Curiously nostalgic illustration by Llew Mejia
A travelling man, fuelled by candy and a fondness for flora & fauna, Llew Mejia creates curiously nostalgic, nature influenced illustrations.
Llew leads a double life in the creative sector, working as a textile designer by day and a freelance illustrator by night. His drawings are magical concoctions of spindly-legged creatures, gently clashing colours and precise portions of texture described by systematic mark making. He arranges emblems of nature in symmetrical designs that could be pictures from some ancient book of spells.
We caught up with Llew for a chat about his interest in all things occult and his early career aspirations.
So we read that you originally studied to be a plastic surgeon – that’s quite a career change. How and why did you make the jump to illustration & design? Do you see any parallels between what you’re doing now and cosmetic surgery?
Haha! Ohhhh man this question comes up all of the time actually. I usually just go with I hated the types of people who were studying that at my school. I became slightly reclusive and made an art portfolio and applied to an art school. I didn’t really think I would get in and I didn’t start drawing until I was in high school but even then it was just doodles. I remember I used to do graffiti here and there so that kind of started a drawing habit and that flowed into illustration. I suppose also plastic surgery is an art form in itself, although the idea of that much school just made me angry when I already believed I could do it in less time.
How do your travels influence your art? What’s the best place you’ve visited so far and why?
I live in San Francisco at the moment. I really love it here and would go as far as to say it is one of the better cities in the world. That being said my other most favourite city is Melbourne in Australia and I also like Barcelona a lot, as well as Antwerp. I think I like all of those cities because they’re near water or have water around them somewhere and also seem to have their own personalities without being abrasive like New York or some other East Coast cities in the US. I think the places and things you see subconsciously affect any work you produce as a creative; it just all becomes part of a visual library you can regurgitate at any moment.
I think the places and things you see subconsciously affect any work you produce as a creative; it just all becomes part of a visual library you can regurgitate at any moment.
Tell us a little about the process you use to create your work. How do you get from a creative brief to the final design? And what tools do you use?
Boring answer… I basically sketch doodles on post its. I scan them in and then finish the design on the computer. The composition usually comes from a little post it doodle though.
Explain your interest in taxidermy, the occult and flora & fauna…
I don’t know actually, I have always liked all of those things. Maybe it was a previous life interest or something…. I would say taxidermy and nature coincide. The occult has a lot to do with human nature and ritual so I think the common subject is nature. I am constantly impressed with nature and it keeps me on my toes as far as new discoveries and things like that go, which I also find interesting.
Be nice to people. Work really hard, sometimes you need to sacrifice your personal life in order to get what you want.
As a textile designer by day you are designing for the mass market, does this require a different approach from you compared to your work as a freelance illustrator?
I think you are trying to reach masses regardless. But yes I would say I change my aesthetic according to the market I need to please. Unfortunately mass market subject matter can tend to be a bit dull. So it is nice to spice it up with freelance work outside of my 9-5 day job. Although, I like both respectively.
Can you remember the first time you saw a stranger wearing a pattern you’ve designed?
I remember it was something I had designed on a swim trunk for Target and it was actually inside of my apartment complex conveniently! I think that a great part of product design is seeing designs walking about in the real world. It always feels like a nice pat on the back, like oh yeah someone bought that maybe because it has some really sick sharks on it, and I made those sharks, that feels good you know?
Describe your studio.
It’s pretty typical. A white desk, with random things on top of it and hundreds of books next to it. I have a giant window next to it but its frosted glass so I actually can’t see out which I don’t mind.
Name your favourite artists and makers. Whose work is hanging on your walls?
I actually only have two things hanging in my house. One is an Afghan war rug and the other is a poster with a tabby cat holding a computer mouse in its mouth and underneath it says “Cat and Mouse” in some serif font. It’s funny.
What are your top tips for people just starting out as creative freelancers?
I would say stay on the internet and promote through whatever platform or app that you can because you never know who is looking where. Be nice to people as well. Try not to be an ass. Work really hard, sometimes you need to sacrifice your personal life in order to get what you want.
Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about? I like the sound of your rug designs…
Yeah, rugs perhaps. Also some big album covers I can’t talk about. That’s all I can say for now!
And finally, what’s your all time favourite candy? Are you eating candy right now?
Ha, I actually just ate a Hi Chew! Uh I love fruity candies all sorts. I actually don’t like chocolate which people continuously freak out about when I tell them. I think Laffy Taffy is my all time fave though, specifically banana flavour.