What isn’t Elise Mesner? She’s made a name for herself as a model, stylist, painter, illustrator, fashion designer, creative director and photographer all with a clear aesthetic vision and an open third eye. Her current photographic portfolio is full of highly creative pastel pop art, curious yet cohesive, comedic yet fine. But what stands out the most is her personality, which packs as much punch as her portraits. Read on to find out more about how Elise (under the alias Lellopepper) breathes into her creative life.

Hello! First, how would you describe what you do to a stranger who was curious?
It’s like building a jumbo sand castle with only a tiny plastic pail and you fill the pail with that perfect mix of ocean water/sand ratio filling, flipping the molded sand from the pail endlessly until the castle feels right with perfect moats, carved hallways, and random beach grass plugged in. And you stand back and look, and others walk by to appreciate. The castle makes everyone happy. You come up with a name: “Feijoa Castle.” Even a little pup comes over and sniffs it out. BUT, it’s even more beautiful when the ocean tides in and knocks it all over. And you realize you made some joy from some drops of simple, and you made some honest smiles. That’s what I like to do.

What do you find is your primary creative impulse? What drives you to create?

The deep creative impulse is really the heartbeat. Suppose it’s like having a 3rd arm? Built with this “thing” I have to use, which is lovely. Creating is like breathing or that 3rd arm, or possibly 2nd heart? Thank you. Thank you for putting me together this way. Actually, I like the 2nd heart theory.

You’re from Detroit, a place with a pretty specific vibe. Now you live in LA, another iconic city. How have these two very different but very inspiring places aided in the work you do?

Lots of soul coming from these two cities. Each is anchored with distinctiveness and beauty. It’s comforting to believe that there’s an essential version to every place on the globe — great energies connect no matter where you’re from. I’m now under the influence of all this LA sunshine, pure joy for inventing/creating, but I feel that I’d be struck by the inspiration lightning even in the boondocks.

Tell us a bit about the evolution of your style. Has it been relatively consistent or changed over the years?
Pretty consistent with stamps of color and style but like a garden that is ever growing. I like to pull from different eras and moods. Color studies and compositions have always been the juicy roots to the styles that I love. As of late, it’s been all about the grain. Adding grains to photos. Obsessed, a little.

One of the things I love about your work is the subtle element of “wrongness”. You have all these bright colors and objects that denote happiness, yet something is always off. Could you speak to this? Is it an intentional choice?

Haha yes, and thank you. I like to bend the predictable. A little reshaping perhaps. Twist up the obvious. I’m pretty certain this is an innate quality.  

I’m also interested in the way you play with the organic (people, plants, foods) and the plastic, this sort of mannequin-like timelessness. Are you making any commentary on the nature of human relationships to time and age?

Interesting. You know, I am not too certain. I’ve heard similar references through the grapevine. I like to bend common relationships among subjects but I like this “time and age” thought. I might be too close to the art to define it in such a way. I love this question. You’re good. I’ll be thinking about this one…

Could you describe your process to us? How do you grow an idea into a full-blown photoshoot?

I like to work intuitively. How does this environment fit? How does it not fit?. And then the big OH I LOVE THIS brain burst and then the photo shoot explosion to follow. Always expressive. Always prepared to be amazed and finding possibility. Once the “L” word happens, it’s done. Snap snap.

In America, what you do (for a living) is so often synonymous with who you are. In this sense, do you consider yourself an artist through and through?

Absolutely. Right down to the core, to the tune, to the tickle house. I am that. That artist gal.

I really admire what seems like complete absence of self-consciousness in all of your work. Is this true? Have you mastered the quieting of your own personal fears?

Goodness, thank you so much. I have that good calm running through me and I stay so curious, always. Curiosity is a great kicker for fear.

What do you consider to be the most frustrating thing about creativity?

Creativity is relaxing for me and much like a healthy meditation rather than a struggle or a frustration. I suppose not having enough time to do all the things you love and want to create can be a bit crushing, but then I’m speaking of “time” and time can be a little pickle pie.

Consequently, what is your favorite thing?
YOU, and you and all of you. x x

Photos by Michael Delaney.

Shop Lellopepper:

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Director, Brand & Content