We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Porras and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
I have two favorite quotes, one of them I tattooed on my wrist and the other one is written on my white board and greets me every time I walk into my studio.
The first quote is attributed to 4th Century B.C. painter, Apelles, “Nulla dies sine linea,” which translates to, “never a day without a line.” I first came across this quote through the book, The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander. This memoir was a tribute to Alexander’s late husband who was an amateur painter and lived by this quote. Aside from the book itself being deeply impactful, I love the idea of ridding yourself from the pressure of having to create something amazing and worthy of applause. This quote encourages me to continue to show up and make my mark in the world even if it’s just a line, after all, were are all here for such a short amount of time.
The second quote is by Georgia O’Keeffe, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” As a creative, I’ve struggled with anxiety, perfectionism and imposter-syndrome. These feelings have often left me feeling paralyzed and unable to work for fear of not being good enough or worthy. To think someone as successful and talented as O’Keeffe suffered from the same insecurities, it make the experience of creating a little less daunting. It allows me to see creation as a form of play and experimentation where nothing is precious and everything fun.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I create art, whether I’m making a woodcut or an abstract drawing, it’s a process similar to meditation. My line work is repetitive and allows me to enter a flow state. There is a deep correlation between my compositions and Depth Psychology. Throughout the years, I have been interested in Art Therapy and the way that art can help us heal by tapping into our unconscious mind. The narrative in my artwork deals with themes of mental health, femininity, rebirth and our connection to nature. My largest bodies of work, which are woodcuts and abstract drawings, were inspired by a project where I had to observe and draw a butterfly over 100x. The theme of transformation was deeply symbolic for me, I began my drawing process every day by inviting my younger self to draw. As time went on, I felt as though I was some sort of scientist doing investigative research which made my work feel important.
After graduating, I immediately got a job as an art educator for Aspen Art Museum and other local non-profits. It was a secure way to feel like my degree was being put to use and I was earning an income. Although I enjoy teaching and sharing my passion for art, my biggest mistake was to give too much of my creative energy away and dilute that stream to my own personal work. Initially, as I was starting off, every opportunity seems like a good one so I became a yes-woman and took on too much. I felt burnt out and I desperately wanted to return to the happiness I felt while I was creating. I slowly began to take things off may plate, focusing on quality over quantity. Learning how to say, “no,” and setting boundaries for myself and others was the most difficult part. I reminded myself that there were too many people in the world doing jobs they hated because they felt they needed to. I wanted to be someone who created joy for myself and others.
The most important thing that I have learned as an artist is that there will always be problems, but in life, it’s a matter of creating the kinds of problems you want to solve. As creatives, we inevitable create problems for ourselves. We are curious people and we like to challenge and test our theories and concepts. I don’t feel like I have arrived or “made it professionally”, success is an ebb and flow and as along as I have the privilege to create art and have an impact in the world, then the problems that come along with that are welcomed. I want my artwork to be a source of inspiration and reflection to those who see it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend was visiting the area we would start our day by packing our bikes onto the bus and heading from Glenwood Springs over to Carbondale for brunch at The Village Smithy. From there, our bus would take us all the way up to Aspen and we would bike ride through town stopping at the local art galleries. We’d stop at The Big Wrap for a burrito and cruise down back all the way to Carbondale on our bikes. From Carbondale we’d take the bus back to Glenwood Springs and hop in the Glenwood Springs Hot Pool for a few hours. We’d end our day (assuming it was a First Friday) back in Carbondale for opening night at the R2 Gallery at the Launchpad and support our local businesses, restaurants and bars.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many teachers, mentors, family and friends that I could give a shoutout to and I would still be missing people on my list. I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by people who have encouraged me throughout my career. Friends who have bought my artwork, who have been to my art shows, who correct me when I say, “I’m just an artist,” and rephrase it with a firm, “I am an Artist.” There are teachers and mentors whose words have stayed with me, whether the were meant to encourage or discourage, they have helped me build grit.
Above all, I want to thank my mom Laura. As a child, she entertained my arts entrepreneurship when I wanted to sell my painted rocks throughout town. She drove me up and down streets as I knocked on door to door selling my artwork. Throughout many sleepless nights, she has been my unpaid art assistant as we tried to get the perfect print. Not once has she doubted me or my ability, she has been my constant cheerleader always there for my shows and celebrating the smallest of successes. Gracias mamacita, te amo.