Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
We have arrived at day three of our interview series and I’m thrilled to introduce you to Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd. I met Vanessa several months ago when she took my online class, Freeing the Muse. Her passion for art and the courage she has to express herself, explore her feelings, and allow her art to open her up is inspiring. I hope you enjoy our chat as much as I did, and allow that spark of inspiration to lead you directly to your art table.
If you are looking for the other interviews, you can find them here:
AMY: What are your earliest memories of art making and creating as a child? What’s the first time you remember feeling inspired?
VANESSA: There is a photo of me in first grade. I am painting at an easel, wearing an apron and someone called my name so I’ve just turned my head toward them. My lower lip is half in my mouth. That is my concentrated face! I could always be found with crayons and paper when I was a kid. I remember finger painting bringing me so much joy, touching the slightly cold paint with the palms of my hands and loving getting dirty and feeling like this was such a treat!
AMY: What were the messages that you got as a child about art?
VANESSA: I was always told that art is important and necessary. My mother always said, “If you feel connected to a piece of art, buy it because it means something.” I was an introverted child so my parents figured this was a good way to let me express myself. So art as self-expression was always encouraged for me.
AMY: What are your favorite ways to express yourself creatively? What kind of art do you make?
VANESSA: I work in an art journal. This is super important to me because I feel a book is the best place to express yourself without self-censorship. Because you decide if you want to share a spread or not, you can be super honest about how you feel, even if those emotions are super self-indulgent. I love to use paint, collage and water soluble pencils in my art. The art I make is directly related to self-expression.
AMY: If you’ve ever gone through a period of feeling blocked or that you don’t have “permission” to make art, how did you find the courage to create again?
VANESSA: I have never felt blocked in this way, but I have felt frustrated, because of lack of time. When my children were babies, it was very difficult to find time for myself and that was a very difficult period for me. I found my way back slowly but surely. But I dived completely into art journaling when my family was posted in Hong Kong and I had to give up my job as an archaeologist. Art journaling saved my life because I had so much trouble adjusting to this new role.
My art journal is the recipient of all my feelings. - Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd #doitfortheprocess Click To Tweet
AMY: What role does art play in your life? How is art self-care for you? Does it help you express, cope or understand your world? Can you explain your process and how you use it?
VANESSA: My art journal is the recipient of all my feelings. In this sense, it is self-care. I pour my feelings unto paper so that they do not fester in myself. In turning something ugly like anger or frustration into something visually strong and powerful, I am freeing myself from the hold these feelings have over me. My process is all about the process! Often, when my page is done, I don’t feel attached to it especially if it has expressed what I needed it to. I can’t really make a spread that I don’t feel concerned about, like you will never see an art journal spread with just a quote from me, that isn’t how I art journal.
Vanessa is a student in Freeing the Muse, an art journaling class that focuses on using simple and fun art prompts to help you quiet your inner critic, and inspire your inner muse. It’s a great class for perfectionists who need to let go at the end of the day, artists who need to bust out of a rut and into inspired, soulful art. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, in other words. You can learn more here.
AMY: Are there ever art pieces that scare you? Pieces that you don’t want to complete because they feel too dark, weird, stupid, or “not you?”
VANESSA: There are no art pieces that scare me. Some scare others though, especially if they know it is about them. Because my art is my refuge, nothing is off limits or too dark/weird for me. It has happened once or twice than I felt that a spread wasn’t me. In those cases, the pages were not expressing what I needed them to.
AMY: What inspires your art? Who are some of the artists/places/situations that inspire you?
VANESSA: My daily life is what inspires my art. Being around other artists and taking workshops inspire me immensely. Traveling is also a source of inspiration for me. My all-time favorite artist is Jean-Michel Basquiat, but I admire a whole range of artists some of whom I have had the chance to meet and work with. Orly Avineri, Erin Faith Allen and Misty Mawn are some of these artists that inspire me.
AMY: Do you have artist friends? Why is being in the Mindful Art Studio community important for you?
VANESSA: I do have artist friends but they are not in my daily life. The friends I have grown up with are not artistic. So the arrival of online communities has been incredible for me; it is amazing to have an online tribe. The artists in these forums are very important to me and I love our exchanges. My art tribe is linked to some of the art groups I belong to or workshops I have taken. It is essential to me to have a place – even a virtual one – to ask questions and to interact with like-minded people.
AMY: Is there anything else you’d like to add or that you feel is important to this conversation?
VANESSA: I would say that the best gift you can give yourself is to quiet the inner critic and create for creating’s sake. Give yourself permission to fail, to make ugly pages, to purposely be off the mark. Why? because these are for you. They will help you loosen up and not care so much about perfection. It’s overrated anyway!