XIOX MAGAZINE volume 1 issue 2 Special Edition Cover - Page 40

“There is Beauty in the Struggle” Anja Van Herle interview Interview & Article by Erika Lee I recently ran across a quote, “There is beauty in the struggle,” which was oddly referenced days later, during an interview with the talented and vibrant artist, Anja Van Herle. The world has a way of aligning moments and confirming life lessons. This interview seemed to be a confirmation of my own struggles and maybe Anja’s openness, will allow another artist to know they are not alone in their journey! just how far she has come. The interview with Anja was refreshing and fun as she shared her art, her hardships and her joys with such candor and openness. The interview was empty of posturing, pandering, and fluff. This interview was full of authenticity and openness, which only solidified my curiosity and wonder of her as both an artist and human! Do you wait to be inspired to work: “No! I paint every day, whether I am in the mood or not.” She said she used to be very disciplined about her start time and what time she needed to be in the studio but now she is a bit more flexible how she works. While she usually goes into the studio every day, she now works on designs or chat’s with the models and takes new photos that she will use as inspiration on later days. She is consistently busy with commissions or creating for the gallery. If she doesn’t have items that she has to get done, then she just creates for herself. Painting for herself is doing what she wants to do, but within the framework of what will work for a gallery. When were you born: 1969 Location of Birth: Belgium Education: Higher Institute for Art Belgium Starting Over: Anja moved to Los Angeles in 2003 With this move, she found herself rediscovery her art and being inspired by fashion and entertainment that surrounded her everyday life. By moving to L.A., this became a time of seriousness in her work. Her earlier works, which were more abstract portrait pieces, were now becoming “playful figurative paintings that combine a European sense of high fashion with an American sense of wonder.” What mediums do you work in: Acrylic on wood is what I am currently working on. I feel that it looks like airbrushing as the grain of the wood, adds to the overall feel of my work. It is smooth, but the grain adds to the feeling of my art. Why do you do what you do: As an 18-year-old girl in Belgium, she was always a very girly, girl who was fascinated with fashion and wanted to be a Makeup Artist or a Fashion Designer. Because she always found herself doodling and drawing, she instead decided to attain a Fine Arts degree. She believes living in L.A. has a direct correlation to the work she is currently creating, along with her subconscious touching on her father’s very different portraiture work. These things had a way of, “migrating into her own work.” As an Artist, how do you deal with vulnerability: Being vulnerable is a constant struggle and she treats her art as a full-time job. Moving to Los Angeles, left her feeling nervous and raw as it really put her in a place of, “starting from ground zero.” This was hard for her but she was focused and loves what she does, so she just pushed harder. While it can be difficult, it never really seems like work. She often found herself in tears, but she got stronger. There can be a lot of ups and downs, but she does what she want’s to do. Now that she is recognized for her art, it has become a bit easier. She tries to focus on 31 What do you recommend to other struggling artist: “Be yourself, work hard! It has a way of coming together. Make sure you really LOVE what you’re doing and continue to move towards your goals. Don’t listen too much to other people and go with what you feel.” How has your practice changed over time: She has focused on painting faces for a long time, but previously they were much more abstract. When she was in her 20s, she was really struggling to find her style. Finally, her style was birthed with her move to Los Angeles. The move to L.A. was coupled with a new support system of believers, her husband, and her father-in-law. They both believed in her work and gave her the financial freedom to work on her art and develop her style. She worked every day for years, just playing and discovering and voila’, one day her own style evolved. She really has to be thankful for the support that she has been given. Are you inspired by other artists: “Yes, Takashi Murakami”. If you don’t know who that is, please take the time to google the uber talented Japanese pop-art illustrator. What jobs have you done other than being an artist: Anja worked in clothing stores in Belgium called Wolford, and also for Gant. While typically drawn into the fashion industry, she also had a stint working in a restaurant owned by her parents. It was there, that she discovered how incredibly hard the restaurant industry was and the touch point of her parents ingraining a strong work ethic. What memorable responses have you had to your work: “I had a couple of young clients who didn’t have money but loved my art so much that they saved for years.” When this couple finally purchased a piece of her art, she was so thankful and moved, knowing that purchasing her work was truly an investment for them. What food, drink, song inspires you: Anja cannot paint without music. She loves a variety of music but she often finds herself listening to Eddy Vedder or Pearl Jam. She asked me if I knew of the late Hawaiian artist, “Izzy,” whose music also inspires her work or the soundtrack for “Interstellar”. I am about to go on an Interstellar binge, so I can try and get her working vibe. Every now and then, she may take a music break to find clarity, but once the light bulb turns on, she brings the music back. Aside from music, she takes inspiration from everyday living and just moving through life. How does your work day end: Imagine a long day of painting, ending in the sweetness of Prosecco which is delivered to her by her supportive husband, who is an artist in his own vein. Is the artistic life lonely: “Sometimes it can be very lonely and it may have to do with the fact that I moved from Belgium and I miss my friends from back home. Also, because of the type of work I do, I often have to skip a lot of activities due to my focus.” She finds that most friends are understanding of her work, but others struggle with her focus on her art. What do you dislike about the art world: She absolutely loves what she is doing; yet the pressure of making money, can be extreme. The pressure to grow, or wondering when the next commissioned job will come in, can make things stressed. Anja also struggles (as we all do) when people taking advantage or aren’t fair. She has had businesses sell her work and not pay. She struggles with counterfeit copies and feels at risk by these things, as her talent is being taken advantage of. What research do you do to prep for a new piece: When Anja started, she would find her inspiration from a pose in a magazine. Now she works with real world women and she shoots photos of them and has a collection to pull from. She tends to meet her models out and about while living life. She looks for girls who have a face that is interesting to her and she is currently working regularly with (3) different L.A. girls. Just think, the girl in the painting could be standing next to you at the checkout. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given: The best advice was from her parents. Her parents taught her to work very hard. They always said, “work hard in life,” and this translated into her art. What artist has your work sat alongside or is currently sharing wall space with: Anja’s work currently hangs in galleries alongside Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Banksy & Basquiat. Additionally, she’s shown with Shepard Fairey, Retna, Damien Hirst, Chuck Close and Victoria’s Secret fashion photographer Russel James. Do you have any shows coming up: I have a current show at the Joanne Artman Gallery in Laguna Beach and I have an upcoming show that will be announced this summer. Name three artists you’d like to be compared to: - Italian artist Fornasetti - Andy Warhol - Mel Ramos Should art be funded: I’m not against it, but I think especially for an artist, it’s good to deal with a bit of struggle. There tend to be beauty in the struggle, which comes to life in he artist work. Website: http://www.anjav.com Instagram: @anjavanherle Name something you love, and why: “I love to collect shells and I have to collect them at the beach. I think it comes from the awe of realizing I leave near the ocean.” She has some shells in her studio, which are housed in a glass box. Other pleasures include shopping the flea markets and finding unique bits. Her favorite flea market is Rose Bowl Flea Market, Long Beach, and the Fairfax Market, which just allows her to meander and browse. What is your dream project: She is currently working on getting her work licensed. She wants’ to have it licensed for t-shirts and looks to brand her work in a savvy and classy way. She is impressed by Fornasettis work and what he was able to do branding and licensing. What is a dream location to see your work: “I would love to see my work in a Museum such as the Louvre. Also, collaboration with MAC makeup would be a great licensing and branding adventure. 32