Vanessa Prager, Artist
Vanessa Prager Interview
Vanessa Prager is an incredible artist whose fanciful paintings are filled with the perfect blend of color and feeling. Vanessa’s ballpoint pen illustrations look to be similar to her paintings, but upon further inspection are surprisingly different. They are often crafted using two colors, which blend to make thousands of different shades, and her work features snapshots from Vanessa’s past and present. Like her paintings, her illustrations offer a sense of dreaminess, but you get the sense the image is fleeting, and that it changes with every pass. Each person has a different interpretation of her pieces, making her work even that more intriguing.
Vanessa lives in Silver Lake, California, and she has a dog named Jake.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
It changed often. I don’t remember one thing more than another. I wanted it to be fun, never boring, involve traveling, and making an impact
What do you LOVE?
I love making art, it’s where I feel most comfortable, and being able to interact with people in that way. Not so much these days, but when I was a bit younger I was much removed from the world. I felt distant, didn’t fit in, misunderstood, etc. The usual, but it felt very individuating. When I started making things and showing them to people, the way it allowed me to reach others was very interesting to me. Everyone has to find their way to be themselves and comfortable with that, this helped me greatly find my way.
Who are some of your influences?
I try to not pull too heavy on influences. Obviously I’m influenced by people, but it varies and I try to be more drawn by mood or feeling than any specific visual reference. I want to be original. But I am very impressed with the great masters. Who isn’t?
How would you describe your artwork to a blind person?
Colorful, possibly ethereal
What is your process like?
Well there is no hard and set way. That’s one rule! But generally I like to have music, coffee or tea and tons of water and food on hand is really nice. With all that I can be set up for a good run of work. I’ve learned not to force myself to be creative, but also to have self discipline. There is a very fine line that I think any working artist has to find in there. Because being an artist isn’t all airy-fairy and peaches and cream like one might imagine it to be. But, at the same time you can’t force something as light as an idea and the resulting art to come out.
I generally work in waves. When I have a big show coming up I put the pedal to the metal and just pour it out. I find that good or bad I work through it when I have that deadline. And then after I finish a big show I relax, play loads of tennis, go hiking, cook a bunch, work on myself, etc. This rejuvenates me, and in that my mind naturally gets to work. I get tons of ideas, get the itch to work and soon enough I’ve set some crazy new deadline and project that has to be done and I’m right back at it trying to do it all bigger and better than I did the time before. It’s cyclical and it all counts.
I don’t have a great way of outlining, I will have a general concept of what I want to make, and then once I get in there everything changes and it comes out very different but that’s part of it. I can’t be too rigid, but there is somehow structure to the whole process.
What is something you had to learn the hard way?
When you have goals and ideas and expectations, it’s easy to beat yourself up being not there yet. I had to learn the hard way what my process was and to trust myself in how I was getting there.
What is one thing most people would be surprised to learn about you?
Sadly that I’m really not that literate in art. I absolutely love art but don’t have a deep knowledge of it. I didn’t go to college and though I’ve studied art history, I didn’t retain the vast amount that my peers and a lot of the people I surround myself with have. I always just get too excited and want to go make something!
What is your favorite tool?
Professionally speaking, if you had to pick another career – you couldn’t be an artist anymore, what would you want to do?
Ugh, nightmare! Does writing count as being an artist? If so… I’d be a chef. I’ve heard it’s high strung and all, but I just love to cook. It’s so therapeutic and delicious.
How do you define success?
Doing the thing that one wants to do and is on the path to getting them what they want. I think success includes failure, per se. But success is a longer term look at things. As long as one’s on the road to where they want to be and are persistent, they will arrive. So that’s success.
That may seem like a weird answer but some people don’t even bother getting on the road, out of fear or confusion or otherwise.
How do you think we can make the world a better place?
More art! Art is the gentlest way of enlightening people. It allows them to be lifted just one notch or so to find what is true and right for them. I think if there were just much, much more of it things would start naturally straightening out. Because people are quite smart and they can really get together and handle all these messes when they feel like it. Stop fighting each other and putting their means to real issues.
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