Megan Katz and Juan Felipe Portillo are two multimedia artists living and working in Toronto. They go by the name “Journey into Dreamland” as a long collaborative project that focuses mostly on surreal and abstract oil pastel drawings made using the subconscious method of automatism.
They have shown their work all over Toronto including a solo show in 2018 at Arta Gallery in the Distillery District where they invited viewers into their eclectic, world of mish-mashed dreamscapes with a focus on social justice and the imagination as a place of freedom. Textured, expressive marks describe the way the pigment is applied to the paper, while the two work on the same piece simultaneously.
Both artists work individually as well but found that by working together and by including other artists it inspires a space of healing, connection, and a loss of perfectionism which can follow some of us when we work individually. Portillo and Katz bounce off each other’s ideas until they are both satisfied by the piece. To view our work, follow us on social media @journeyintodreamland on Instagram and Facebook.
Hello Megan and Juan, thanks for doing this, this is the first time I interview two artists collaborating! Tell me more about your “Journey into Dreamland” collaboration? How did it all start?
Journey into Dreamland: Hi! Thanks for having us. It all started when we met in 2017. We were both working as artists, Megan as a visual artist focusing on drawing and painting, and Juan as a musician. At that time, Juan was more focused on music but loved to draw and paint as a hobby. One day we decided to bring our painting styles together in a single work to see how it would combine. We ended up creating a super cohesive watercolor painting. To our surprise, it looked like it was created by one artist, and loved the experience.
What’s the difference between working individually and collaborating on an artwork?
Journey into Dreamland: For us, when we collaborate on a piece, we lose our egos in a way, which is a good thing. Think of it this way, if you create an artwork that you then sell to someone, you can’t ensure that something won’t happen to it, that it won’t be destroyed or ruined. To lose the sense of “ownership” over something so special to you, like a painting, right from the start, is a great practice of letting go, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Now, imagine that happening in every moment of the arts creation- when you collaborate, you have no way of knowing whether something you’ve drawn will turn into something else, or even disappear. That’s the main difference between working individually and as a collaboration, you lose control over the end product… which is amazing and has taught so much about ourselves and each other.
What motivates you as an artists? Is it curiosity, the search for beauty, or meaning?
Journey into Dreamland: We are definitely motivated by the search for beauty and meaning. For us, art gives us the ability to create our own reality. It also gives us a chance to therapy ourselves and talk to the subconscious. Because we use automatism as our main method of art-making, the motivation to make often lies in its therapeutic effects. Life doesn’t just work and die and pay rent, it’s to create, and to live in these moments of freedom.
What is the process from start to final artwork, do you envision it from the beginning or is it a different process? How do you communicate the steps?
Journey into Dreamland: We rarely talk about the artwork as work. We just bounce off each other’s ideas on the page. Sometimes we have random conversations as we draw, but we never talk about things like composition or what we want the piece to look like. If one of us has a grand idea for a composition, we just go for it. We have attached a video below of us creating artwork on the spot for you to get a better idea. We flip and turn the page as we work, we like the idea of a work being multidimensional or having a circular motion on a square or rectangular page.
What is your most recent piece of art that you have enjoyed working together on the most, and why?
Journey into Dreamland: Our most recent work, “Cosmopolitan – 13th Century” was really fun to make. We came at it with a different approach. I (Megan) had to watch a lecture for school about the Silk Road and found it interesting, so I asked Juan to come and listen with me. He brought with him a sketchbook to draw on as we watched. He ended up drawing this beautiful scene depicting a horse with a rider and a huge eagle in a mountainous landscape. We then photographed it and colored it together digitally on Juan’s phone. It turned out so good that we decided to make 20 limited edition giclee prints.
Is there a message you are trying to send with each artwork?
Journey into Dreamland: In our work, we are always hoping that the viewer will have their own unique experience or something to take away. The subconscious always has something to say- in everyone. We’ve had people view our artwork and tell us that it reminds them of a dream that they had, and then they tell us the dream, and all of a sudden there’s all these new connections attached to the artwork. For us, collaboration, the way we make the art, is the message. When you work together, you create something stronger. When we understand ourselves and each other better, we create a safer space to live in. Our work talks about social justice, the importance of working together, dreams, meditation, memory, demons, desires, fears, nightmares, freedom, and love.
What challenges have you faced in your creative work?
Journey into Dreamland: Time. Money “Capitalism”. We aren’t often “paid” for our work. That doesn’t cause us to falter, because we understand its importance to our livelihood and the importance of art in this world. We would love the opportunity to sell more art, but selling it is a whole other skill that we are still developing. It’s one thing to love and excel at what you do, but it’s another to know how to market yourself and your work as a consumer product.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Journey into Dreamland: We were super inspired by the reaction of many senior citizens who viewed our work in our solo show, Journey into Dreamland at Arta Gallery. One lady in particular said that our art gave her energy. We loved that response; it gave us the energy to gallery sit for the rest of the day.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Journey into Dreamland: We use social media to reach people. We find that it’s the most practical and effective method, although, I would love for things to go back to normal and have people come out to see art in real life. There’s something massive that a screen takes away from a real piece of art. The texture is lost, the scale is gone, and with that, the work is totally different. If you’d like to see how Instagram captures our work, you can find us at @journeyintodreamland or on our new website, www.journeyintodreamland.com
Where do you see your art 5 years from now?
Journey into Dreamland: In museums. That might sound ambitious, but yeah. We also see a cartoon series produced entirely by the two of us. You can watch the “pilot” here.