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Interview with Jenny Mortsell

We love the pencil illustrations of Belgium-based artist Jenny Mortsell, so we interviewed her recently. How’s life been treating you? ‘Suspiciously good’. Are you feeling more creatively inspired as the years go by or less so? ‘I’m not sure. Creative inspiration is much connected to self-confidence than age. But I think the day you are sure you’re good at what you’re doing is the day it starts to get boring’. What is it about the medium of pencil that has attracted you so much? ‘I used pencils to draw since I was a kid, I feel I have control over it and technically there is nothing else that can be used to blend and create details like it (and mistakes are erasable!). But I am also attracted to it because it got an art school correctness, an ‘I can draw nice’ quality that makes it tragically uncool. And uncool is always more interesting than cool. That is probably why I decided to pick it up again’. Do you ever find it limiting in terms of color and texture?
‘Only when clients ask for color’.

What do you look at first whenever you are studying a person for a portrait?
‘I always start with the eyes, because then the drawing gets ‘alive’, demanding me to make it good’.

The drawings all seem very clean, as if the imperfections are not there. Is this a conscious thing?

‘Yes and no, I am constantly trying to come up with something I can do/add to trash things up in order to make the drawings more interesting, but it has to be something I can argue for, that feels personal and new, not just for the sake of it. Until I’ve found that they’ll stay neat. I do however, often deliberately leave imperfections like the smudges and fingerprints on the paper’.

Do you ever paint?
‘I used to, but when I try it now all the options get a little too overwhelming, so I’ve paused that for a while until I know what to do with all the colors’.

Are you still DJing? And what would be the first three songs you’d spin at a party to get the people up and dancing?
‘I still do occasionally. If people are drunk enough they might dance to ‘Power Run’ by Laserdance, ‘Turbo Diesel’ by Albert One or ‘Happy Song’ by Baby’s Gang’.

Ever have any recurring dreams? If so, what are they?
‘I don’t actually, but I’m afraid that doesn’t mean I’m trauma-free’.