Emilie Desjarlais (aka “Brook & Peony”) is an artist, content creator and designer.
Her very successful Instagram account is filled with stunning scenes featuring her daughter Brook, which she captures in her dreamy, Nordic-inspired Saint-Lambert apartment. We asked her a few questions to help you discover the woman, the mother, but also the art lover behind the Instagram handle!
DeSerres: In a few words, what have been the highlights of your artistic career?
Emilie: I’ve always been drawn to painting and drawing. I didn’t grow up in an artistic environment, so it wasn’t until college (Visual Arts at the cégep du Vieux Montréal) that I found a place where I felt I belonged. To this day, I still consider my time there as the most beautiful and enriching years of my life, on both a personal and educational level. It was only a few years later that I turned to visual presentation and interior design. That’s when I realized that my greatest artistic strength was bringing different worlds to life. Finally, Brook & Peony was created after I gave birth to my daughter.
D: What purpose does art serve in your life?
E: Art has always been a part of me, but I didn’t always know how to express it when I was younger. I sometimes used it to externalize how I perceived the world, and it also helped me get through difficult times. It was especially uplifting during my pregnancy. I took an online course with one of my favourite artists, Lisa Congdon. The course came with her techniques and consisted of creating one drawing a day over a period of one month. It may seem trivial, but this very small course was therapeutic and kept me from hitting rock bottom during this difficult time.
D: What does creativity mean to you?
E: Everyone is somewhat naturally creative, except we all express it differently. As I got older, I realized that I needed to live in a creative environment to feel good. My home is a perfect example of that (as can be seen on my Instagram page). I believe that living in a creative space lifts everyone’s mood; creativity establishes a vibe in your home and is then reflected in all areas of life.
D: What does your creative process look like, do you recommend an atmosphere, a music genre, a time of day?
E: Haha :) My process is far from linear; I would say it’s rather messy. I’m the type of person who is only productive when under pressure, so I always do everything at the last minute, which makes my “working space” chaotic. A little less now because I have a child, but it’s always been very hard for me to find inspiration in advance. I’m really someone who creates in the moment. I think that’s what makes my work unique. Yes, I do get inspired from external sources and I look at websites like Pinterest, but when I create, I really try to stay in my own bubble and not be influenced by other people’s work.
As for painting, I haven’t created in a while because I am (was) more of a night owl. It’s as if inspiration hits me in the evening and this creative energy allows me to continue until the early hours of the morning. I also really need to be alone so that I can concentrate, which is a little harder to achieve now that I have my daughter.
D: Is it important for you to include art in your and your daughter’s life?
E: As mentioned above, it was difficult for me to grow up in an environment where art was almost non-existent. I guess that’s why it’s all the more important for me to include art in Brook’s life. Now, the biggest challenge is to make time for creating and to accompany her in her artistic development. For children, art is a means of expression and it boosts their self-esteem. That’s why I value art in my daughter’s life. Pencils and paint are always available in my home. I want to preserve this feeling of freedom that art provides.
D: How has your daughter influenced your creative process?
E: Actually, she inspired Brook & Peony’s direction. I initially wanted to create a “Brook & Peony” Etsy store to sell my creations. Turns out my daughter isn’t a very big sleeper, and as a single mother, it became difficult to find time and energy to create. I gradually began sharing photos of her sleeping (a bit ironic) and over time she became my muse. My Instagram account soon began to grow and I had less time for painting, drawing and linocutting. So, my creative energy was redirected towards creating and designing my content, both of which come naturally to me. My daughter is an integral part of this content: her joie de vivre, her humour and her strong personality are reflected on my account. I managed to build a brand image around our daily lives, one that is playful, artistic and light-hearted, of course.