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In conversation:Poiandkeely

by Isabel Williams

Keely Majewski's bold creations are breaking the boundaries of digital art.

Chances are, even if you don’t know Keely Majewski by her Instagram handle @poiandkeely, you’ve likely seen her art somewhere before. Keely has previously designed merch and album covers for the likes of Rosalia, Ice Spice and Melanie Martinez. The feminine figures depicted in her 3D digital illustrations look a little like nymphs, a little like bratz dolls and a little like something you’ve never seen before. With their bright, bold colours; chunky heels; skimpy bikinis and lashings of thick eyeliner, their domineering forms seem to push out against the very screen they are enclosed behind.

Keely was surrounded by art as a child before she ever started to develop a signature style of her own. “My mom was very into hair design and hair shows and fashion design,” she says, “and she also did some fashion illustration, and my dad was a charcoal artist and mainly did portraits and oil painting and stuff.”

Although Keely’s creations form the basis of her career, she doesn’t think of this as “work” in the traditional sense. “I’ve always been involved with art in one way or another, since I was a kid. I’ve always been drawn to it and encouraged to explore that, which I’m really thankful for, so it’s kind of been like a second nature to me. It’s been my comfort; it’s always there for me to express myself.”

I feel slightly guilty when asking Keely the question which all creatives loathe most: where do you get your inspiration? As ever, the answer is more or less the same: “Literally anything,” she says. “Anything that I’m watching, even if it’s a commercial. I see colours I like together; how could I turn that into a character?” When it comes to specific stylistic influences though, there are a few sources she is able cite: “Rick Owens and Vivienne Westwood, I’ve always loved their stuff for a very long time. Alexander Mcqueen I love. Also, very early 90s fashion and very video-game inspired old graphics and stuff.”

Although the artist’s work tends to feature exaggerated feminine forms and portraits more prominently than fashion, these influences are reflected in the overall style of her work, and more explicit homages crop up at intervals, with platform heels and bondage-wear seemingly referencing the many collections of Westwood and McQueen. With their alien features and plastic-wet sheen, it’s easy to see how the semi-humanoid figures of video games could have influenced her character designs, and the addition of grungey, alternative aesthetics merges new-age futurism with the styles of generations gone past. Keely also mentions being highly inspired by the work of her good friend Jason Ebeyer, as well as music related artworks. “So, people like Dorian Electra; Beth Ditto from Gossip, the band. Yeah, the list could go on forever.”

Although Keely’s 3D renderings have remained central to her style for years, the artist is constantly attempting to develop on this and stretch her technical ability. She even went as far as to create an exclusive cover piece for tmrw, solely as an accompaniment to this article. “I definitely feel like [my style] has changed a lot,” she says. “I always try to experiment or see what I could do differently, even if it’s really subtle.” I ask if she feels pressure as an artist who operates through social media to be constantly posting new things.

“There have definitely been moments like that and I really tried to make an active effort not to see it like that. I also deal with a lot of health issues and stuff, so some days I feel… not good, and I definitely don’t want to make something. That’s definitely when I feel the struggle the most, I guess, with social media. So I definitely have to check myself and prioritise myself and how I feel.”

Keely’s previous collaborations with music artists demonstrate the versatility of her signature style. The cover art for Ice Spice’s album ‘Like..?’ is sassy and moody, whilst the merch designs created for Melanie Martinez’s ‘Portals’ tour have a fairy-fantasy seductive quality to them. She tells me that she feels very lucky to have worked with such a range of different clients and for the creative freedom they have allowed her. “They’ve all given me a lot of space to be able to create. It’s super comfortable to be able to work with people that are willing to share that space with me,” adding that, “To be able to push the limits of what they’re asking for is really fun and, I feel, a very collaborative process.”

This notion of pushing limits seems to be a running theme throughout Keely’s creative approach: extra pouty lips, huge lashes, stretched limbs and curvaceous figures appear regularly in her work, transcending the boundaries of the typical human form. “I really love that,” she comments, “messing with perspective and just a lot of exaggeration, and a lot of that comes from fashion influences too, that I’ve always loved. [I like] really making a statement with a character.”

She describes the word “confident” as a defining term when it comes to her characters, emphasising just how important she considers it for her art to remain diverse in its representation. “I just believe that art is for everybody and everybody deserves to see themselves represented, and I just want people to realise, like, ‘I deserve to be represented in a creative [way] and with lots of expression’, even if it’s not in my art. I feel like that is something that people deserve and shouldn’t have to ask for. I feel it should be common sense.”

Besides the importance she places on diverse representation in art, Keely is also keen to draw attention to the mental health of artists and how it operates behind the scenes. Despite her success as an independent artist, she tells me that she still finds it hard at times to avoid comparing herself to other people.

“You have to really find the balance and that is so much easier said than done. But just finding the balance of being able to focus on what you’re doing and finding happiness in that, I feel that should always be the number one thing and definitely really helps you get past the scrutiny from outside people,” she says. “I feel like there’s always the stereotype of the artist hating their art and everything, and it can definitely feel like that sometimes, but overall I do find a lot of happiness in what I create and it’s very important to me.” Having joined the cult mass of followers that have fallen in love with Keely’s striking creations, we’re excited to see what she does next.

Artist
Keely Majewski
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