VANESSA VANDERHAVEN

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What're 3 words you’d use to describe your working style? Also, can you please introduce yourself?

Fervent, optimistic and supportive

I am a Melbourne based Illustrator and Designer with more ideas than I know what to do with. I've narrowed my love for art into realistic illustration, however, I love to experiment and have consequently broadened my skill set to include line work, watercolour, and graphic design. I'm inspired by the sky, hot beverages and whatever I tend to find down the Pinterest rabbit hole (usually fashions!)

What are you working on at the moment? Any big plans coming up?

Lately, I've been working on a lot of floral/plant element based designs across both branding and marketing work, which has been a lot of fun. I frequently work underneath other design studios so often I create work that I can't show anyone (sadly). Aside from that, I have a huge client project starting end of the year that will knock your socks off!

Have you been met with any challenges as an artist along the way?

Oh, such is being an artist. It is constantly challenging if it wasn't then honestly I wouldn't be an artist, to begin with. Usually, it's juggling many jobs at a time, that's hard. When you are your own boss then it's totally up to you to make it work.

How do you keep up your creative momentum? Where do you look to for the drive to create?

If I feel the creative train coming then I MUST jump on or it will leave without me, it's such a fickle thing - then I ride it all the way to the depot. If I'm craving some creativity I honestly just sort of flounder about doing random things till I'm feeling fancy - like take pics of the sky, annoy my boyfriend or go buy a coffee and a brownie.

What does body confidence mean to you? Is it something you’ve ever struggled with and why?

I doubt there is 1 single woman in the world who hasn't dealt with body confidence issues at some point in their lives, men too. It's something most of us can relate too, it affects us all in different ways and for some, it's more painful than for others. I had a very skewed idea of myself when I was a teen/young adult, I felt very frumpy and unattractive; beauty was very important too. It really did affect my life and I would often cave into myself with criticism and shame, I'm sad for my younger self but have come a long way since then. Body confidence is important, but what's more important to me is diminishing the importance we place on beauty. I want to see a change in how we perceive ourselves with less focus on how we look.

Where have been your favourite places to travel and have those places influenced your work?

Salzburg and basically the whole of New Zealand were mind blowing, I am a sucker for a beautiful mountain vista! Aside from the beautiful sights and moments - travel tends to be that experience that holds a mirror up to me, it shows me where I truly am with myself inside and helps me break through some tough barriers.

Your work is very female/body inspired – have you ever struggled with those inspiration and references affecting your body image perception? Do you think social media has played a positive or negative role in your perception?

I think I draw a lot of female inspired illustration because beauty was such a huge thing for me when I was growing up. I guess I used that as a way to express who I wanted to be through drawing these women, I'm not sure if it's the same today. I am usually torn with my feelings towards the beauty industry, I sort of hate it and love it at the same time. In saying all that, expression is just so interesting to me so that tends to be what I gravitate to these days.

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?

I was lucky enough to find a really wonderful therapist who I've been seeing for almost 5 years now, I don't see her as often anymore but that helped me get through the toughest part of my life and I owe her so much for that.

What advice what you give your 18-year-old self if you could?

Don't wait for happiness to arrive, go out there and make life work for you (no matter what it takes!).

As you’ve gotten older – how has your perception of your body and confidence changed?

I care a lot less about how I look on the outside and have actually grown to love how I look more, weird how that works. I don't really wear makeup anymore and I feel far more sexy and confident without it - I get a real buzz from being as natural as possible.

When drawing female figures and personalities – do you take your own body into account?

Not really, not anymore. I feel sort of immune to this stuff now, I've managed to disconnect my feelings towards my own self and the female beauty images I draw from.

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?

I think this goes for men too, but I think people need to be more open minded and relaxed about their future and themselves. The more accepting of yourself, the more accepting you will be of others - it really does start within. We are not in competition with each other, there is SO MUCH work and joy out there for everyone, the world will never run short. Just calm your titties and help your fellow person out, what goes around comes around.

Social media has seemed to normalize showing your body off (quite a lot) publically now – Do you think it’s affecting body image positively or negatively?

Negatively, absolutely. The fact that it is normal to post pics of our faces and bodies (styled for attention) makes our looks open to judgment and criticism, that no one actually has the right to give. I know this won't be a popular opinion, but I also believe that the individuals and groups out there campaigning to 'love your body' are of course with good intention, but some have misinterpreted the movement and pushed the 'body' part too far. There needs to be less focus on how we look. We should learn to 'love ourselves' inclusive of our minds and hearts and not JUST our bodies - body image issues actually start within, so it's important we start there.

INSTAGRAM: @vanessavanderhaven
WEBSITE: www.vanessavanderhaven.com

Praise You 2017Alex Saba