June 19, 2017 - No Comments!

Dr Martens: DIY Docs

I answered a few questions for my collaboration with Dr Martens. They were published alongside pictures of the pair of shoes I (happily) customised for them. Have a read below!

In DIY DOC’S, we take a look at how illustrators, artists and designers put their stamp on Dr. Martens shoes. Painting, tattooing or de-constructing – we’re giving them the creative freedom to express themselves off of the canvas.

Meet freelance graphic designer and illustrator Mélanie Johnsson, who has customised our white 1461 Mono shoe. Read on to find out more about her customisation, relationship with Doc’s and focus on positive thinking…


Introduce yourself:
I am Mélanie Johnsson, a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, from France, now living and working in London. I design for small and big businesses across different fields: fashion, travel, beauty, publishing… I love getting to work on so many different projects. I also run a small stationery shop next to my design and illustration projects.

Who or what do you take inspiration from?
I am really inspired by the work on my late Swedish grandfather. He could do everything and worked all the time. He was a graphic designer and photographer, but also found time to draw comics, build polystyrene planes, teach kids how to play chess and create huge family trees for the whole corsican village where he retired with my grandma. I think about him almost everyday. On another note, the garden view from my studio is really inspiring. I need sunlight to function properly, and I loved seeing foxes, cats and goldfinches out of the window. Nature is probably my biggest source of inspiration.

Do you have an illustration or project you’re most proud of?
My proudest project so far is the book I designed for Hachette, Doing it. I got to design and illustrate 300 pages and fill them with monochrome patterns and typographical games. I had total freedom to do what I thought would look best and I loved creating original paintings for it. I can’t say I have only one dream project. There are so many things I’d like to design. I would say that I’d love to work on something I’ve never done… maybe a project for the music industry, the food industry and also the beauty industry? Everything is exciting!

Talk us through your customised Dr. Martens, was it a challenge working on a pair of shoes?
I wanted my pair of Dr. Martens to be quirky, colourful and punchy! I hope that my work comes across as quite happy and I like to make people feel good about themselves. I think it’s important that we all support each other, especially in the creative industry. The shoes are saying ‘You (yes you) are very seriously amazing’. I loved the idea of having a lettering that would make the person wearing them smile. It was quite tricky drawing on the shoes, primarily because I always paint with ink and a brush, and I illustrated the shoes with two different pens. I had to adapt my style to the new medium, but I loved the challenge! I would definitely wear these, with an all black look, so the shoes really pop out.

Do you listen to music whilst you work? Name three tracks you can’t hear enough of:
I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I also love listening to music, especially when I paint.
1. Escape – Rupert Holmes – my guilty pleasure. I have this weird taste for cheesy music from the 70s.
2. I want you back – Haim
3. Pretty Pimpin – Kurt Vile

If you could have any super-power, what would it be?
Breathing underwater – that would be the coolest superpower! Imagine roaming the oceans next to giant blue whales and never having to go to the surface.

If you could draw anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
Napoleon. That would be fun.

Tell us your favourite thing about the city you live in:
I am from Paris, so London feels very creative and crazy compared to the City of Lights. I live and work in North East London and I love that you don’t know what to expect when you step outside. You could walk past a new little café that wasn’t there the day before, discover a new gallery and see people from all over the world. I love how many opportunities London can offer to anyone who is willing to get out of their comfort zone. I love to walk around in my spare time, and just discover things as I go. But my favourite walk is along the Regent’s canal. I love hanging at the Good Egg (amazing food) and the Green Room in Stoke Newington. Clissold Park is also amazing in the summer.

Tell us about your first pair of Dr. Martens:
I did not buy my very first pair of Dr Martens. My mom did! She got me a pair of those little black with purple flowers boots when I was five and I wore them almost everyday. She also got me a little leather jacket. I think I was a pretty badass five year old.

And finally, what do you stand for?
Do what you love every single day and don’t take no for an answer. You don’t know what’s going to happen next, so you might as well have fun!

 

Hope you enjoyed this!

May 7, 2017 - No Comments!

Back to basics

I just got myself a new book on birds, but this time, it's a bit different.

This time, the book isn't just filled with beautiful photographs, it is filled with super interesting facts and crucial bits of information to spot and identify any kind of bird! Yes, I've decided that it's time for me to know everything about them (after all, I'm already quite obsessed) and be able to name any bird I meet, wherever I am in Europe. When I was growing up, I used to spend a lot of time in Corsica, spotting birds with my grandad. He was really good at identifying them and I always thought it was such an amazing skill.

