Within her work, the London-based illustrator Brie Moreno creates universes where the real and unreal become simultaneous realities. Immersed and fixed, we stay and remain lost — for a short while forgetting what it is to live the life we’ve gotten to know, temporarily living on our own terms of memory and desire.
How did you get started with illustrations? Do you remember the first time you consciously realized you were going to be an artist?
Thanks to my mom, I’ve been drawing since day one. She was always encouraging me do crafts and draw as a way to express myself, and that method of self expression has followed me all throughout my life. In high school I took art class as an elective and through talking with my art teacher I was able to envision myself as an artist and illustrator. It was probably sometime in my last year as high school where I had to convince myself that I could make a career out of being an artist, because it was the only thing I could see myself doing my whole life.
That’s young. Were your parents always supportive of you pursuing an artist career? Many would usually try to talk their kids out of it… merely because they’re worried about their kid’s future economic freedom.
My mom was extremely supportive of my career decision. I think it’s because when she was my age she opted for the safe route and got a job that would ensure stability, which may have been a good decision financially, but I think she wishes she explored more of her interests. She tells me all the time that she’s proud of me for believing in my work. My father wasn’t in my life when I was growing up but we’re trying to rebuild our relationship and he really tries to encourage me and my practice.
Has the recent contact to your father changed, shifted your work in some sense?
It’s not so much my reformed relationship with my father that has made such a lighthearted shift in my work, but the way I have learned to be more forgiving and let go of negative dispositions.
Are there ever moments where you wish you had chosen a different life? Something perhaps easier, less on the verge of existentialism?
All the time! I’m currently working part time as a nanny and I find it so rewarding and surprisingly stress free. My body is definitely more tired from repetitively lifting a 20 lb baby, but I’m not relentlessly searching for holes to fill and inspiration to strike. When I’m making art all day, I feel like a complete loser if I haven’t come out with anything substantial by 9pm. Drawing is something I’ll always love doing, but I started to lose my enjoyment for it when I moved out and had to depend on art to pay the bills. When I’m nannying my mind thinks of nothing but my child and when I come home I get to draw without tending to anyone else’s desires.
It does get pretty tiring to work as an artist nonstop. During university, I worked as a barista at some point. After a 10 hour shift, I had so much energy… I’d go straight to writing when having arrived home. Now, having joined adult life, I write nonstop for about 3 hours, and will need power naps because I’m exhausted.
Yes! The power naps are a must when working on creative endeavours all day. It’s so easy to get stuck inside one’s head. I can struggle with the colour in a drawing for hours and then when I step away and come back to the drawing I discover that it was completed the moment I put my marker down.
These figures you draw, they’re both realistic as well as fantastical. What do these figures represent in your day-to-day life?
I’ve always seen them as extensions of myself. I think they’re people I aspire to be. They ooze confidence but I can see there’s usually a sense of nervousness surrounding them which is perhaps my own presence showing through. I try to imagine my characters in old folk tales and mythical stories with fairies, nature, and mischief. I think combining the everyday with the supernatural can unlock of lot of truth.
Would you like to exist within these stories, these fairytales? Is it a way of modern-day escapism?
Definitely! I live a fairly relaxed daily life. Most of my outings are to the park, cafes and galleries. I love adventure, but it’s hard to fit that into my schedule realistically. These characters allow me to feel sexy, even when I’m just sitting at home in my jimjams. I can make them talk to anyone without the looming cloud of anxiety creeping over. I’ve always played with escapism ever since I could remember. When I was a kid I used to fall asleep every night pretending I was a mermaid that Peter Pan falls in love with. Ridiculous, but not far off from what I’m drawing nowadays.
I don’t think it’s ridiculous, not at all. Why did you want to be a mermaid, and why did you want Peter Pan to fall in love with you?
To my six year old eyes, the mermaids in the cartoon Peter Pan were so beautiful with their long hair entangled with starfish and shells. They were flirty, mischievous and bad… all things that seemed enticing at the time. I wouldn’t say they were the perfect role models but they really won me over as a kid. I’ve always and will always be obsessed with romance, and I remember rooting for the mermaids when they tried to seduce Peter. It was the cheekiest thing I had ever witnessed. I guess I wanted Peter to fall in love with me particularly because I had to be the star of my own fantasy!
How does an obsession with romance manifest into the modern days of living, where most people spend their time behind screens, and are more and more jaded by real contact? I think we live in such a sad time, to be honest. At least regarding these specific shifts in human relationships. I mean, have we always wanted things like Tinder, or was it forced onto us?
I feel the same way! It’s hard to imagine a romantic scene triggered by Tinder, but I suppose some people can make it work. For me I wanted a picnic in the meadow with figs and wine and sexual tension… so obviously I was very disappointed when that was never an option in highschool. Even into my twenties I was beginning to feel hopeless and downloaded Tinder only to be ghosted, ignored and ridiculed. Finally when I stopped looking I found romance with the person I’m in love with today. We met at a book fair and like in the movies we just knew. A few weeks later I was on a plane to London to be with him. Fast forward two years… now I consider England to be my home. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think romance can be forced. I think it’s the senses that really dictate that fluttering romantic feeling. Perhaps my obsession with finding “romance”, strengthened my senses. Maybe I had a romance muscle hidden behind my ears that I’ve been training since the age of six.
Do you think you usually draw with an audience in mind, or just yourself?
I used to draw with an audience in mind- constantly overthinking what a number of people might think. Is it cool enough for them? Does it make sense to everyone? Is it too sexy for that person? Ever since I stopped thinking like that, I’ve been able to create work with more ease. Everything seems so fluid now.
Yeah, it’s interesting how things change when intentions become purely genuine…
Definitely! I think people can tell when work feels strained. When I look back at work I made at eighteen, I can remember who I was watching and who I wanted to see my work…overthinking the audience made my work look stiff. Or at least it felt stiff when I was drawing.
Animals continuously reappear in your work as well. Do they generally have a great importance in your life?
Yes! I’m a big animal lover. When I was first learning how to draw, the only character that appeared in all my drawings was my dalmatian Summer. To this day I still draw her. Animals have no ulterior motives, their emotions are visible and ingenuous. I think whenever I fill a composition with an animal or insect, it makes what I’m trying to convey look lighthearted and sincere.
What’s the most moving thing someone has said to you about your work?
What moves me is the collective messages from anyone who takes time out of their day to send me a affectionate message about my work. Sending love and encouragement to a complete stranger about what they make, is such a kind and selfless act that I truly cherish.
I agree, it’s something I’m personally most moved by too. People taking their time, and thinking you’re worthwhile… I think it’s beautiful, and somehow also so absurd, making it at times impossible to believe.
Definitely! Especially sometimes I question the quality of my art. I really have to thank the people who send encouraging message because they’re the ones who make we want to share my work. I think with each message my confidence and ability to believe in what I’m making gradually flourishes.
Do you think people change in some way when coming across your work? Would you like them to?
I have no clue, but if they do I hope it’s in a positive direction. Most of the content that I create is centred around escapism with carefree characters dressing up and hanging around trees and flowers. Hopefully these images can comfort my audience if even for a moment, and make them free of any worries.
Images courtesy of BRIE MORENO
interview LARA KONRAD
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