I’ve been on social media for 7 years now and throughout that time, I’ve met some pretty cool people and a lot of creatively skilled people at that. I’ve met singers, film makers, artists, writers, and people who wear more than one of those hats. One of those people is Joanna Maciejewska. Like Kizzy Lou with her art, Joanna is someone whose dragonfly art and witchy designs always bring smiles my way and I’m always happy to share the wealth where talent is concerned. It's just that for however fun these are, that's her release and she's actually one of the most disciplined writers you'll ever meet, so let’s get to know her shall we?
Greetings salutations, and Cześć! So nice to have you on the blog, Joanna. Since this is the first question, logic would say it’s the perfect place to introduce yourself and let us know where you’re from, how you got into art, and how bad do people mess up the pronunciation and/or spelling of your name. :)
Hello J.D.! Thank you for having me here! I’m Joanna, but I often go by my nickname, so everyone is welcome to call me Melfka. I’m originally from Poland, I made an 8-year-long pit stop in Ireland, and I currently live in the USA.
And don’t get me started about my name! ;) Spelling seems fine (though peculiarly, one insurance company insists that I’m JAONNA…), but the pronunciation is a bit of a problem. In Polish, my first name is pronounced as YO-AN-NAH, with both N-s clearly pronounced, but English speakers seem to have trouble with it, and I end up being “Yowanna” (to which I often feel tempted to respond “no, I don’t wanna”). My surname is even worse for English speakers, and many customer support representatives just ask if they can use my first name. Some try to pronounce it, though. In Ireland and UK they go with MAK-AY-JEW-SKA, while over in the US I’m more likely to be MAY-SEE-JEW-SKA, so I learned to keep listening for anything that even remotely reminds my surname which is really pronounced (surprise!) MAH-CHYE-YEV-SKA. There are days when I seriously consider taking my husband’s name: having a surname that is two letters long would be a nice change, wouldn’t it?
As for how I got into art… Art was always part of my life. My mom studied History of Art in college, so there were artbooks and history of art books around the house which I loved to browse through. We visited museums, and we read a lot of poetry together (to this day we recite our favorite quotes). We are both creative too. It just seemed naturally, I was interested in it and I enjoy it. And then, I met my husband who is an artist too, and he encouraged me to draw more, teaching me anatomy, shading, and useful Photoshop tools.
Very cool how art was always around you and how it influences you in so many ways. I definitely think inspiration can come from anywhere. So, you have two series I’m a big fan of, witches and dragonflies. Can you tell us about those designs and when was the first time you began to work on them.
Everybody seems to love those dragonflies which makes me feel guilty whenever I miss a week. The series happened by chance. Because I focused on writing, I wasn’t creating as much visual art as possible, and I felt like I needed a challenge. I already write daily, and I kept wondering if I could draw daily too. There is a challenge for artists called Inktober which is focusing on encouraging daily drawing. I wanted to take part. I liked the idea of a theme (it’s also easier, at the beginning, to create within a theme), but I also knew that with my skills and time limits, I needed something simple enough to keep up with daily prompts. With writing being my main focus, I can’t devote 3-5 hours to finishing a picture.
I like dragonflies in general, and in their simplified shape, they are easy: a long body, two eyes, and some wings. At the same time, that simplicity allows to put them into various shapes and objects, so I went with them.
On the other hand, the witches were somewhat of a challenge for me. I love witches, but I’m really bad at drawing anatomy (I've gotten better, but nowhere near good), so I wanted to use the challenge to improve myself. I’m not going to tell you how many times I had to give up the initial idea or alter it because of my troubles with anatomy or perspective… I’d like to go back to witches at some point, but I’d need more time to practice first.
So people might know you from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but they might not know about JMM Designs and your Society 6 store. Can you tell us about that store and what are some of your favorite designs?
