Cute and whimsical art for children by Mariann Johansen-Ellis
Flying elephants, sailing bunnies, giraffes on unicycles... These are the kinds of playful images you'll see in the artwork of Mariann Johansen-Ellis. Children and adults alike are drawn to her high-spirited artwork, where animals frolic peacefully and ride unicycles. The art of Mariann Johanesen-Ellis fills your soul with dreams of childhood, when the world was alive with possibility and wonder.
Mariann was gracious enough to grant Art is Fun this exclusive interview, where she reveals her inspirations and working processes. Find out more about the maker of this whimsical art for children:
Where are you from?
I was born in Denmark, but only lived there until I was 7, when my family moved to Sweden, so actually I kind of feel more Swedish than Danish, depending on day or mood. The 2 nations are quite different actually, but luckily they share herring… or raw fish as my British husband calls it, so I am from a nation of herrings! Yummy!
How long have you been an artist?
Hmmm... Doodling... Fiddling... For as long as I can remember. Working full time, making-a-living-career kind of artist, for the last 19 years - time does fly!
How would you describe your artwork?
Whimsical, quirky, funny, I hope! I make an effort to infuse it with humour, so I hope that shows.
What inspires the ideas for your art for children?
Everything around me! I tend to internalize though and live in my own little dreamworld. I see or hear something, and it takes me a while to digest it, but ultimately it will come out in my images. Right now, I am very involved with orbs, worlds, and rooted trees, which is a direct result of happenings in my life right now. I draw my feelings and "wear my heart on my sleeve" - it's an expression I think fits my images well!
What art or artists influence your artwork?
I am a great lover of naïve art. Indigenous art, ethnic art, I love all things Indian. There are also several artists that have inspired me enormously, Pieter van der Westhuizen, from South Africa, William Robinson from Australia, Leon Pericles from Australia - my hero actually! Mary Eisman from America….. to name a few, but very important influences.
What is your favorite subject matter to depict in your art and why?
Well, I am not very good at drawing people, so I draw animals. They take the place of the people, and it works for me. The elephant is an important part of my work; he represents me, and the world, and the gravitas with which we should appreciate our lifes. This all sounds quite deep, but frankly, I love drawing animals doing funny things, and I love trees… I work a lot with trees!
Do you prefer painting or printmaking, or do you like them both the same?
Do you know… if I am going to be absolutely honest... I am a printmaker. Printmaking delights me, fills me with wonder, makes me despair and challenges me every time…… it is my chosen medium to work in. However, who could not love painting? All those luscious colors, brushes, the ability to paint LARGE…. Yes, I love painting too!
Is printmaking easy to learn?
Can I tell you something? Printmaking is dead easy! If you come as a total beginner and know nothing, I will have you printing in a day or 2 at the most! A lot of mystery surrounds printmaking… and sure…. Being creative is never easy, but the actual process…. Copperplates, acid, lino, tools etc….. is EASY, and no, that’s not just me saying so, because I know how to do it, sure it helps if you are a tiny bit practical and know what a file is (and not the computer kind) but it’s hardly brain surgery….. like I say, come and do a course with me, and you’ll be a printmaker in no time!
Do you have any tips for total beginners to printmaking?
A tip for beginners would be to find a course - it is so worth the money, and you will also very possibly make a contact that has a printing press, that you will probably be able to access again to do more printmaking on your own… And don’t be put off by the process - it’s just like cooking, once you know the ingredients you whip up that cake in no time!
Do you have any tips or advice for people who would like to develop their art skills in general?
Hmmm….. I would like to develop my art skills, and am always thinking I should draw more. That seems to be the general consensus amongst art teachers, to practice every day, so I’ll go with that. Another thing I like doing, that I have found has developed my skills is when I see something I like, I don’t just like it, I pick it apart - look at it, how did the artist paint, etch, print, hammer, cut, bludgeon, or whatever it…. And then I go home and do it… that’s fun….. frustrating, but fun! Art not only can be fun… it is fun!!!!
Whimsical Art for Children by Mariann Johansen-Ellis
Thank you, Mariann for this fantastic interview!
As a multi-talented painter and printmaker of art for children, Mariann also runs a blog where she discusses art and teaches various printmaking techniques.
If you liked Mariann's art for children, check out these other Featured Artists!