So excited to share the work of Montreal-based artist Vickie Vainionpaa, who graduated with a BFA in 2015 and is currently in the process of looking into Masters programs. I was instantly drawn to her bright palette and the way she combines geometric and digitally-inspired forms with natural, soft ones like clouds and or the movement of liquid.
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What first interested you in painting?
As a kid, I was always doing arts and crafts; drawing, painting, collaging etc. I think painting was just the most fundamental and intuitive way to express myself. My mom also kept a book of watercolour paintings that I thought were the most beautiful things I'd ever seen!
I find the juxtaposition of soft, natural forms (like clouds) and the hard-edged geometric shapes and lines compelling. When or how did you start exploring the painting style you've developed in the last couple of years?
The series 'Illusions and Insights' is my first fully realized body of work. I started working on the first iterations during the summer of my second year of my Bachelor's degree. I was a little fed up with class work (all the boring 'Painting/drawing 101' classes) and took full advantage of the summer to create what I wanted. The series was sparked by an interest in the duality between nature and man, and by consequence, our relationship with science and spirituality. The very first paintings were more abstract acrylic washes with hard edged geometry overlaid in charcoal. These rudimentary 'Structure and sky' pieces eventually evolved into more detailed oil painted clouds and perspective based linework as my ideas and techniques matured.
You work primarily in oil on canvas; what do you like most about that medium?
I love oil paint because of its flexibility! It can be rigid and hard edged, or soft and atmospheric. The quality of the pigment is also unmatchable, there's something about oil colours that jump out at you from the canvas. After moving from acrylic to oil, I now find that acrylics are just too stiff and unnatural - I don't like the fake plasticized feel to them.
What is your process like? Your work is influenced by digital processes; how much does that come into play with the making of each painting?
I move back and forth between the computer and the real painting a lot. Even back when I was making the Illusion and Insights series I would test things out on the computer before painting the real thing. At first I was kind of ashamed of this fact, I thought to be a "real" artist you had to create everything in your head, and using a projector or computer was cheating... Now I think the exact opposite. I am hugely inspired by digital technology and I believe that the computer is just another tool in my 21st century painter's toolbox.
In my current works I will usually start with an idea/form/composition I have in my head and try to create a version of it using software such as Cinema 4D and Photoshop. Once I play around and find a compelling or unique image, I will start recreating it in oil on canvas. The conversation between the real painting and the digital painting continues back and forth until I feel the work is complete. This can take days, weeks or months depending on the piece. I keep an external hard drive full of digital abstractions that could be used for future paintings if they don't seem to fit with the one I am working on. It's an ongoing process of creation, trial and error until something clicks!
What is your studio like?
I recently left my shared studio in downtown Montreal to move to a live/work loft. It's the first time I've worked from home and I love it. I now have double the space to work and don't have to worry about transporting things to/from another location. I am extremely organized so my studio is always very tidy.
You just earned a BFA in 2015; how has the experience pursuing art been outside of the university setting?
I've only been out of school for a year and it's definitely been more of a learning experience outside of the university bubble! There are certain things that your professors can't prepare you for in terms of professional practice, you just have to dive in and learn them for yourself. For instance, keeping an up-to-date organized deadline list for applications, attending events and networking with other artists & galleries, and keeping your social media game strong. I have also found that setting self-imposed deadlines is extremely important since there are no classes to keep my production on schedule.
What do you need most as an artist?
(1) Time to create my work without distractions. And (2) time to be completely distracted from my work. Both are equally valuable to the creative process and allowing the work to grow and evolve.
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice as you were just starting to study art or pursue it seriously, what would you say?
Oh my! Ask me in 5 years and I'll be more qualified to answer that. Right now I'm still young, naive and loving it.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
Right now, I'm focused on making new work and preparing for my Master's applications. I am part of an upcoming exhibition at Paula White Diamond Gallery in Waterloo called 'Big Ideas' (Opens: Thursday November 24, 2016 from 5:30 – 8:00pm)
Find more at vickievainionpaa.com!
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