You’re 1⁄4 of the typographic girl gang “The Letterettes” - Can you please introduce yourself and share what you have gotten out of being apart of The Letterettes?
Hi! I’m Wanissa. I’m a letterer currently based in Melbourne. I’m from Thailand but I’ve been living in Australia for the last 13 years. I’m still not used to Melbourne’s icy-cold winters! Prior to working with The Letterettes, I’d never worked so closely with other artists before, so I’ve learnt a great deal about teamwork through our collective.
Where do you see yourself and your art headed in the next few years?
To be honest, I have no idea. I just know that I want to be happy with what I’m doing. It’s always been a dream of mine to fully support myself with a creative career, so I’d like to keep juggling things and making it work. I’m happiest when I create work that is true to me. I love it when my art resonates with others and opens up new conversations, so I’d like to continue doing this.
What are you working on at the moment? Any big plans coming up?
I’m working on a book cover. No big plans currently, but I hope I get to travel soon!
Have you been met with any challenges as an artist along the way? (Personally or professionally)
Yes! Call it a challenge but also a really great learning opportunity. I was invited to speak at Typism conference in 2018. It’s truly rewarding to receive recognition in the lettering industry, although speaking openly about my insecurities and challenges as an artist in front of a crowd of 300 people was probably one of the most nerve-racking things I’ve ever done. In the end, I’m really glad that people found my honesty encouraging.
What does body confidence mean to you? Is it something you’ve ever struggled with and why?
Yes, I have. High school was rough. In year 9, a classmate commented that I have “disproportionately fat legs for someone with such a skinny torso”. I let this sentence define my life everyday for the next 4 years. I weighed myself 3 times a day and starved myself until I stopped getting my period. Even with my legs hidden under baggy jeans, I dreaded leaving the house because I thought people were judging me and my body. To me, body confidence is overcoming what others have to say, and loving my body without comparing myself to others.
Can you please share a little about how you go into creating artwork and how you’d describe your style?
I started lettering as a way to counteract all the digital work I was doing as a graphic designer. I wasn’t able to express myself creatively and I really missed working with my hands. I love typography and drawing, so lettering is the perfect outlet. I always find it tricky to describe my style! I suppose it’s elegant and feminine, but sometimes it’s fun and playful.
What’s your favourite part about your body and why?
I love my hands. They do everything for me!
What’s your idea of empowerment?
I think empowerment is when you pluck up the courage to do something you’re really scared of. Empowerment is when you realise that it’s all in your hands, so you make that single important decision to tackle your fears head-on.
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 think it’s so important to remember that your healthy, functioning body gives you life and allows you to fully live! We often take our good health for granted. For me personally, yoga is something that keeps me grounded and reminds me of how lucky I am to be alive and well.
My message to anyone who is struggling is to focus how your body allows you to enjoy and experience things, rather than how it looks. Looks aren’t forever. We all age and change through time anyway. Don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t let anyone influence the way you feel about yourself!
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?
As an Asian woman living in Australia, it’s not always been a smooth sail. To me, inclusivity means not being marginalised, regardless of your gender, race, sexual identity, sexual orientation, your body type... the list goes on! Girls are raised in a culture where they have to compete with each other in order to succeed. The Letterettes represent women coming together and supporting one another. I’m so pleased to be part of this message!
Being a foreign expat who’s been able to stand on her own feet and find a place in Australia’s creative industry, I’m incredibly proud to represent international students, expats and people who speak English as a second language. I get a lot of messages from people from diverse backgrounds, and I do my best to share the things I’ve learnt.
What inspires your style of art? What are the best ways you've found that have refined your practice?
The history of penmanship is what gets me really excited! I love copperplate calligraphy and flourishes, so my current style is a combination of this traditional form blended with my personal aesthetic. I’m still very much refining my practice by putting in practise time and learning new tools. I honestly can’t practise enough!
Do you have any mantras or words to live by?
I can’t think of a specific mantra, but I’m all for gratefulness and learning!
What advice what you give your 18-year-old self if you could?
Forget what everyone else thinks. Get out there and enjoy life! You’re much more than just a number on a scale.
What the biggest risk you’ve taken to date? What were the pressure points and was it worth it?
The biggest risk was quitting my full-time job and shifting to freelancing. The financial risk was obviously there, but I was even more worried about potentially killing a passion by turning it into a job. It’s all worth it, though. I appreciate the craft even more now and I’m very happy with what I’m doing currently.
What’s been one of your most memorable jobs?
Ah, this would be the Auslan alphabet poster I created for Frankie Magazine! The challenge was to represent Auslan accurately. Afterwards, I received an unexpected amount of private messages from people who said they’re in the process of learning Auslan and found the poster really helpful. This is so rewarding to me. I love that I’ve been able to use my skills to create something of importance.
How do you keep up your creative momentum? Where do you look to for the drive to create?
For me, it’s giving myself downtime, and not feeling guilty or being self-critical when I’m not creating. As artists, we tend to measure ourselves through productivity. A good weekend away in nature is a good reset button for me.
How has your work and practice developed over time?
The arrival of iPad Pro and ProCreate has allowed me to produce digital work much faster than before. This is perfect for commercial jobs. However, I still treasure traditional tools and I like to put in practise time away from the screen.
What or who have been some of your main creative influences?
My sister. I remember seeing her drawing and feeling inspired!
Who’s work are you currently loving right now and why?
I’m love Viet-my Bui’s insanely beautiful illustrations! I’m also a long time fan of Gemma Correll because of her humour and honesty. Plus, she loves her pugs!
As you’ve gotten older – how has your perception of your body and confidence changed?
I still fall into the trap of body-shaming myself at times, but then I remember that there are much bigger things in life, and there is so much I can do in the time that I’m here. I look after myself the best I can mentally and physically, keeping my body nourished and healthy, and I eat cake whenever the hell I want to eat cake!