Fenne is a visual storyteller and a curious soul. She was born in Belgium and recently moved to Sweden. She writes about art, Scandinavia, and travel. Her personal interests are: travel, art, photography, storytelling, creating, printmaking.
She studied photography and worked for 10 years as a dog photographer. A few years ago, she went back to school and got a teachers degree and after that a masters degree in Illustration and Graphic Design. In her master year, she traveled North for an experiment in solitude, made a graphic novel about it, graduated and… moved north to finally respond to an idea that was in her head for such a long time.
1. You are a photographer and an illustrator. Do you prefer one medium over the other, or feel more comfortable with one medium over the other?
Drawing and painting are something I already discovered as a child. I was always doodling and crafting, made drawings during classes (and got in trouble for that) created my own doll houses from cardboard or plastic bottles and made illustrated treasure maps. I also experienced the joy of making someone happy with a drawing or something handmade.
It was only later that I discovered photography and back in those days it was still on film so I had to use it sparingly- and that took away a bit of the fun. It was only when studying photography and getting on the digital train that I could develop my technique as well as a visual language. I would say that photography is something that I do like eating and sleeping. It’s a part of me and except for when I try some experiments or learn a new technique, looking for light and angles it became a natural thing to do.
Although I’m drawing since I could hold a pencil, illustration still feels rather new and I meet my limitations much faster. Getting an image together feels like a riddle or a puzzle of colors and shapes that you have to solve but that is part of the fun. Both my photography and illustration grow together, influencing each other and working together. A photograph can be a reference for a painting as well as a finished work just like a drawing can be a guide for a photograph or a complete story. When I make books they can even come together on the same page, using their own characteristics to talk about a subject.
2. You were a dog photographer for 10 years. Do you have any interesting stories to tell from that time of your artistic career?
Actually, I am still a dog photographer. The love for dogs and animals, in general, is part of who I am and I seldom leave the house without a camera so I have tons of photographs from exploring together with my dogs and I also still write dog photography tips and work with dog related brands. Photographing dogs is something that taught me to be patient: to wait for the right moment and to analyze the character of my subject. It also gave me the opportunity to capture the beauty of each dog as well as relationships between dogs and their owners. I felt that making people happy, creating beauty, capturing friendship and precious moments would be a tiny attempt to counterbalance the ugliness and violence in the world. But there is much more in life that I wanted to think and talk about too and in art, I found a place for that. I made, for example, a book about a school shooter, I explored solitude and made a zine about love and freedom. Having projects that reflect both on the light and the shadows of life make my work much more balanced.
3. What is your typical day like?
A typical day would include: walking the dogs, creating, reading and studying Swedish but I don’t have a fixed schedule. I am not a morning person so I would rather do the things that don’t require too much focus first like walking the dogs, cleaning a bit (I always clean before I start working, it gives me a clear mind) or updating social media. A lot depends on the weather and season. With only a few hours light in winter, going out is the most important thing on my list, as daily light and movement help during long dark winters. In summer with light almost 24/7 I prefer going out very early or later on the day when the light is softer and shadows more interesting. Every day I create something. That might be a sketch, a photograph, an etch or even shapes in ice.
4. Do you think it's necessary to have a formal education in order to be an artist?
I know there are a lot of tremendous interesting artists without a formal education but I still consider going back to school as one of the best decisions of my life. I could draw some, I knew some techniques and I already had a business. But what I value about an education is the opportunity to work hard and fail even harder, the intensity of diving in and take the time to learn and try to find the blind spots.
An education in art isn’t a high way on which you have to think about practical and economic things but it is a long and winding road to master techniques in order to find your voice. During an education, you will be challenged in every way. You will question yourself and your work and will learn to think, speak and write about so many things related to art. You will be confronted and pushed in all directions to get strong and deep growing roots. With having a formal education you have access to the masters and to fellow students all at one place and they will challenge you to develop the things you lack instead of focusing only on talents. But again, that is how it works for me, what I needed and where I got my energy. Much depends of course on where you live, the vibe of the school, the level of education, the costs and what kind of artist you are/want to be.
5. In your blog post 'How To Live A Creative Life", one of the tips you give is to let go of the burden of self-awareness. Having self-awareness is often hailed as a positive trait. Why do you describe it as a burden?
Self-awareness is definitely a positive trait as it will place you as a 3D individual in the world, knowing who you are and being aware of your values, skills as well as weak points. An overactive self-awareness, however, is something I have struggled with and something I hear often from fellow creatives in any field. Being aware of how you move, how you think compared to others, what type of art you make, whether or not you have a popular style, … all these things can be very useful to know and to understand but it can create fears or doubts. I didn’t fear critique from my teachers or fellow students as I saw school as my lab where I could mix and match and blow things up without destroying the world. It took me a long time, however, to share my work with others, to say that I am an artist and even to make social media accounts for my artwork and not feel weird about it. I think it’s important to be aware of yourself but not work for what you think that others might expect from you.
6. Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by light, by experiences with people, la condition humaine, by wandering in the woods, crossing frozen lakes, by travel and exploring new places, by stories I read and even by words themselves.
7. What is your dream art project?
I would love to travel along an expedition to for example Antarctica to make a book about this experience.
8. You travel a lot. Is there anywhere you'd like to go that you haven't been yet?
I haven’t seen most of the world so there is a lot left to explore. As I’m fascinated by all places that are rough or with snow and ice so I would love to visit Greenland, Alaska or Antarctica. Or closer by I would love to travel around in Eastern Europe. And I’ve never seen a jungle in real life.
9. Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring artists?
Work hard, choose good mentors, hold on to your muses and keep the fire burning.
10. What's next for you?
I’m currently working on a new graphic novel and since I recently moved abroad I have a whole new country to explore.
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Interview by Glodeane Brown
All photos provided by the artist