It’s not unusual for creatives to tap into their subconscious mind as a way of gleaning inspiration for their artistic pursuits, and Vanessa Raw is no different in this respect.
Having embarked on a rather dynamic journey as a professional GB triathlete for 11 years, Vanessa has since retired her running shoes and her bike in favour of an easel, developing and progressing her lifelong passion as an artist into a colourful career.
What is your most memorable experience or accomplishment?
Art-wise, I think it’s still to come… I suppose painting in the studio and having that moment where you finally feel like you’re on the right path feels amazing, and that’s where I am at the moment and I feel content with it. I’ve also just done the art for Team GB with the main sponsor PurpleBricks, I’m definitely honoured to be part of that.
If you could own any artwork, what would it be?
I have a big fascination for Edvard Munch at the moment; maybe the ‘Madonna’ as I’ve always loved that since I was a young kid. Also, any of Cecily Brown’s massive pieces!
What were your main drivers for becoming an artist? How did you get into it?
I’ve always known I was going to be an artist, or at least everyone around me did. Growing up I was very good at both art and sport, and after progressing through school with a great sense of creative energy, I went to Loughborough University to study Fine Art. I ended up delaying my career as a full-time artist for a while because I started triathlon while there. Once I got triathlon out of my system I could concentrate on my art, and I’ve never been happier since being a full-time artist in the last couple of years.
What inspires you from an artistic point of view?
People, relationships, connections, dreams; that moment when you’re in nature when your mind is still and you feel totally at one with your surroundings. I feel like if we can tap into the moment whilst painting, in the same way, that an athlete does to ‘get in the zone’, we can achieve something beyond ourselves. The idea of self, the ego, our ‘story’ fascinates me. If we’re not our ego (our story), then I believe we are part of something much bigger and that’s where we get the feeling of interconnectedness.
What would you say is your core style as an artist?
I would say primarily I’m an expressive colourist, with a figurative element maybe.
I use oils mostly on my own stretched and prepared canvases, sometimes with oil bars and sometimes an underlayer in acrylics.
How did you arrive at that particular style? Have you changed or evolved your style over the years?
My new project, ‘I Dreamed I Touched the Land You See’, which essentially involves abstract dreamscapes, feels much more expressive than the film stills I used to paint before. Strangely, my style is probably closer to how it was back at my very first year of university, during which I was encouraged to change! So I would say I’m being my more authentic self right now and that’s because I’m trying to paint in the zone. I suppose you could say it’s more the subconscious painting than the conscious, judgemental ego.
How important is experimentation as an artist?
Hugely. I’ve spent the last two years doing exactly that, basically starting again, constantly trying different methods. Lockdown actually helped in a way; I took advantage of the lack of distractions. Eventually, I just felt like I was on the right path, something I could explore deeper. I think it’s in these moments of completely letting go of the outcome that one finds something more exciting and that for me is experimentation.
How do you come up with ideas for new pieces? What inspires your creativity?
At the moment, it’s dreams. I’ve always had weird experiences at night; I’ve always been a bad sleeper with long bouts of insomnia. And when I do sleep, I’m only half asleep – in fact, I feel totally awake. Dreams will come into my bedroom: people, things, animals. They feel as real as you and I. Totally frightening at the time but amazing source material!
You can see ‘I Dreamed I Touched the Land You See’ in the Delta House Gallery until the 22nd of March.