Interview: Jennie Mejan

First few basic questions, who are you, what are you doing, where are you coming from?

I’m Jennie Mejan, I’ve been making digital collages for about 3 years and analog for the last six months. Before finding collage, my creative path went through graphic design, then poetry, then photography. Something from each of them has found its way into my creative mindset.

I live in a sweet old house in NC, USA. My days are largely devoted to being there for my daughter who has special needs, so nighttime is squarely reserved for collage. Collage, combined with the Amazing community on Instagram, has been a game-changer for me… an incredible gift of well-being and connection.

How would you describe your style? And how quickly did you find your “style”?

I developed a style pretty quickly with digital. I’m influenced by my fairytale-saturated ­youth and by the Illustrators, Kay Nielsen, and Amano Yoshitaka. I’d describe my work as expressive, melancholic, somewhere between fantasy and surreal, the pieces usually implying there is more to the story.

I’m still finding my way with analog and not as sure of my niche or if I want to feel committed to one. I like that my work with paper still manages an expressive quality. So far I feel at home with the sort of naïve untidiness I see in my smaller analog pieces… I kind of lean into the roughness of it out of a desire to distinguish it from my digital work.

“My pieces are a lot like poems to me. Sometimes a thought or a song I hear during the day will strike me and I’ll want to share the feeling of it visually.”

When you start a new piece, do you have a clear vision of where to start or what you are going to do?

Yes, not always what it will look like, but what it will say or feel like. My pieces are a lot like poems to me. Sometimes a thought or a song I hear during the day will strike me and I’ll want to share the feeling of it visually. If not, I flip through whatever art book I feel most drawn to and let an image jump out to match my mood. I’ve always found it fascinating, seeing an image many times and not choosing it, but one night, it is just the right one.

What are your favorite source materials? How do you find them and do you spend much time while looking for them?

19th-century papers and musty old art books. I bought 100 vintage Life magazines for $30, I love the colors and thin, tender paper, but such a small percentage of the images are really ‘me’. I shop at a big local used bookstore every other weekend and keep an eye out on Facebook marketplace for estates selling off old family ephemera.

For digital, Rijksmuseum’s fantastic website is my home… also Pinterest, and searching Google for worthy hi-res images.

How long does it take you to make an artwork, and do you work on several at a time?

They each take about 6 hours. I start at 10pm and work til 3 or 4am. I make art every night, only skipping a night occasionally. I did experiment with working on 2 or 3 digital pieces at once to try on a friend’s process. The results brought new things to my work and I enjoyed it, but ultimately I missed the familiarity and intention of my usual process.

Do you have any creative rituals? Do you ever get burnt out on a piece, and what do you do to keep working and being productive?

More routine than ritual, beginning with pajamas and securing a cup of coffee. Then I decide the size of piece and if I’ll design it or let it happen organically. Once I’ve shopped through my papers for my focal images and the direction is settled, I start my Audible book. (Johannes Cabal the Necromancer at the moment.) More coffee around 2am when I begin to lose sparkle. When finished, I love to sit back and allow the piece (if it came out well) to show me how it can speak for itself. But by this time it is very late and it could just be a hallucination from lack of sleep.

Since I only work 6 hours on one there’s no real burnout, but the closest equivalent would be when a piece goes south. I really hate to give up on one and waste an evening, but the feeling is clear when a collage is just not hitting the standard and needs recycled.

What’s your idea of the perfect artwork? Or is it even possible to create?

Yes, I think it is possible and the parameters would be different for each artist. My art exists to poetically relay my mood or situation and help me feel seen and understood. At a minimum the work would sing back to me, satisfying whatever concept, feeling, or inclination directed its making. I noticed with poetry that if you manage to reveal one ­­pure thing with your poem, it will naturally say many other connected things as well. I think it is the same with artwork, giving the piece a greater aura of depth, allowing the expression that satisfied you to say equally meaningful things to other people.

Which of the works do you feel represents you the most? And why?

Out of the two that come to mind, I’ll go with “What you don’t see”. You can see the isolation of this hermit maiden… she is hiding but peeking… using the thistle as a guard which is inadvertently uncomfortable for her. I get the sense she has a lot to offer, but circumstances and thistles keep her where she is.

Honorable mention goes to “Shut up I’m dreaming of places where lovers have wings”.

If you compare your very first works to your very latest ones, what is the biggest difference? What has changed?

With analog, it’s not been long, but I have leveled up some since the first ones. I’d never worked much with my hands so originally my focus was solely on the act of making, while now I’m able to work more on helping the piece speak.

With digital, there is more depth and richness to the scenes and smarter interplay between the images used. They’re also cleaner because I picked up skills while using Photoshop every night.

If you should describe your art with one word, what would it be?

One? wistful.

Jennie Mejan around the internet

Instagram: @jenniekata