I know it is going to be a tricky learning curve, but I'm in luck, my garden is already filled with beautiful specimens. But before I start looking at plumage, markings or bill shape, I needed to start by drawing a bird and understand its anatomy. So, there you go! The anatomy of a bird. Pretty intricate already, isn't it?

Next up, I'll be talking about (and drawing) plumage and feather types. Keep your eyes peeled...

April 20, 2017 - No Comments!

The Flamingo

I think this video is my favourite from the series so far. The pale pink background and the flamingo subject are probably two of the best reasons why. I know, I know, flamingos are everywhere at the moment, but it doesn't change the fact that they are quite extraordinary.

When I traveled to Chile a few years ago, I hiked the mountains and peaks around the Atacama desert and saw colonies of flamingos there, grouped around beautiful turquoise lakes. It was quite incredible, and that is probably where my love for flamingos comes from! Obviously, I'm also smitten with their incongruous shape and beautiful colour.

But do you know where their reddish plumage comes from? You'll be surprised to know (or not) that it comes from what they eat! The little molluscs and shrimps they ingest are full of beta-carotene, which gives the flamingos their bright colour. Obviously, they eat A LOT of it (so it's fine, you can go on drinking your orange-carrot-ginger juice without the fear of turning tangerine in the morning). But you ever come across a paler pink flamingo or even a white one, it probably means the little thing is malnourished. So go on, give the beast a ton of baby shrimps!

Anyway, I really hope you enjoy the little video,

April 10, 2017 - No Comments!

The Fennec

As promised, here's another little film to brighten your Monday (does it really need brightening though? London's weather has been so dreamy). For this one, I chose to draw a little fennec.

Fennec foxes are the smallest foxes in the world but they have giant and disproportionate ears that allow them to hear their prey easily underground. They live in desert or semi-desert habitat, so you can find them throughout North Africa, roaming the sandy dunes of the Sahara. These mammals are nocturnal animals, they spend most of their days in an underground burrow to avoid extreme heat...In a nutshell, I love them and please, can I have one?

P.s: Did you notice the improvements on the short film here? You finally have proper titles and even a little song. Well, I know we're not exactly there yet, but I hope this puts a smile (or at least a smirk) on your face!

March 21, 2017 - No Comments!

When I miss Paris, I miss…

As some of you may already know, I am French. I have been living in London for a bit more than two years now and I travelled around the USA and South America before that, so it has been quite a long time since I lived in the City of Lights. A lot of people ask me why I do not go back there more often, it is pretty easy to do so and part of my family and some of my friends still live there.

So why don't I visit more often?

I think it is mainly because I've started building something in London, and I feel like my life is here now, and not over there. I've been putting so much energy into growing my freelance business and developing my relationships, both personal and professional, that I haven't looked back. I've also fallen in love with London and its wonderfully crazy people. Moving to the UK has allowed me to grow so much more as a human being and designer than I could ever have dreamt of back in France (the traveling around the world may have helped too). I have evolved so much in two years that I would recommend to everyone moving to another country for a few years (or indefinitely, like I'm planning to). Stepping out of your comfort zone is the best thing you could do to live a more fulfilling life and grow into your best self (I am not saying I am my best self though, still so much work to get there).

Oops, I just got carried away about the whole moving thing and loving London. What I meant to talk about in this blog post is my love for Paris. I don't live there anymore, but oh boy, do I love to visit. There are so many fantastic things about Paris. Its culture, its heritage, its architecture, its little cafes and back alleys, its cafés! I thought I would make a little lettering project about it, and let you know some of my true Parisian loves...Hope you enjoy them next time you wander around the City of Lights!

(From top to bottom: Paris' lights, chocolate chips brioche, the Pompidou Center (museum), the Marais (neighbourhood), cafés in the sun, Montmartre, little back alleys).

January 9, 2017 - No Comments!

Sweden, you pretty thing

I just came back from my winter break in Sweden. A full week away from home and the studio, taking in the fresh air (and super fresh snow!) of beautiful Scandinavia. Much needed!

We went away for a week and decided to rent a very cool Airbnb in Stockholm to experience the most of the city and attempt to feel like real swedes (although, my Grandad was Swedish, so I guess I have it in me already!). We also hopped on trains to visit other intriguing parts of Sweden, and our favourite was Nynashamn, a lovely coastal town as the very south of Stockholm's archipelago.

