Interview Series: Vanessa Prager

L.A. based Vanessa Prager is a truly darling rising art star. Her work is sought after by some of Hollywood’s biggest celebs and collectors who pack her openings to snatch up her cinematic paintings.

Portrait by Abby Wilcox

A self-taught ingenue, and sometimes model for her sister, photographer Alex Prager, Vanessa’s large and totally diverse body of work – including finely detailed ballpoint pen illustrations – touches on human emotions in a raw sort of way.

Her upcoming solo show “The Moon Is Down” opens at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco tomorrow, so come out and meet the lovely lady herself! In the meantime, we got a chance to sit down and chat with Vanessa, and she had a lot to say…

Q&A

LF: What inspires you the most right now?

VP: Color! and light. And fairy tales set in reality.

LF: When did you realize you wanted to be a painter? Did you start young?

VP: Actually not too young. I started drawing around 16 and painting at 19. I realized in my teenage years I needed to be an artist of some kind in order to suit my personality.

LF: You collab with your sister Alex on occasion. Do you feed off of each other’s work?

VP: I think we feed off each other’s energy in a way. We naturally agree on a lot and have a similar aesthetic. That said we both have our separate studios and do our own thing every day, but we’re so close it would be ridiculous to say we didn’t. Whenever we collaborate its very smooth because I think we fully trust each other. So that’s nice.

LF: How has Los Angeles molded your work?

VP: I personally think LA is so rich. There are so many different elements, cultures, and ideas here at any one time. It’s a major city and yet it’s still completely accessible. It doesn’t come with many of the strains other major cities have and with that a lot of creatively can form. It has its generous share of crap too, but if you just watch this city there is really so much to see.

All of this has been instilled in my work in various ways. I think things are most real when they are beautiful on one side but with a gritty lived in core

And the nature scene is quite extensive.

LF: The New York Times Touch of Evil project is really cool. Was it dreamy painting Ryan Gosling?

VP: For sure. He has a great face and for the project I intended to capture him very realistically while still leaving with it a painterly quality. So it was a nice project to work on.

LF: Your shows sell out quickly. Has success changed you in any way?

VP: Possibly only to make me dream bigger and work harder.

LF: I’m in love with your ballpoint pen series, especially the red/blue combination. What does a ballpoint pen offer as an artist tool?

VP: At this point I fully go back and forth between painting and the ballpoint drawings. Ballpoint pen, being the only pen that can do half tones, allows me to build up in layers similar to how I do in painting, but with the immediate gratification of not having to wait for those layers to dry! I consider myself pretty impatient at times. The pen lets me get concepts out fast and still feels very finished in it’s own way. I like the way pen looks for my work over some other traditional drawing tools, as it can add heavy contrast and also can do great detail.

When I started doing the ballpoint series I was at a point in my painting where I wanted to try a bunch of new ideas but had no idea how they would turn out. So this was a great way to work out concepts and in the end it really helped me progress with my painting as well.

LF: Were you a doodler in school?

VP: It did happen but I wasn’t a great doodler. I certainly envied all of those notebooks that you see covered in endless creativity and are masterpieces in their own right. I didn’t have the skills back then with my ideas, I remember it being quite frustrating!

LF: What’s in the name “The Moon is Down”?

VP: There is a certain energy it conveys to me that seemed in line with the series. And I just like it. I try not to put too much significance in words because they can really be heavy handed for a lot of people. I more like to let the images do that job.

LF: Is this your first show in San Francisco?

VP: Yes!

LF: What’s your artistic outlook on life?

VP: To just keep making things! Too often it feels as though art, both in creating and viewing, is meant for some elite group. But really anyone can be a certifiable dreamer. That’s what carries the big and small ideas that inevitably lead cultures into the future. Technique, though important, is secondary. But really for me it’s a way of interacting with people and the world that I have yet to find an equal substitute for.

LF: What gets you off, literally and figuratively?

VP: I really enjoy a good challenge and coming out the other side.

LF: Any big ideas in your future we should know about?

VP: Oh I have a lot of big ideas. But I like to keep them to myself until they’re no longer just ideas!

LF: How fast do you live?

VP: Pretty fast! I find I’m happiest that way

It’s All Gucci…