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Art & Life with Vivienne Lux

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vivienne Lux.

Vivienne, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
Inspired by the bewitching; passion and paradox. My work has taken me on a colorful journey from roots in hand-drawn scribbles to slick album packaging, structured corporate design, iconic fashion, and now back to pencil on paper. Full-circle, elevated.

As a child, born and raised in Chicago, my nickname was “Colors” for the wild color-combo fashion choices that I’d make. To this day, whenever someone speaks of my artwork, the first thing that’s mentioned is the “colors.” Bringing together colors, textures and patterns that would normally not go together, somehow always made sense in my mind.

I studied graphic design at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) and worked in the Los Angeles entertainment industry for a decade before moving to Phoenix. I was 19, the summer after my freshman year, when I got my first “career-job” as the designer of an internationally published trade publication. Within 6 months I was promoted to Art Director, then Creative Director. I worked full-time, along with being a full-time student, and also taught evening design courses at a couple of the local colleges. I kept this schedule up through college, and for 3 years thereafter, then took a job at a film studio where I designed packaging for their productions, managed the creative team and the brand image, worked with the location manager in securing filming locations throughout Los Angeles, art directed the website and all of the product photoshoots.

Shortly before leaving Los Angeles, I started to dabble in fashion. I was asked to do a bit of graphic design work for a fashion trade publication, which was published out of the CalMart (Fashion District DTLA). It was there that I got a serious taste of the fashion world.

When I moved to Phoenix, my design work took the corporate route, and I became part of an in-house creative agency working on some surprisingly inventive projects, that actually had the budget to print and execute elaborately. I pushed the boundaries a lot, and really tested my printer’s patience, and skill, with the crazy requests I’d make.

At that time, Phoenix’s fashion scene was almost non-existent, a wide-open landscape to be anything you wanted to be. I started to make some clothing and sold my wares at local boutiques, while showing in small, designer-organized, fashion shows. The creative energy of this little incubator was exhilarating, and artists from all genres were meshing to create something bigger for Phoenix. I connected with several of the local bands and designed gig posters, logos, and began managing talent. I produced an on-going runway show series where bands played while models walked the runway.

All during this time, I drew. The “swirly” work that you see is a way I’ve been drawing since I was a child, and as I got older it became my escape from the computer. I have always had a need to come back to the tactile “pencil to paper.” The swirls are actually all words. I’ve been obsessed with letterforms my entire life. I didn’t doodle cartoons as a kid, I drew letters, and as the work evolved, the layering, texturing and swirling got more elaborate.

It wasn’t until 2012, when a friend of mine, who happened to be a legendary fashion designer, saw one of the sketches I was working on and said that he had never seen anything like it. His words struck a chord, as this was someone who had seen it all. He asked me to create a piece for him and he had it printed on fabric, which he then used to create stage wear for the opening of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball Tour. That was definitely an eye-opening moment, going from doodles to Gaga…

I started to explore the gallery route and have had shown in a few cities throughout the country. I printed my designs on fabric and made the dresses that I wore to the Grammy Awards. I started posting more of the work to my personal social media, and people really seemed interested. I sold a few prints, and then decided to develop a product line. I built a website, a brand identity, added official social media channels, and officially launched the “new me.” Four days after the launch, my corporate job came to an end due to massive cut-backs. I wasn’t even mad. I looked up to the heavens and said “I got your message, thank you.”

I’ve taken a step back from design to focus solely on this work, but I do design select projects, one of them being Alice Cooper’s annual “Proof is in the Pudding” event. I just wrapped up design on the annual compilation album, and am working on marketing elements.

Seeing people carrying, or wearing, my designs around town is really special. I got used to seeing my packaging design and magazines in stores, but this work is very personal; it’s my hand to a piece of paper. Meeting people at shows and watching them interact with the pieces is very moving. They glance for a second and just as they are about to move on, they see a word pop out, and then they come back, re-focus, and start looking deeper, and then they see another word. The excitement that I see on their face, when they start to unravel the maze of words is both exciting and scary, as they are, in essence, exposing me, peeling back all of the layers. My hope is that people who buy the work for their interior design, or to add to their fashion collection, add a new dimension to their life. The pieces are conversations starters and invite people to look, and linger. For the extrovert, a piece will simply add depth to character. For the introvert, the piece allows them to speak without speaking. The energy of each piece radiates in your favor, always.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I create abstract typography art using colored pencils on black artist paper. What started out as my way of doodling has become my main focus.

Everyone has a way of doodling, my mom scribbles shapes, I happen to scribble letterforms, and always have. I used to draw on white paper with black felt pens, or markers, and it was much more graffiti-style.

The pivotal point of influence that inspired the colored pencil on black paper was my grandfather’s funeral in Puerto Rico. The overwhelming abundance of flowers (I cannot even accurately describe to you the number of flowers, so so many flowers), the colors, the food, the outpouring of compassion from strangers, the religious iconography and traditions, and the deep sense of community really affected me. I didn’t come home from the funeral and immediately start drawing colors on black paper, it was a slow progression that I didn’t even realize was taking place, but now, as I look back, I can see that exact moment when the shift in my mind happened. I can also identify so much of what I was inspired by in my youth in these pieces; the energy and motion of the Baroque, the elaborate flourishes of Art Nouveau, the coloring of Pop, the balance of Graphic Design, and the rhythm of Music.

