Currently based in Hasselt, Belgium, Pascal Janssen creates surreal and melancholic collages, inspired by people, nature, and music. In fact, his passion for music has always been a great motivator and inspiration for his work. This eventually lead him to designing album covers, thus bringing his work to new audiences and helping him connect to the music industry. Drawn to people and places, Pascal spends most of his time with friends from a variety of backgrounds and subcultures. When he finds himself alone, his creativity is given free reign, and he explores the “perception and subconscious of the human mind”, resulting in work that seems to exist somewhere between dreams and hallucinations.
Did you study art? How has that influenced your work? Do you feel like it is important for an artist to have an education in art?
I’m finishing my bachelor degree in visual arts at the moment. I’m not sure if it really influenced my work because I mostly went for my own direction anyway, I think it gave me some other perspectives on planning and approaching my own work though. I never really thought it was that important to have an education in art to be an artist but it kinda helps, you get in touch with a lot of creative people. You mostly learn who you are and what you really want to do in your life when you are in college. Those are the lessons I think are more important than most courses I have to study. You realize you want to do things you never thought you would do in the first place and you also realize that there are things you don’t want to do anymore. When I first attended college I was planning to be more of a painter and primarily do exhibitions, but I quickly grew tired of that art scene. Right now I’m more motivated to work in the music world and be a part of that.
Where do you feel your creative journey began?
I was always interested in being creative when I was younger, so I don’t really know how I discovered my interest in being creative. I think it kinda started when I was into comics and started making my own, but in high school I started going in the direction of the artist that I am now.
How did you begin designing album artwork?
I’m really into music and I’m always trying to discover new music and organizing it on my iTunes with the right information and album art. Which means I was busy with artwork of music without even realizing it. I’m really into all kinds of music, the list of genres of music is too long to mention but I mostly like indie rock, psychedelic rock, post-punk, garage rock, but also a lot of electronic genres like downtempo or even rave music. I’m also very interested in the subcultures that represent those genres and scenes in music.
I knew designing albums was something I wanted to do because I really wanted to find a place in the music world, but I don’t have any musical talent at all and that is how I found my place.
I started with approaching a lot of bands and slowly I started to work with a lot of interesting people and I made connections from all over the world in underground music scenes. Mostly in indie rock.
How does music stimulate your imagination and influence your work?
Music is the biggest inspiration of my work, most of my artwork is based on a song and its lyrics or the atmosphere of a genre in music. The translation of music to visual art happens quite spontaneously.
What does your day usually look like? Do you have a routine that drives your creative process?
I don’t have routines, my days are mostly very random depending on the various amount of people I hang out with. Because I listen to so many different genres of music I get in touch with a lot of subcultures, which is the reason I know a lot of different kinds of people with different lifestyles I love to have a taste of. I really love that dynamic part of my life. I can sometimes be at a bar listening to indie bands or I could end up at a techno club or at a illegal rave in some abandoned squat. So my days are mostly spending time with a lot of people, but I never plan my days, it’s mostly impulsive decisions depending on what mood I am in. However I can be very introverted at times, those are the moments I’m very creative. Those moments can be at 3am sometimes.
Do you create your portraits directly from people, or do you work from photographs? What do you prefer?
Like I said, I’m most creative when I’m alone so I only use photographs for my paintings. I really don’t like to show works in progress of my art either so that’s why I need solitude when I’m being creative.
Natural textures, plants, landscapes, and space are quite present in your work – how and why do you incorporate these elements into your work?
It’s mostly for aesthetic reasons, I have a huge fascination for nature. I’m interested in science explaining how nature works, but I also like the mystery about it. Not every “why” question about nature needs an answer. In my work I want to integrate that insignificant feeling, the wonder we have for nature. Also the connection we have with nature because we are part of it after all. I’m not a religious person, I see the universe as ‘god’ and because we are part of the universe it means that we are a little bit of ‘god’ as well. We create and destroy a lot just like nature does.
Portraits, nature, and psychedelia are come together very naturally in your work – how did you find your style in this combination of elements and themes?
I don’t know exactly why I’m into portrait and the human figure, but I like to place such figures in a psychedelic and melancholic atmosphere. Those psychedelic and melancholic aspects are based on the perception and subconscious of the human mind, things like psychosis, depersonalization, hallucinations, anxiety, apathy or existential crisis are things that intrigue me and which I like to subtly integrate into my work. Our subconscious always fascinated me because of how bizarre and random it can be and how things like drugs can have a influence on it and change its perception. I like to portray such different states of mind in my work.
How much of your work would you say is planned and executed, and how much arises from accidents or experiments along the way?
I’m very random, I’m definitely not a person who plans. I never write down my ideas or make studies. Mostly an idea gets slowly formed by my inputs, thats why I go out a lot with as many different people and at as many different locations. I’m always open for new activities and surroundings, it’s what feeds my creativity. I need new inputs or else I fall in a boring routine which makes me very dull. I also experiment a lot and try to use and/or combine different mediums. Because of that some of my work does evolve by coincidence. When I started to paint with oil I just couldn’t find my way into it, then I started using gesso instead of the normal white oil paint and my work became a lot better. I got bad comments about it at first because It’s quite unusual to use gesso that way ’cause it’s normally used to prepare a canvas. I also remember I was just ‘fucking’ around with an online photoshop program and discovered a glitch because I was using so many effects at once. I really liked the glitch because it had some psychedelic effect which I’ve used in some of my works.
What affect do your surroundings, and the city you reside in, have on your work?
At the moment it’s fading, I’m tired of Hasselt where I’m doing my bachelor degree. I’m planning to do a master degree somewhere else. I haven’t figured out where yet. My dream Is to go to London or LA some day. Like I said I need a lot of new input and the place where I am now doesn’t provide that anymore for me even though I had a very great time here.
What are you listening to right now?
At this moment I get influenced by a weird genre called witch house (like Crystal Castles), but also glitch hop (like Shlohmo). I also became a huge fan of Grimes. I get very intrigued by her style and music. I can’t place her in a genre though, but I think that’s a good thing.
What do you hope to express or communicate through your work?
My artwork doesn’t really have huge concept or messages, it also doesn’t need that and I’m not somebody who wants to be that pretentious. People give their own meaning to most things anyway. I’m hoping to just be a part of things that interest me like music and meet more new interesting people and see more new places that way.