Vivienne Flesher was born in Brooklyn, New York and currently works as an illustrator/painter in San Francisco. She painted "Horses in Wilderness" as part of a collaboration with Why.
I wanted to try making a living out of my love for painting.
-- Please tell us how you got your start as an illustrator.
I have loved to paint ever since I was a child. When I graduated from high school, my parents brought me to an art museum in Europe. Seeing it had a great impact on teenage me, it was as if something had awakened within me. I then decided I wanted to pursue painting as an occupation, and started learning illustration in school. But thinking back on it now, it may be because I had nothing else I wanted to be and nothing else I was as good at.
--What is it like to be an illustrator?
It's very difficult to work as a painter in Manhattan. There is a lot of competition, and so many other brilliant artists. Requests from art directors are always too vague. Yet, it's precisely because I was able to endure such a competitive environment that I am who I am today.
--What has changed since you first became an illustrator?
At first, I used to create the majority of my works in pastel. But art trends have changed and diversified over time, so I felt I needed to expand my style and works to fit that. In the beginning I didn't like changing up my art style, but little by little I began to enjoy it.
--Have these changes also affected your works?
Yes. I have since started doing photography and graphic art, and my paintings and illustrations have started to change bit by bit as well. I've come to enjoy creating new types of works, sometimes I become too immersed that I forget to eat and sleep.
--Are there any artists you have been influenced by?
I find my inspiration in artists who paint with color and emotion, mostly famous artists like Edvard Munch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh. Their paintings surge with emotion and motif. I take example from the way they use color and implement emotion into their works, they give me inspiration for my own works.
--Tell us about your experiences in Japan.
My greatest memory is visiting Shiseido Gallery. I have also worked with various Japanese artists. Both experiences have had a lasting impression on me.
Taking on a Painting Collaboration with Why.
--Tell us about your collaboration with Why.
I painted "Horses in Wilderness" not with the mindset of an illustrator, but of a painter. I was asked to paint a 80 year anniversary piece centered around horses and horseback riding. From these themes, I envisioned a motif of the future and painted a starry sky at daybreak.
Horses in Wilderness by Vivienne Flesher
--What sort of meanings did you incorporate into this work?
80 years is certainly a long time, but to me an anniversary is not an end; it is a continuation of history - a new start for the days ahead. From this line of thinking, I began to imagine scenes of daybreak. Just as when dawn strikes and the sun rises again, we continue on into the 81st year.
--The colors in this piece are very beautiful.
I was stunned and inspired by the color variation used in Why's merchandise. I wanted to express a similar vibrance of colors in my piece. I naturally began to draw the horses in red, orange, blue and purple. I imagined scenes in my personal style that would befit Why bags, and began to draw fantastical scenery from within the depths of my mind.
--The vivid way the horses are drawn is impressive.
I draw freely as a painter, so perhaps that liberation seeped into the way the horses were painted. I would be delighted if that feeling of freedom is conveyed to those who use this bag.
--How do you feel when looking back on your 40 years as an illustrator?
I wanted to make a living out of my love for painting since I was a child, even now I am glad I can continue working as a painter. I earn a livelihood and more just by doing what I love, so these past 40 years have been truly wonderful for me.
The Studio Garden
--What do you aspire to work on next?
I would like to continue painting here in San Francisco. I'm the type who works most effectively if I can draw freely, so I would be happy to be given the opportunity to do more wonderful collaborations like this.
Why's Eco-Friendly Novelty Bag. "Horses in Wilderness" has been printed on its cover.
Vivienne was born in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating high school, she began studying at Parsons School of Design. In 1980, her illustrations were published in the Twelfth Annual American Illustration art book. She began doing work in Japan in 1984, and currently works as an illustrator/painter in San Francisco. Her husband is fellow painter Ward Schumaker.