I’m fascinated by everything that is “background” and am on a constant quest, a hunger to dig deeper into the “why?” of everything. Background can be anything from heritage, to what makes a heartbeat, to all that is involved in the making of a movie. It’s behind the behind-the-scenes. Medicine is a great study of background. The body fails and a medication is used to patch the ailment. But, what initially caused the issue? Take the thyroid for example. If the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, then metabolism is off. So, we take medication to support the thyroid. What if we took it a step further and tried to figure out why the thyroid was failing. Maybe it’s nutritional deficiencies. But what if that’s not it? Is it a genetic mutation? What if we follow the path of failure back to the very spark in the brain that initially triggered the breakdown. Why did it fail?

These drawings are oftentimes the equivalent of automatic writing to all of those “why?” questions rolling around in my head. The end result doesn’t necessarily reflect the questions, but it’s the visual representation of the energy that was produced in working through those questions. It takes on a life of its own. This work doesn’t come from me, it flows through me, and I never know what I’m going to end up with. I start with a blank page and let the piece lead the way. There’s excitement in that unknown, and a freedom that is so different from a controlled graphic design project where you’re given specific parameters in which to work. I have a notebook that I write in while doing these pieces, so that I can write out full thoughts, ideas and speculation to my “why?” questions. (I figured out how to keep scorpions out of my house with one of these questioning sessions! One of the joys of desert living…)

My favorite environment in which to work is outside, on a glass-top table, in my backyard, in the summer. Phoenix summers get very hot which makes the pencil pigment soft, and allows it to lay down thick. I have a heavy hand to begin with, and in order to achieve the vibrant colors that I use, it requires a dense layer of colored pencil.

The heat is also important to this work because it’s a cathartic process. I liken it to hot yoga. It’s a sometimes-painful process of shedding from deep within, but it is a spiritual evolution; detoxification of the mind, soul and body. Sweating is good. When the heat becomes unbearable, I jump in the pool. Draw, swim, repeat.

I find that everything flows better in the heat. I think it’s the combination of working in nature, surrounded by plants, flowers, hummingbirds, bees and dragonflies, doves and crows, combined with the intense heat that allows for a connection to “universal energy/divine source” that I can’t seem to duplicate when working in a controlled indoor condition. Plus, the lighting is perfect.

Since I use such thick layers of pencil, it becomes very waxy and shiny. When working indoors, the lighting shines off the pencil wax and it’s very hard for me to see. I’m creating details that are the size of a pinpoint, so I need to see everything very clearly, and the ambient sunshine, without directly hitting the paper, is absolutely perfect.

The completed drawings are scanned and used to create textiles for clothing and home decor, as well as a variety of accessories from bags to phone cases, wallpaper and custom furniture. I have a line of ready-to-wear fashion, along with custom, one-off gowns and jackets.
 Care is taken to keep all of the nuances of the original hand drawn artwork so each garment (or product) is truly “wearable art.” I don’t smooth out imperfections, or touch up any pencil smudges. Retaining those quirks is essential to me.

My personal promise to fans, buyers and collectors, as well as myself, is to never create anything that would bring negativity into someone’s life. I’ve actually scrapped a couple of the designs that have gone into product design because the energy was off. Putting that out there would create tremendous guilt in my Catholic schoolgirl soul.

How do you think about success, as an artist, and what do quality do you feel is most helpful?
This has changed for me over my lifetime. When I was younger, I’d define success based on money and fame, the possessions I longed to purchase and the glitzy life I admired in glossy, luxury magazines. As I made a bit of money, and became known in the design industry, I still never felt I reached that ideal of “success” that I had created. The idea of success became a pie-in-the-sky, unattainable goal that I set, but constantly re-set, as I reached career milestones. I was never going to reach something that was an ideal.

Now, I realize that “success” is relative to perspective, and defining success is 100% individual. I cannot define success for anyone other than myself. With that said, I would currently define success as truly finding the purpose of why you walk this planet, and using it to fill that void in the center of your soul.

When you get to that moment, you’ll step into a place of flow, and the ideal of “success” will be thrown out the door. I’m not saying money isn’t important, it is, and I happen to love money, but money is simply energy just like everything else. What we really have to seek is a balanced abundance between every element of our life, from health to family & relationships to travel to career. When we find that balanced abundance, money is already a part of the equation and will be overflowing just like love, health and career success.

The advice I can offer is that truth is essential to success as an artist. Always dig for the roots. My personal quote, that I live by, is “Roots before flowers.” Without deep, strong, nourished roots, there are no flowers. Roots dig deep, constantly ask why, search for answers to questions others may not even think of, and continuously break new ground. The most abundant, and beautiful flowers, bloom from strong roots. Take that truth and live it out loud. Oftentimes we’re more afraid of ourselves then we are of others. We are more afraid of what we think about ourselves then what another think of us. Fear is such a useless emotion in times like this. Stop getting in the way of yourself!

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work can be found, and purchased, on my website: www.viviennelux.com I post daily work-in-progress shots, and behind-the-scenes stories on Instagram: Instagram.com/theviviennelux

I will be having an exhibition at Chandler Center for the Arts in the Spring of 2019. Sign up for my newsletter, on my website, to get details of that show, and for all studio news!

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Image Credit:
Vivienne Lux

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