Get to Know Artist Louise Mertens
Brought to you by Talenthouse
Louise Mertens (@louisemertens) runs a fine art studio based in Antwerp, Beligium. The studio provides art, visual concepts, photography - creative art/direction, editorial content and identity design.
Interviewer Alexi Ueltzen (@alexi) is Ello's Social Media & Email Manager. She lives in Evergreen, CO with her husband, two dogs, and one hedgehog named Ditters who hates everything except for mealworms and tunnels.
Tell us a little about your path to becoming an artist.
I did my masters in Graphic Design (4 years) and was never really understood by my teachers. I didn’t quite fit the ‘graphic-design-box’ and had to suppress my style which I found really hard. Graduating was a life-changer. I remember feeling extremely free and I created digital artworks day & night, discovering a whole new world. I decided to become self-employed, which was the best decision of my life. I started working for small brands/clients and grew step by step. I developed a certain style and started mixing art and design.
Working for clients isn’t easy as you always have to compromise. That’s why I create my art, to step out of what’s needed and step into what only I want to do.
I always knew I was made to do my own thing and could never work for someone else.
What is your creative process like?
My best creative moments are when I’m not stressed and have a certain feeling of ‘time and space’.
For a project, the concept / idea-phase is really important. A strong idea in a minimalistic shape is the key to my work and therefore, concentration and inspiration are needed. Nature sounds/piano in my headphones, phone quiet, Emails off, no multitasking.
Another very important aspect of my work is coincidence. Allowing myself to experiment and discover new techniques, shapes. Unpredictable things can lead to great results.
Some projects take days, weeks. Others take only a few hours, it’s always a surprise.
My days are never the same and I love that. Routine scares me the most.
I shoot faces, collections, I make mood boards/concepts, I design identities, books, magazines, I make covers, I do videos, and so on. So many interesting aspects of the studio.
Your pieces are usually manipulated, changed from their original forms...do you have a vision for the final product when you start or do you discover it during the process?
I always try to start with an idea, a series or a concept, as I’m used to this while working for clients. But somehow I always get stuck. For my personal art it’s important to let go of any ideas, and go with my esthetical flow. Start with a base (mostly portrait or body parts) and then feel what it needs. I usually end with so many layers, effects, textures, colors and then the fun part starts: eliminating until the very essence, the purest form.
You’ve had some interesting internships – with MirrorMirror and Sagmeister & Walsh. How did those experiences shape your art now?
Mirrormirror was in my 3rd year at school. I remember feeling shy working with these talented guys, having almost 0 skills of my own. It’s funny looking back. It was my first encounter with working in design, so different from our school projects. Here I learned I wasn’t made to work for somebody else or take projects that don’t fit my vision.
Sagmeister & Walsh, 4 years later, was a whole different experience. My studio was 2 years old and it was such a shift to move and work in an agency of +- 15 people. I felt a great appreciation for my art and people were so much more open-minded about it. Jessica even asked me to try some things out for small projects and I admire her for that. She knew where my skill-set was and where it wasn’t. Although it was only 3 months. After New York, I knew exactly what to do and what I was made for. I came back to Antwerp and continued my studio and embraced the fact that I can’t be put in a certain box, always developing.
For you, what is the most rewarding part of running your own fine art studio?
Running my own studio forced me to listen to my body and mind. You can literally work non-stop and it gets overwhelming from time to time, never being able to turn things off. I learned to make time for myself and created a border between free time and work. It’s a life lesson.
When a creative process doesn’t work out, I’m able to go out and set my mind off things and continue working at night. This freedom is vital.
You’ve had quite a bit of recent success...can you tell us a little about your recent solo exhibition “SEE”...or any other projects you’re especially excited about?
I recently discovered that things don’t always happen unless you undertake. Many people are starting to notice my art and I felt I needed to build a platform to show it. There’s a huge difference in seeing my art online or printed large-scale.
My 2nd solo exhibition (SEE) just ended and it was received very well.
For many years, I have been fascinated & concerned by the effects of global warming. As an artist, I subtly tried to present this theme and unraveled the beauty of the coral, whilst it is still in existence.
‘SEE’ shows the beauty of the Coral’s dying process, a living animal that has been drastically decreasing in numbers over the years. The beautiful colors that corals expose when they take their last breath, the white skeletons, the gray inanimate colors and the elegant algae that envelop the dead coral.
For the first time, I made a complete series without using portraits or the human form. “I felt the need to step out of my comfort zone, to observe in a different way, further, more intensely, whilst Still looking for that special, ‘extraterrestrial’ element that I feel drawn to.”
Another exciting project I’m working on is a mirror collection, coming out in January, but that’s all I can say for now...
What is the artistic community like in Belgium?
It sounds crazy but I have no idea, to be honest. I’m a very social person but not a social designer. I work in my bubble 24/7 and I try to get my inspiration from traveling, conversations, photos, music, books, etc.
I never go to design gatherings or events. I think I’m more an artist then a designer in this case, hah!
Are there any new mediums you’d like to explore, or ambitious projects you’d like to tackle in the future?
I’m working on making my art movable. Not too fond of all the 3d rendering programs, I feel everyone is doing it these days and the art feels untouchable. Although some manage to create their own style in it.
I’d LOVE to work more international and do some album covers and covers in particular. I designed a book cover for Kendall & Kylie Jenner and these kinds of projects give me so much energy. Shooting portraits and creating new things with it is def. something I see myself doing for a long time.
Tell us why you find value in using Ello as one of your social media platforms?
I’m quite a big fan of Ello, as it feels honest again. What can I say...All us artists need today in a world of algorithm, set-up lives and ego’s is a platform where art matters again, where people value each others work based on skills, ideas and talent. Where there is room for trial and error, beginners, experience and fantasy. You guys did a great job.
What are you doing when you’re not creating art?
I have amazing friends who I love very deeply and a very strong relationship with my mother. I love to spend time with them, talk about everything and nothing, drinking good wines, eating good food. That’s what life is all about.
You can follow Louise on Ello, Instagram, and Facebook.