It really was gorgeous and oh so perfectly quiet at this time of year. Here are some pictures...

And of course, Stockholm was magical as I expected it to be. Especially when a white blanket of snow covered the town over night...

Magical, isn't it?

November 15, 2016 - No Comments!

Podcast Frenzy

I started listening to podcast only quite recently, I would say it has maybe been two years or so. But since then, they have played a huge part in keeping me sane and inspired. And have helped me in a lot of tricky situations.

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The first podcast I ever listened to was Design Matters, run by the amazing Debbie Millman, the multi-faceted woman who loves to get to know her hosts and their little design secrets. I used to listen to her episodes when I was still working full-time as a graphic designer, and they truly made me feel good about the prospect of freelancing. They gave me hindsight into the design industry and made me believe everything was possible, and that there was no good way of reaching your top. Everyone has a different path leading to their professional and personal success, with all the necessary bumps and fails, and that's what Design Matters is all about.

Here are my favourite episodes of Design Matters:

Bob Gill

Michael Beirut

Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman 

Julia Turshen

Louise Filli

I never stopped listening (and probably never will!) to Design Matters, Debbie's voice makes me feel good, she knows her subject, does her research and always asks the right questions.

A year ago or so, I discovered Serial (a bit later than everyone else) and binge-listened to the two first seasons of the podcast. Obviously, I loved it! It's definitely a must-listen. And I still can't tell which season is my favourite...

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This plant is getting out of control!

More recently, I realised that podcasts were the perfect material to listen to whilst working. They're not perfect for any kind of work though. I know I don't want to be distracted when I need to focus. But when I draw, doodle or do something where the 'thinking part' has already been done, they are perfect. You learn, you work and you avoid stress. Multi-tasking at its best.

And then I found Stuff You Should Know. And let me tell you, I am completely obsessed. I am addicted to Josh and Chuck's chemistry, to their voices, their sense of humour and the way they explain complicated things to make them easy peasy to understand. They talk about everything and anything and always seem to find subjects that I know nothing about but always end up being really interested in. And I learn and laugh so much just listening to them! And that's the best part. Those guys will get you hooked.

Here are just a few of my favourite episodes of Stuff You Should Know, a lot of them are history-related or about murder and mysteries...that's my jam (but seriously, just go and listen to all of them):

Evan Knievel Part I and II 

Jellyfish: Even cooler than Octopi?

Mermaids: Not a real thing

The Unsolved Mystery Disappearance of the Sodder Children

How LSD works

How Freak Shows worked

Operation Mincemeat: How a corpse fooled the Nazis

How the Terracotta Army Works

The time Nazis invaded Florida

 

I also like listening to Garance Doré's podcast, Pardon My French, and occasionally to Here's the thing by Alec Baldwin and My Big Idea by Asos. Oh, and also to The Cinema Show by Monocle for all things film.

But what I really wanted to know is, do you have any favourites? Any podcast you can't live without?

melmelxx

 

November 13, 2016 - No Comments!

A Roman Holiday

I got to hop on a plane to Rome a few weeks ago, for a very short but sweet trip. It was the kind of getaway everyone needs when London is all grey and grim. Three days spent in the city of young love and old ruins. It was perfect timing for all sort of things and the temperatures were dreamy.

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We walked all around, ate a lot of pasta and drank a bit too much red wine. We had a the best time just wandering around and discovering the city. And we did feel one earthquake whilst we were there...Quite a memorable experience!

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Looking forward to more city breaks this winter! Already have my eye on Budapest, Florence and Madrid...

melmelxx

October 24, 2016 - No Comments!

Blake Woman

Blake Ldn is a wonderful british knitwear brand that recently asked me to be part of their Blake Woman family. The fabulous Thea Lovstad came to my studio on a sunny Monday morning to snap some pictures of me and the surroundings. And I even had to answer to my (almost) very first interview! You can check out the real feature here. But of course, you can check it out below...

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Tell us a bit about yourself, and your life so far…

I am Mélanie, a French graphic designer and illustrator, with some Corsican and Swedish blood (the mix definitely encourages my craziness). I was raised in the suburbs of Paris and went to art school for three years in Paris. After graduating, I travelled through South America on my own for five months, photographing every magical thing I saw and drawing a lot of exotic animals. Once back in France, I freelanced for a while for a design agency and then travelled again for a few months to the US this time, striding along the Californian coast and getting inspired by the views. But I came back to Paris craving more stimulating surroundings. So I moved to London and was lucky enough to land a graphic designer position in a great company called Black Tomato. Working there for a year gave me the confidence to finally go freelance again, here, in the UK. I have been freelancing full time for a year now and it has been one crazy ride. I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.

