The Messy Artist studio is a wonderful place to create art, and one of the reasons it is so special is our instructor Viviana. Her influence is spread throughout the studio, reaching into places most people don’t realize – from planning the look of the interior, creating part of the curriculum, designing the website, and of course, to her teaching style. Viviana has a unique combination of honesty, respect and insight which allows her to give accurate feedback and advice with kindness. She brings a distinctive perspective and personality to the Messy Artist (and her own artwork, which is shown at the end of this interview).
We thought there would be no better person to start our new series on the staff here at The Messy Artist, so meet Viviana!
(Video by Catherine Stratton of 9Beach Films)
What are the first art experiences you remember as a child?
Surprisingly, I don’t remember drawing or painting much. What I remember most vividly is my mom teaching me how to sew when I was six years old. She used to let me take apart my old shirts to see how they were put together and to use as a pattern, and she would give me some of my grandmother’s precious fabric to use as material to make a new shirt. I also remember repeating the same process with my Barbie’s clothes. I deconstructed their outfits to use as patterns, and I made new dresses for them. I used sharpies to dye their hair, add nail polish, change their makeup, and draw tattoos. I was the only kid with awesomely funky Barbies.
What is your background in art?
I graduated summa cum laude from Kean University with a bachelor’s degree in fine art. My concentration was in portrait drawing and clay sculptures.
How long have you worked at the Messy Artist? What did you start as and what do you do now?
I began working at The Messy Artist in 2006 as an assistant. As my art knowledge expanded and I gained experience by working alongside my talented co-workers, I began to have more and more responsibilities. About six years later, I created the Art Foundations Intensive program, and was given the title of Director of Fine Arts. In addition, I do the majority of the graphic design for The Messy Artist, as well as maintain the website.
What are some of your favorite projects or topics to teach?
I love teaching projects that introduce the idea of feelings in relationship to art. I find that many people measure an art piece’s greatness solely by its technical precision and the beauty of the work. However, true art is the product of intense emotion, either positive or negative. Teaching this concept to children is the most rewarding for me, since I feel like I’m opening their eyes to something they may never have thought of before. I enjoy giving children the permission they need to release their emotions through their art. Sometimes this can be very therapeutic, since they may not have the words to express what they feel.
What sort of art do you do on your own time?
I enjoy drawing faces and figures in a variety of different media, including pencil and pastel. I think the best way to describe the visual aspect of my art is fashion magazine meets “Saw.” As for the meaning of it all, I choose to explore stress, pain, and tragedy. While the pieces emanate from my own experiences in the past, I believe that all human beings are pre-loaded with a range of emotions. What I enjoy doing, is forcing those pre-loaded emotions to the surface and conveying them in my own visual way to open a doorway to what resides in all human beings.
What advice do you have for kids who say they are not good artists?
Many children in my classes say to me, “Miss Viviana, I can’t do this!” My immediate reaction is to ask them to change their phrase to, “I can’t do this yet.” I like to encourage them that there is hope; even if they cannot do something in that particular moment, that there will come a time when they will be able to do it. And a time even beyond that where they will surpass their wildest expectations. I borrowed this advice from a wise college professor of mine. I was watching him render an apple, and I told him I didn’t think I could do it. He said, “Maybe you can’t do it yet, but you will.” And now I can.
What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?
The advice I have is simple, and cliché. I would remind them that every child is different. “Art” has so many different facets, that it’s difficult to expect each child to fit the mold of performing one kind of art. Some children may gravitate towards the finer arts, like drawing or painting. But some others will take other avenues, such as product design, or becoming a pastry chef. It is important to expose children to different forms of art, keep an open mind, and encourage young children to do the same.
Do you have a favorite food?
I’m a big fan of sushi and Vosges chocolate bars. However, my good friends know that the way to my heart is through coffee.
How about hobbies?
Although socializing monopolizes most of my free time, I also enjoy more solitary hobbies, such as origami, quilling, and making jewelry. I like watching horror movies, singing obnoxiously loudly to music in my car, and reading Stephen King books. In the summer, I spend most of my free time outside, at the beach, swimming, and stargazing. Recently, I’ve taken up cake decorating.
Favorite museum/gallery/online place to look at art?
My favorite museum will always be the MET, mostly because of the large amount of time I spent there in college sketching sculptures, photographing paintings, and writing papers on the works there. In terms of places online, I would say I love looking at thisiscolossal.com. They feature the unique works of contemporary artists.
Favorite place you have been or would like to go?
I’ve actually never been outside of the country! I long to travel to Japan, China, or India. I’m fascinated by eastern cultures, since they are so different from my own. I would love nothing more than to immerse myself in their art, fashion, language, religion, and way of life for a while.
Below is a gallery of Viviana’s artworks – please click on any image to enlarge and start a slideshow.