Everup - When Creativity is Sparked at Home
“Thanks, Dad.” When Creativity is Sparked at Home
Artist Elise Mesner on finding #MyMajorKey
Artist Elise Mesner (who you might know from the internet as Lello Pepper) is one of those multi-faceted, multi-talented creative types that you want to hate because they’re just so damn good at everything. But then you work with her, or talk to her, or see her pieces, and you just can’t stay mad. The painter, illustrator, costume designer, stylist, photographer (the list goes on) is a powerhouse—that much is clear. But where’d she get those multi-disciplinary chops? Perhaps fittingly, as we approach Father’s Day, she says it’s all thanks to Dad.
EVERUP: Who was your mentor/teacher/coach that really helped you to greatness?
Elise Mesner: My dad! Not only did he hand me the creative gene (thanks dad!), he always encouraged me to make art at a young age. There’s a photo of my two-year old self coloring my entire body with Crayola markers, classic. He gave me an appreciation for art, and encouraged exploration, self expression, logical thinking, self-esteem, imagination, and sharp inventiveness.
Why is he so remarkable, and so influential for you?
My dad is a mural artist and painter, and is also remarkable with carpentry, fine woodworking. He’s the guy who builds hand-crafted sailboats in his own backyard, fixes all kinds of gadgets, plus makes his own BBQ sauce and has a bonsai garden. Pops is all around incredible with creation. Super savvy man. Self-taught brilliance. I always thought of him as a well-blended mix between Bob Ross and MacGyver growing up. Plus, he has the biggest, gentlest heart with the funniest sense of humor. You can hear his hearty laugh from miles away. He’s the coolest, kindest person I know.
Growing up, how were his “lessons” in creativity imparted?
Naturally, I was always full force into the art land, but my dad really passed on the passion. I’ll never forget a few of my science projects. We basically built a hydro turbine generator together, turning on light bulbs with water bottles. Dioramas for history class—so many fun things we built together. Any art-related projects were always done well above and beyond [what was called for], and we always worked creatively together to figure things out. Creativity was “the way,” “the answer” for everything.
Sounds like your dad was immensely helpful in developing your creativity.
Yup: His big pearl of wisdom was influential creativity. It was always hands-on innovation growing up, like the root of all life.
Not to boil down your entire relationship to a catchphrase, but was there a specific lesson or piece of advice your dad gave you that you’ve found particularly valuable?
When I think back, it was the earliest of my years and memories that had the biggest impact—early development. I clearly remember my dad telling me around the age of 10, “Elise, you can be whatever you want. You want to run for president, run for president.” Words I never forgot and they’ve lived in me for years as an adult. He’s also a doer. Just “fix it,” he’d say, no matter how intractable the problem seems. His swift and decisive action used to strike me, a champion ditherer. I’ve come to realize that consulting your “heart-gut” leads to better decisions than exhaustive deliberation. If I’m stymied and things are unclear, I say this phrase, and the answer is there.
How does this advice resonate in your work today? What’s the lasting influence?
One of the great essences of art is expressing yourself, and it has been a gift to be able to do that. For me, it’s been the most natural process. Following your heart is key. It seems to shine clear through my personal work, and I’d say that’s something I’ll always carry with me.
Are you still close?
I recently moved to Los Angeles from Detroit, but I visit back home as much as possible. I have a trip coming up this summer, and plan on bringing my dad some fresh canvases so we can have a backyard painting party. He built us enormous matching wood easels that are super fun to work on. The creative projects never end.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length. In our Major Key editorial series, we talk with today’s most forward-thinking creators about their mentors, teachers, and inspirational figures who coached them towards greatness. #MyMajorKey is brought to you by Microsoft Surface.