You’ve had a bit of a journey in recent years with your personal/creative life, could you please introduce us and share some insight on the last few years?
My name is Emily and I’m well known as “Vanderlism”, a portrait artist from Melbourne who specialises not only in fine arts but also mural work. The last two-three years has been quite significant for me, I’ve learnt a lot about life and myself as a person... Going back to 2017 I felt as if I was starting to really reach a new level with my work. I’d had a couple of trips to New York which allowed me to connect creatively with, and be inspired by, some incredible people. Whilst during this time I also had a few close chats with some of my mentors at Everfresh Studio about business in the creative industry; I needed a new direction, and to step away from commercial commissioned work. I wanted to solely focus on and stay true to my own style as an individual artist and gain recognition in that respect. I was well on my way with a set of fresh ideas and a plan in place... But as always, sometimes life can throw you a curveball.
In the last year I’ve been struggling with both mental and physical health. I found myself caught up in a situation wherein I was experiencing some bullying by someone, which was jarring, and just shows that bullying can happen at any age; it can happen in the workplace, or by a friend, and it can happen gradually over time. The after effects of this had left quite an indent on both my self esteem and self worth.
The second blow came when my vision began to grow blurry—any artist will tell you that their hands and eyes are their most precious assets. So far, I’ve had five surgeries in total to save my eyesight, going through many months of being unable to draw or paint during recovery. I count myself extremely lucky though. Although now I may be somewhat vision impaired, with some adjustments I can continue my journey as an artist and do what I love most.
Where do you see yourself and your art headed in the next few years?
For me it’s getting back on track to where I left off in 2017, I’m currently in the middle of organising my first solo show, but also staying wary of taking my time with it and being patient in order to really piece together something that represents myself as an artist. Other than that, I’m also hoping to continue travelling and collaborating, learning and growing.
What does body confidence mean to you? Is it something you’ve ever struggled with and why?
Body confidence is being comfortable in your own skin, that as from birth you have every right to be here just as you are and just like any other being. I think many people, myself included, have gone through a self afflicting stage in their life. Through the warped perception of media that we consume to having a lack of control in our lives, the lines become blurred from what it means to be beautiful, we start to inhabit unrealistic expectations of ourselves. I hope that sharing and talking about body confidence more will help women, men, non binary and others to relearn what real beauty is; no matter what shape, size, or colour you are.
Can you please share a little about how you go into creating artwork and how you’d describe your style?
My creative process happens in three parts. Firstly, it’s finding a subject that fits with an idea or concept I have in mind. Secondly, it’s about scale and medium, and this will determine the time I’m willing to spend creating a piece of work. Thirdly is colour—having the right palette is important, I often find colour to be the best way to evoke a certain feeling. Using the contrast of colour in recent years has really defined my style from the typical realism portraits you regularly see... I want to shed a new perspective from the typical, and the use of colour I find tends to magnify the intensity in my work.
Do you tend to create from personal experience or from observing the experiences of others?
That’s an interesting question because it’s a bit of both, as a portrait artist my subjects are people from all different walks of life with different stories to tell. I guess when I go into drawing a person though there is a bit of my own interpretation involved. My references usually reflect what I’m feeling to some extent... When I see a certain expression, stance or energy I can relate to I feel compelled to draw it.
What’s it like being a woman in the creative industry? Do you find that it has its challenges at times?
I think for the most part, the creative industry is really starting to acknowledge female artists more. Even in certain creative industries that have been traditionally male dominated, I’ve seen some incredible women break into these categories and totally own it.
What’s your favourite part about your body and why?
I would have to say my freckles which I have inherited from my mother. I used to hate them as a kid but over the years I’ve learnt to love them.
What’s your idea of empowerment?
Empowerment for me is being there for myself, showing up, supporting and nourishing my mind and body. Having an exuding feeling of peace that comes with knowing that I am deserving, that I am capable and that I hold good qualities as a human being. It is inner confidence.
