. So once the sketching is done, I’ll trace over my sketch with black ink and make some adjustements, without making it too perfect. I like my illustrations to be slightly wobbly and imperfect. After this, I’ll take a picture of the illustration and transfer it to Photoshop. That’s where the magic happens! Kind of. I’m now cleaning it up the illustration and colouring it in. I like working digitally for this phase because it means I can play around with colours and find the best combinations. That’s why I’m usually able to present a few different colourways to clients, unless I have found THE perfect one and think it’s the best way to go (which happens a lot too!). That’s my process! But who knows, it might change someday!
What is your biggest art pet peeve, and why?
Oh, I don’t have any. That’s the thing with art, it can be anything you want it to be. That’s the magical thing about it. Anything and nothing is art. I guess the only thing I don’t like too much is when things get too serious. I really believe we shouldn’t take life too seriously and have a bit more fun with what we do! I do have a real life pet peeve though...I hate it when people ask for your help and never get back to you to say thank you after you’ve sent them a super long and heartfelt email full of advice and encouragement! You could say rudeness really annoys me.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
If there’s one thing you need to know about me is that I get excited about a lot of things! So it’s hard to pick one. But for this, I would say I’m mostly excited to witness the change that’s happening in people’s mind and lifestyle. More and more human beings are becoming aware of the importance of preserving our beautiful planet and its inhabitants. Everyone is coming together to make a very positive change now, and I think that’s really encouraging. I’m really not sure if the human race will survive the climate crisis, but I really hope the Earth does.
Let’s talk about A Decade of Change. What drew you to collaborate with us on this project?
I really liked the initial brief and vision for this project, and I knew straight away what I wanted to say through my artwork. I was also challenged by this brief because thinking about what the 2020’s are going to bring is scary. Very scary. Why? Because we live in an era of big changes. Everything changes so fast. And it’s a well known fact that human beings hate change. Most of them are scared of it. They like routine and things they can control. But unfortunately, we have taken too many wrong turns on our planet to keep doing what we’re doing. In the next ten years, we need to radically change the way we’re living.
What ’s the message behind your piece in the collection, and what does it mean to you?
The message behind my piece is that I’d like the 2020’s to be known for being the years of good change. The planet needs us now, more than ever, to be on our best behaviour. So when seeing my artwork, I would like people to stop, read and reflect... Read about a future that could maybe exist if we all start working together for it! In my practice, I use not only shapes, colours and drawings to express myself, but also words, a lot of them. Writing is an essential part of my work, and for this artwork, I wanted to mix it all up. I also wanted to make sure my artwork was colourful because I believe colours bring hope, joy and excitement. Colours can change the world and help spread positivity.
What would you like to change over the new decade?
My state of mind. I struggle with a lot of mental health issues, and I do wish for myself to be more at peace with my own mind. I really believe we are our own worst enemies. We can’t help other people until we’ve helped ourselves. So I want to feel better so I can help make a positive change for our planet and help preserve, protect and regenerate our beautiful Earth!
Lastly, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Breathing underwater. I could spend the rest of my life diving with whales, rays, turtles and sharks. I would never have to come back on land and could explore the most mysterious abysses no one has ever explored.