The Society6 Store came to be because of my friend’s insistence I should put my art out there and allow people to buy it. It was quite a big step for me, to share and offer my art, and I’m always humbled and excited when someone decides to buy something with my design on. Later, I also opened a Redbubble Store as it seems popular and is artist-friendly.
My favorite designs? It’s hard to pick. I like most of them, because with each I learned something new about digital tools I’m using, design theory, or other aspects of art.
But I think if I was to choose, I’d go with Let’s Dream of Dragons, Weird and Wonderful, and Overgrown (which is a colored version of one of the Inktober witches).
Funny enough, these aren’t the audience’s favorites. The most popular one is Write/Edit/Repeat which was a result of a moment of inspiration and 15 minutes of work to put it together. I find it both amusing and a great reminder that sometimes the silliest or the simplest thing might take off.
Maybe I should ask you, which one is your favorite.
On your page, you say you don’t consider yourself an artist, yet I heartily disagree, since I’m a fan and I know there are others on the same boat with me. BUT you talk about enjoying designing and mention your creative process. What does the process mean to you and what are the positives from creating?
I know, I know… I should probably own that “artist” badge. But then, it took me a while to start calling myself a “writer”, and I’m much more serious about my words than I am about my images. I have a daily writing habit, but I do art only when I feel like it, and I’m more relaxed about the final outcome. The picture turned out hideous? Oh, well, who cares—I just won’t show it to anyone. I don’t feel like finishing this art piece? I’ll leave it sitting for another 4 months.
I think that since I started treating my writing so seriously, art is the only thing I have left as a creative hobby, so I cling to not becoming serious with it. And no matter how much I love creating with my words, I need a break sometimes, and my brain seems to be refreshed by focusing on something purely visual (that also comes with no pressure of finishing it or making it good).
As for the process itself, art usually ends up being the crossing point between what I’m inspired to create and what I’m capable of making. I often have an idea or a slogan that I’d like to make, and then all that remains is how to make it work with the skills and knowledge I have. I often watch tutorials to learn what’s possible with digital tools or study others’ artwork. Or, a phrase inspires me: like when my friend said “we’re all goo” instead of good. I just had to make an art piece out of that even if no one else ever gets the fun bit.
Are commissions something you’ve done or would do?
Before I moved over to the USA, I used to make greeting cards. My friends and coworkers knew that if they needed a specific card, they could ask me. Goodbye cards for leaving coworkers were especially popular.
With my digital art, I never thought about it. I think my skills aren’t good enough to match potential requests, but I’m not opposed to trying (as long as the requester doesn’t expect realistic drawings and is aware of my style and limits). Besides, I always look for inspiration for more dragonflies, because after a few years of doing them somewhat regularly, I feel like I’m starting to be repetitive. So anyone can leave a comment with a suggestion or a request, and if it’s something I haven’t done yet, I’ll be happy to draw it.
If you were a witch, (and it’s quite possible you are) and you had to design your own spell, what would the magic words be and what would the spell do?
Now that’s a good question! Of course, I immediately started coming up with ideas. But I when I was a teenager, I dreamed about having my own dimensional bubble: a place where I could go to do all the things I wanted to do, and then come back to the real world with only a second of time lost. Yes, like all creatives, I have too little time to do all the things I already do and to try out all the things I’d like to do… if I had more time. So that would definitely be something I would design as a witch.
As for the words, I’m not sure if it would be a spell. A potion perhaps? (because experimenting in the kitchen is fun) If so, the main ingredient would definitely be tea. Lots of tea.
So we’ve talked plenty about design, you’re first and foremost a writer and I believe you have something on offer and something else on the way.
To be honest, I think about myself as a writer more often than I think about myself as an artist. I feel like I’m better with words than I am with lines and colors. ;) Throughout the years, I had many short stories published both in Polish and English magazines and anthologies, and last year, I finally put them together in a collection. I offer it for free to my newsletter subscribers (or, if you'd rather exchange money than emails, it’s also available in many online stores). In a way, it’s a showcase of my writing styles within the fantasy genre, from fun sword and sorcery to lyrical, slow-paced stories.
