Vivienne Strauss is the beautiful half of my favorite artist couple. Her art is so uniquely wonderful and has a modern folk artist quality to it. The titles of her paintings are like stories in themselves and they really ignite some wonderful flickr conversations. In her former life Vivienne sold vintage clothing and many of these outfits find themselves having a new beginning in her art. She and Matte Stephens live in Portland, Oregon in a home superbly decorated in midcentury modern furnishings with six adorable cats. They both love those guys and girls so much that it is no wonder that cats and dogs enter into almost all of Vivienne's paintings. I was so happy the day Vivienne opened her flickr account and was really flattered when she made me her second contact . Her first one was matte of course. They met at one of matte's art shows in 2002 and were married the following year. I love the way they comment on each others paintings publicly even though they are probably only a room or table's width apart and also how they paint each other. Oops, I mean paint pictures of each other. How adorable is that??
The first picture is one of matte's many paintings of Vivienne and the second is Viviene's painting of matte.
What inspires you in your creativity? I get a lot of inspiration from old movies, fashion illustrations, and photos. Sometimes it seems to come in from everywhere and it begins to feel like sensory overload when everything you see, you think "that could be a painting"! Often just hearing an interesting name gives me an idea for a new character to paint.
If you tried to trace back the series of events that lead to you making things and opening an etsy shop, where would it begin? I've painted on and off over the years and showed in a few galleries but it wasn't until this past spring that I really started doing it full time. Showing and sharing my art work on Flickr has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If you are producing work that no one will ever see, there doesn't seem to be much point to it. Etsy is a good place to try and sell your work because you have a world audience instead of just limiting your audience to one gallery in one city where the majority of that city's population may never come in.
How did you learn your crafting skills? I've just learned from looking at other works of art. The more you work, the better you get. It mainly comes from trial and error. I used to try and paint at an easel with canvas but I have really shaky hands and found it is much easier to paint on a smooth surface on the table so I can rest my arm.
Can you describe an environment: time, places and company (people or pets) where you feel most creative. I come up with most of my ideas at night for some reason but generally execute them during the day. I like to get up by 6:30 for my morning coffee and try to start painting by 8. Often the biggest challenge is sitting down and getting started. Usually once I get going, it is easy. I paint at the dining room table looking out into our back courtyard which is really nice. I like to be alone with music playing or an old movie that I've seen before so I can listen and not have to watch it constantly. I like being around my cats while I sketch but they are too disruptive to the painting process!
What do you have planned for 2009? To try and be more balanced! Not to get so caught up in work that I neglect exercise and eating right. I go through bouts where I think I'm saving time by skipping those important aspects of life only to end up grumpy and unable to concentrate. I also would like to develop more stories around the characters I paint instead of just really long titles.
What advice or encouragement would you offer another creative person contemplating taking a big step to open a shop or blog in 2009. Be sure to keep everything updated! Renew things on etsy every day or several times a day so you work gets seen. If you have a blog, be sure to post every day or almost every day. I highly recommend using Flickr too, not only can you store all your images there, you will get feedback on your work and it is seen by even more people. When you work at home alone all day, those comments can really help keep you motivated.
I would love to take a personal tour of that house one day and savour each and every little detail.
Tomorrow our interview will be from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean from one of my very favorite fiber artists and good friends. I am also going to post my first guess the nature inspiration contest of the new year. A double treat for the middle of the first week of January. I just hope Rane and her family are ready for this one.