“I always have to remind myself that ‘different’ isn’t bad.”
“As I paint, I generate my own catharsis by releasing my repressed emotions into my art. Letting go has always been something I’ve struggled with; this piece represents a time in my life when I learned to relax my grip and release the negative energy within me. Letting go allowed me to take my hands off situations I was no longer responsible for.”
I interviewed painter Vanesa Reeves, and we discussed her experiences with art.
When did you start painting?
I started painting regularly when I was 13, in 8th grade.
Is there anything that started you off?
I used it like a coping mechanism; I find it therapeutic.
For this particular piece, was there anything that inspired it?
I wanted to experiment with watercolor. I haven’t used it much. I used this technique with salt and was happy with the results.
What is the salt technique?
When the paint is wet, you sprinkle the salt on it and leave it there until the paint dries, then you brush it off to give it that speckled look; each crystal of salt chases away the pigment to make a lighter area beneath it. In my painting it looks like stars, which gives it texture.
Would you say you’ve been an artist your entire life?
I don’t like calling myself an artist; I’d rather refer to myself as a painter, although I’ve drawn most of my life.
Why do you say that?
As an artist, people often expect different things from you, as was said in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye.
Vanesa was a total dear and went to find her copy of the book to quote it directly for me.
“The word ‘artist,’ embarrasses me. I prefer the term ‘painter,’ because it’s more like a valid job. An artist is a… lazy sort of thing to be… as most people in this country will tell you.” (Atwood 15).
Sometimes, people think “artist,” sounds more pretentious, and “painter,” is more like an occupation, so I prefer that.
Would you say you’ve personally encountered people who have reacted negatively towards the term “artist,” or towards you?
There have been people who doubt whether you can actually make a career out of it they know people have been successful in the past, but they don’t think you’ll become one of those people.
So, what else have you done with art recently?
I’m a fine arts major and I recently joined an art collective, “Kaleidoscope Eyes.” I haven’t had much time for art though, between work and school.
What makes your art valuable in your own eyes?
I put a piece of me into everything I paint especially emotionally. Everything is a piece of me in some way. If someone were to throw out one of my paintings, my emotional reaction would be so intense and negative that I would probably physically feel pain in my chest; like, do something more with it than throw it away!
Is there any particular medium you prefer?
I’ve tried many. I started with acrylic paint, then I branched out to ink, watercolor, and oil. I’ve done decent pieces with those mediums, but at the end of the day, acrylic is what I’m most confident using.
What environment do you feel most comfortable painting in?
Some people seem comfortable being in a classroom, working with a lot of other people. Personally, I prefer working in my own little world, without other people around me. Their energies affect me, therefore making it harder to reach the place within myself where my most genuine art comes from.
What artist inspires you?
Vanesa’s response was immediate.
Vincent van Gogh got me interested in painting in the first place. Georgia O’Keeffe and Alphonse Mucha both encourage me to pursue and define my own style. I always have to remind myself that “different,” isn’t bad.
At the end of our interview, Vanesa offered a bit of advice to aspiring painters and artists alike.
“It takes practice, like anything else. Like learning how to play an instrument or how to drive. Some people may have natural ability, but without practice you can only go so far. A lot of it really is your attitude. If you keep telling yourself that you can’t do something, you never will.”
Check out Vanesa’s pieces in the art collective, Kaleidoscope Eyes.