As for something else… Writing daily means I’m quite productive, so I have several novels in the works at any given time. But all I can say now is that autumn 2020 is shaping up to be exciting, and my newsletter subscribers will be the first ones to know. Then, of course, I’ll share the news with everyone else too. ;)
So what are the rewards from the writing process and how does it compare to the design process?
The two processes are similar at the core: I have to have a compelling idea, but then art feels more spontaneous (or to be more precise, requiring less preparation) than writing. There’s also the matter of time involved—a graphic design is maybe a few evenings of creative fun and mishaps, so it’s easier to finish it and move on. With writing a novel taking anywhere from several months to a couple of years to complete, I spend much more time figuring out my stories, writing and rewriting them, and polishing them.
My reward is having, at the end of the process, something I truly love and enjoy, because I write stories I want to tell and I write them the way I want them to be told. And after that comes the other reward: hearing that people enjoyed the story and the characters or seeing them reacting to certain part exactly how I hoped they would. It gives me the satisfaction of a job well done.
From my experience, people don’t know that much about Poland. What are some things from the culture, the food, and your upbringing that you think are interesting?
Let’s stick with some fun stuff.
Polish language forces polite form depending on the familiarity levels. Elders and adult strangers are always addressed with the equivalent of Sir/Madam, and in formal situations you introduce yourself with your surname. A doctor or someone similar would call me Mrs. Maciejewska, and if we are work colleagues, it could become Mrs. Joanna. Friends, on the other hand, would… never use “Joanna”, because it’s very formal. Diminutives from Joanna are Joasia or Asia (Yo-ah-shya or Ah-shya), so this is what my friends and family would call me… If ever I heard “Joanna!” I knew I was in trouble—until, of course, I moved over to the English-speaking world and this was how everybody called me.
Speaking of which, you can probably imagine my horror during my first months in Ireland when everybody was addressing everyone with “you” instead of the forms I had ingrained in my very being: “Can I help you?” or “Have you heard the news?” sounded so wrong. Over time, I got used to it, but my first weeks in Ireland were marked linguistics gymnastics of trying not to say “you” when addressing people… Nowadays, with the internet culture and globalization, habits are changing, especially online where “you” is expected in conversations in Polish.
The second tidbit I’d share is food, of course. Most people have probably heard of PIEROGI (by the way, it’s already plural, so saying “pierogies” is equivalent to Gollum’s “hobbitses” ;) ), and one of the things my husband’s American family wanted to know was of course whether I can make them. I was a bit baffled, because to me, “everyone” knows how to make them (though it might not be true anymore for younger generations)—I might have been as young as 9-10 years old when I first helped my mom make them. And it’s worth to know that the dough for traditional Polish pierogi is made with only flour, hot water, and a pinch of salt, and when you make the dumplings, the dough is supposed to be rolled very thin. The benchmark we follow is “once boiled, you should be able to see the filling through the dough”, so I find store-bought pierogi in thick dough rather disappointing.
This has been a grand ole time though people might want to get in touch. So tell us, where can people find you to connect?
If you’d like to know more about me, you can visit my website.
If you want to keep in touch, I have a monthly newsletter, and I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My art designs are on Society6 and Redbubble. I also write about writing craft and other things on Medium.
That was pretty epic and cheers to YO-AN-NAH and all her projects. Always love connecting a bit deeper with creators and super cool to see so many things from our dear Melfka, whether in words or design and to ALL the inspiration. As for her invitation for me to pick my favorite designs, too close to call but by all means, let us know in the comments which are your fave, or check her out on social media and show your fav design some love. If you'd like to connect to her or check out her stores, feel free to click all the links. She's good people. Thanks again to Joanna and here's to all the Creative Connections we share.
Peace, love, and maki rolls