What message do you have for those who are struggling with body confidence/self-love/weight or appearance issues? – What’s helped you in the past?
It can be hard but the first step is to talk about it—with someone you trust or a professional. I found this really hard in the beginning, I felt embarrassed and that I would be burdening people with my problems, that maybe I can just handle it on my own, that I had it under control. There is this strange stigma around mental health though, it’s something that you don’t talk about because it’s seen as shameful and out of fear you’ll be judged. It’s strange though; when we are physically hurt or injured we don’t think twice about getting medical help but when the problem is mental we discard the pain and hide it. For anyone struggling I want to let them know it is possible and it is okay to ask for help. There are people that care and will not judge you, that you are worthy and you do deserve peace and happiness.
Praise You isn’t just about raising awareness for eating disorders and celebrating body positivity – it’s also shining the light on female support in the creative community, in saying that, what does inclusivity and its importance mean to you?
Girls supporting girls, women supporting women. The ideology of femme supporting femme being that of any form. It’s that of sharing knowledge, a supportive network that nurtures growth and well-being, it’s encouragement and acceptance—no matter how fierce or soft you are and to me in this creative industry is vital for the progress in the arts.
What inspires your style of art? What are the best ways you've found that have refined your practice?
I think strong emotion inspires my work and the desire to also share something of myself to other people and connect. Refining my practice I feel is forever evolving, I don’t tend to get too comfortable, I relish in the unknown and keep an open mind, this really helps fuel my motivation and progress.
Do you have any mantras or words to live by?
That destruction is a form of creation, creating something new and different, something that has not yet been, demands the destruction of the old and typical.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self if you could?
To not be so hard on yourself. And to be patient. Honestly though, I wouldn’t give myself too much advice as I think every mistake and experience has been vital in my learning and formed who I am today.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken to date? What were the pressure points and was it worth it?
Probably deciding that being an artist was going to be my career. It’s a tough industry to be in and very competitive, although many times I felt like maybe I should give up, in the end though I think it’s worth all the struggle, when creating, drawing and painting I am most happy and content
What’s been one of your most memorable jobs?
I would say painting for One Roof Women, a creative hub that encourages and supports women in creative industries. I was able to have complete freedom in what I painted and in total painted over 30 metres of wall for them.
How do you keep up your creative momentum? Where do you look to for the drive to create?
I’m fairly lucky that inspiration is pretty constant for me but I’ve found that when I do go through the odd dry spell, working with different mediums, trying new techniques or even working in a different place or environment can help recharge my creativity.
How has your work and practice developed over time?
I think over time with experience, I’ve learnt to evaluate certain tasks and my capability in meeting task expectations. How to safe guard and cover myself as an artist in a professional manner, knowing your worth and knowing what jobs are worth your time and energy. My work in itself has definitely evolved over the years too, naturally with practice and exploration.
What or who have been some of your main creative influences?
I try not to look too closely at other artists’ works and tend to focus on my own creative flow, but I really do look up to artist’s Rone and Callum Preston. The way they conduct themselves in a professional manner whilst always remaining humble; even when extremely busy they always have time to chat with people that admire their work.
Whose work are you currently loving right now and why?
A friend of mine “Kelogsloops” (watercolour artist), he really has jumped another level and I was so impressed with his first solo exhibition in Melbourne, I’m excited to see where he is headed next with his art in the future.
Where have been your favourite places to travel and have those places influenced your work?
Hands down New York City! I think I was inspired by the demographics there, the birth of Hip Hop and Graffiti, especially around Brooklyn and Queens, and I got to meet some really interesting people. I definitely want to go back!
As you’ve gotten older – how has your perception of your body and confidence changed?
I think over time with learning from what you experience—the ups and downs—you start to realise what’s really important to you. For me, it is my health; both body and mind. Without good health I am unable to do what I love; unable to work and travel. I strive to be the best version I can be and that means being more kind with myself, learning to love who you are and treating yourself with respect.