I am a strong believer in sourcing inspiration from outside of your field and have always been fascinated by artists that create magic with their hands. Jessie Kanelos Weiner is one of those amazing makers and shakers, whose vibrant and engaging work I highly admire. Jessie is an American illustrator, food stylist and author based in Paris. She is also known as The Franco Fly over on her blog, where she illustrates her experiences as as an American in Paris.
Discover Jessie’s wonderful studio and insights into life in Paris below.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to Paris.
I’m a Chicagoan, born and raised. After graduating from university, I Googled ‘au pair Paris’. Two weeks later I was on my merry way, armed with French for Dummies and a lot of youthful courage. That was nine years ago today.
What has been the most surprising thing about expat life?
Although the language comes with time, the discomfort of being a foreigner never really goes away. I can’t buy a baguette without getting grilled about where I come from. Although I’ve fully adapted to French life, being a foreigner makes you an automatic (unpaid) diplomat for your home country, too. Nonetheless, I’ve had a lot of ‘splaining to do the past few months.
When did you start experimenting with illustration?
I’ve always been obsessed with making things. In grade school, I started a clique where we made paper babies (with real fabric clothing, natch) and paper 1990s computers. I studied studio art and costume design in university where I started experimenting with watercolor in my costume renderings. Drawing was always one of the rare things I could completely lose myself in.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I’m a self – taught watercolorist so my style has derived from my observations with how I can control watercolor. Overall, it’s vivid, playful and observational.
What does a ‘typical’ day in the studio look like?
I’m a bit of a workhorse and I like to respect a work day. I am usually in my studio from 9am – 8pm. In general, I work on 3 – 5 projects at a time. So I am drawing a lot, sending off sketches and waiting for responses. Sometimes I have appointments or a rare lunch date, but I like to stick to my routine.
Your love of food and seasonal ingredients is evident throughout your vivid illustrations, books and styling work. How has it evolved and influenced your work over time?
I started food styling 5 years ago, around the time I launched as a professional illustrator. I’ve always been obsessed with food so it’s no coincidence that one thing inspired the other. I’m a big market groupie too so it’s been a big influence on how and what I cook.
Where else do you find inspiration?
Photography, nature and podcasts.
“I’ve always been obsessed with making things.”
Your protest signs and #techfood series are really engaging and wonderfully convey the current cultural climate. Has current culture and politics always had an impact on your work?
Trump’s election was a creative catalyst where something in my mind just clicked and I found the urgency to create more political work.
Do you have a dream creative project?
I’m lucky enough to be working and living as a professional artist. So I just hope to continue keeping that up and evolving my technique and platforms. I would love to start working on a larger scale and exposing my work in galleries.
What are you looking forward to working on?
I just turned in my next book with Rizzoli New York; a densely illustrated walking guide to Paris expected to drop in April 2018. More to come!
Is there a tip or piece of advice that you wish you were given when you were first starting out?
Be patient, work everyday, surround yourself with other creative people and be kind to yourself.
Jessie’s Paris Favourites…
Marché Vincennes, my local one. I’m a groupie.
Coffee / Tea place
Miznon. Not French, but who cares because it’s so good.
View of the city
From the gazebo at the Buttes Chaumont.
Not all vendors at the Paris greenmarkets are farmers/producers. Look out for long lines, little old ladies patiently waiting and a sign that says ‘Maraîcher producteur’. The result is usually worth it.
Way to spend a Sunday
Sleep in, take a walk in the Bois de Vincennes, eat at a Japanese place on Rue Saint – Anne, see an expo and go to the movies.
“Be patient, work everyday, surround yourself with other creative people and be kind to yourself.”
You can find out more about Jessie Kanelos Weiner and her latest book Edible Paradise: A Coloring Book of Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables here.