Vanessa Le­men

Dis­cover what paint­ings in the child­hood home set this artist on her cre­ative path

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents - Vanessa Le­men

Where did you grow up and how has this in­flu­enced your art?

I grew up in a town called Fair Oaks in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia. We lived very close to the Amer­i­can River, and I spent so much of my time out­doors in the fields of oaks sur­round­ing the river. The con­nec­tion I got there was the same kind of con­nec­tion I get with my sur­round­ings and my sur­face when I’m paint­ing.

You’re a child, you see a paint­ing or draw­ing that changes every­thing… what are you look­ing at, and what ef­fect did it have?

My par­ents had an in­ter­est­ing col­lec­tion of art through­out our house when I was grow­ing up. The few that I re­mem­ber dis­tinctly were two very large wall-sized prints of Bruegel paint­ings The Peas­ant Dance and The Peas­ant Wed­ding, Toulouse-Lautrec’s Aris­tide Bru­ant dans son cabaret, Wil­liam Blake’s The An­cient of Days and small prints of Klimt’s The Tree of Life paint­ings. I’ve no doubt that th­ese, as a whole, left an im­pres­sion on me. Each piece had dif­fer­ent roles to play in my in­flu­ence, but as a whole, in­spired me to be drawn to many dif­fer­ent things, and glean from each thing to form who I am to­day.

What was your next step in art? Did other in­ter­ests vie for your at­ten­tion?

I’ve kind of al­ways had a good bal­ance of things I love in my life, and art has al­ways been at the top of that list. Art, fam­ily and good friends, mu­sic, out­doors/na­ture, healthy liv­ing, and the furry fam­ily mem­bers – all of those are im­por­tant to me.

What was your first paid com­mis­sion?

My first paid com­mis­sion was in high school do­ing large mu­rals for the lo­cal gro­cery store. Aside from be­ing painted in tra­di­tional me­dia, those were noth­ing like what I do now.

What’s the last piece that you fin­ished, and how do the two dif­fer?

My lat­est paint­ing that I’ve fin­ished is for a show at Krab Jab Stu­dio called Dream Cov­ers. The paint­ing is my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the book Let­ters to a Young Poet. The two are like night and day, in many ways.

Can you de­scribe the place where you usu­ally cre­ate your art?

I cre­ate my art in the depths of an in­fi­nite void. No mat­ter where I place my­self phys­i­cally, the art will al­ways come from that in­fi­nite space.

Is your art evolv­ing? What’s the most re­cent ex­per­i­ment you’ve made?

The work not only evolves from paint­ing to paint­ing, but from the start to fin­ish of each in­di­vid­ual paint­ing. I feel like this would al­ways be the case. At least, for me it is. As far as ex­per­i­ment­ing goes, it’s kind of how I roll most of the time, so that’s sort of al­ways a given when I paint or I’m cre­at­ing some­thing.

What char­ac­ter that you’ve painted do you most iden­tify with?

Each char­ac­ter that I paint is a char­ac­ter I can iden­tify with. It would be tough to say that I iden­tify with one more than an­other. They’re es­sen­tially a piece of me in some way, at dif­fer­ent times, from dif­fer­ent states of mind, pos­si­bly. They’re sub­con­sciously re­veal­ing them­selves to me, com­ing to me through a di­a­logue with the sur­face I’m paint­ing on. Each has its own place and sense of pur­pose, nei­ther be­ing more im­por­tant than an­other, re­ally.

What’s the most im­por­tant thing that you’ve taught some­one?

I have no idea. Who knows what each per­son takes home with them and stores away as some­thing im­por­tant to them? I just do the best that I can do, stay true to who I am in all as­pects of how I float through this wak­ing life, and if that makes some kind of pos­i­tive im­pact on some­one then – hey – that’s great. Hope­fully, those who do get some­thing can pay it for­ward. As a teacher, I’ve found that rec­i­proc­ity doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily present it­self back to me per­son­ally as a thing, but if it can go forth out into some place I might not have reached oth­er­wise, then that’s pretty great, too.

My char­ac­ters are a piece of me, at dif­fer­ent times, from dif­fer­ent states of mind

Vanessa lives and works in San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia, and en­joys spend­ing time with her artist hus­band and their furry kids. See her art at www.vanes­sale­me­nart.blogspot.co.uk.

Har­vest Whis­perer “I was in­spired by the au­tumn equinox, and painted the tex­tures with a cook­ing spat­ula.”

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