 

When did your interest for drawing start?

I can’t recall ever not drawing. I’ve always loved it. And I guess my parents always made sure I had a lot of paper and pencils around me at any time so I could doodle. I think we all love drawing when we’re young, but some people give up really quickly (because they’re not happy with the results they’re getting). Drawing takes a lot of practice. So even if you don’t like what your drawing looks like, keep on drawing, forget about the result and do it for the pleasure of making something.

 

How much did growing up in Paris affect your taste for design and aesthetics?

Paris was a beautiful backdrop to grow up with, the light and the architecture there are stunning. I couldn’t really say how it affected my taste as I grew up seeing and getting inspired by things coming from all around the world. I think growing up in a really creative family had a bigger impact on my aesthetic. Both my parents are designers, my grand dad was a graphic designer and photographer, and my godmother is an architect! I was raised in a design cocoon, constantly inspired and challenged by what they were all doing and making everyday.

 

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Best advice for someone looking to do the same.

Work hard on what you love and be stubborn when it comes to your aesthetics. Work with people that care about what you do as much as they care about their own business. Forget about the rules, try to carve your own path and most importantly, do what makes you happy!

 

Who is your typical customer / client?

I don’t have a typical client. I love working with different types of people and industries. I have clients in the fashion industry, the music industry, the travel industry…But I also work with individuals on logos, letterings or other artworks. And also with some design agencies where the pace is much quicker and the projects completely different. I get bored very quickly, so I love a little bit of a challenge! And working on different projects in different fields is amazing because it allows me to express myself each time differently.

 

Was working as an illustrator like you expected?

Funnily enough, if I’m asked about my work, I will more likely say that I am a graphic designer. Graphic design is what I studied, I learned the rules and the tricks and I got taught by passionate people about typography, composition, colour…But illustration originated second. It came because I needed something more. I wanted to bring elements of handmade, elements of surprise to what I was designing. I had always liked drawing, so just after I graduated from art school in Paris, I went to Chile for five months, and just started drawing and painting again, more and more everyday. It was and still is all about practice when it comes to drawing or hand-lettering. Even today, I still don’t draw that well, I just have my own style and go with it. It’s a great means for me to express myself and I’m just so lucky I now get to draw and design for a living. So, yes, in a way, working as an illustrator was like I expected: I have to pinch myself everyday to make sure all of this is not a joke! It’s pretty awesome and I feel very grateful for all the opportunities.

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Talk us through your daily routine:

I don’t really have a routine…but I do wake up quite early every day (without an alarm, that makes me happy) around 7 in the winter and even earlier in the summer. I try to go for a small run every mornings. I just need to get out of my head a bit before getting to my desk and starting work. Running for 20 minutes is just enough for me to feel fresh and ready to start the day. Once back from the run, it usually goes in the following order: shower, clothes, breakfast…and I’m ready to take on the world! My studio is at home, so I don’t have much commute and that’s kind of awesome. I’ll usually work on different projects from 8:30 to 5:30, sometimes later…Then, I’ll just keep on working on my own projects, be a bit more chilled and will definitely not answer to any emails past that time (unless there’s something crazy urgent). At the studio, during the day, I’ll always end up spending as much time on my computer as I do addressing envelopes, doodling or painting for projects. If I have to spend a lot of time on my computer, you’ll find me listening to my favourite podcasts and learning about awesome stuff. I really don’t have a routine, but I do have my little habits!

 

Top 5 coffee table books:

I like a book with a crazy, striking, colourful cover that shouts ‘Look at me, I will inspire you in a minute!’ So on my coffee table, you’ll probably find either one of those, that I usually rotate depending on the mood…

Kenzo, by Antonio Marras

Eames, beautiful details, by Eames Demetrios

Art Nouveau Revival,  Musée d’Orsay

The Wes Anderson Collection, by Matt Zoller Seitz

Saul Bass, A life in Film and Design, by Jennifer Bass

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How would you describe your style?

Colourful is a big one. Happy, tactile and honest. Strong, striking and badass is definitely what I aim for.

With all the success so far, what is the long term goal?

Long-term goal is to keep doing what I love, refining my style whilst working with more and more passionate people. I’d like to get more fellow creatives involved to work with me on new ideas and exciting projects…I’m just so very excited about the future!

 

All photos by Thea Lovstad.