One of my favorite things about being a content creator is the people that I’ve had the opportunity to meet over the past four years. Back in July I shared the post, This Year So Far | In Interviews which included the stories of 26 talented women I had the opportunity to interview during the first half of 2019.
In this post, I’m sharing the inspiring stories of 17 phenomenal women who I’ve had the opportunity to get to know during the months of August through December. I hope as you read their interviews, you will find inspiration to take the next step in your own creative journey, whether it’s picking up a paint brush, starting your own business or whatever you dream career may be.
In January of this year, you also launched MY FRENCH COUNTRY LIFE MAGAZINE. When did you first decide to release the magazine and what is it like working with photographers, writers and chefs who share your passion for French living?
Launching a magazine is not for the fainthearted! It is challenging and has been a steep learning curve. Having said that, it is proving to be an amazing adventure. It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase people all over France and I love working with our contributing photographers and journalists.
One of our regular pieces is about various regions in France. And it’s fun for us to research places to stay, great restaurants, and beautiful gardens and homes to visit.
A feature of the magazine is the truly breathtaking photography. We are very fortunate to work with extremely talented photographers each as passionate as we are to share the beauties of France.
How have your travels inspired you as an artist?
The diversity, seeing that there is no one way to do things. It makes me think I can do anything I want with my art and I don’t have to fit into one genre (watercolor or acrylic artist, realism or abstract) I want to create something beautiful and make people feel good when they look at my art. People are so much the same wherever you travel to, and beauty is the same everywhere.
There is something universal about beautiful things and people crave that. Sometimes you think people don’t need art, but people will always need beauty. The world survived because of art. I believe every country reflects their culture and way of thinking through their art.
When you add meaning to something it becomes more beautiful, when people can really relate to the painting. There is a piece of me and who I am in every painting I create. Perhaps it’s not the typical type of beauty but because of these unexpected elements in my work I think this is what makes people connect to it. It’s very similar to how people connect to other people.
What are some of the products that you use in your personal skincare regime?
Even though I own a skin care boutique, I keep my routine pretty simple. I also hate any type of waste, so unless I’m really not impressed, I always finish my products. With that being said, I’m always trying something different when I finish a bottle- it rarely stays the same. Right now, in the morning I splash with a little water and use Pai Rosehip Oil cocktailed with their Back to Life Hydration Serum. At night, I’m using the Marie Veronique Vitamin C Serum and Pai Avocado and Jojoba Moisturizer. I mask once or twice a week with Botnia’s Hydration Mask.
In addition to Vanderbilt University, you also studied for a semester abroad at Parsons Paris School of Art and Design. What was the most memorable experience you had while studying in Paris?
I loved studying in Paris and learned a lot while I was there. I wouldn’t say I improved significantly from a technical standpoint, but my professors really pushed me conceptually. My most memorable experience I had there was an assignment to create a portrait. I was working on a self-portrait and my professor really wanted me to push myself to get out of my comfort zone, so I started finger painting and used my fingers to smear big globs of oil paint instead of brushes. I thought that was pretty bold. My professor was unimpressed, so he had me put my finished wet painting on the ground and walk across it. In hindsight I probably should have taken off my shoes because I spent the second half of class getting oil paint off my boots. Either way, I did as I was told and walked right on top of my wet painting, and it actually made it better. I currently have that painting hanging in my apartment. It’s one of my favorites and reminds me to experiment and not be afraid to ruin a painting.
What is your goal as a brand?
Lark and Ives’ goal is to become the next ‘it’ international lifestyle brand. We want to create beautiful, personalized products that stand out and also have thoughtful function. While Lark & Ives’ roots are in gifting, but our long-term goal is to explore opportunities within fabric, paper, hospitality, home decor, etc., and we look forward to continuing to expand our brand story.
You care your own egg tempure before you paint each new piece. What ingredients do you use, and how long did it take you to perfect your mixing process?
Every paint is a pigment (color) + a binder (glue) + a solvent (to make it fluid). With this equation in mind, you can make paint! In an effort to simplify my practice, I decided to make my own paint. I use charcoal and ground botanicals as the pigment, egg yolk as the binder, and distilled water as the solvent. I have a strong connection to the flowers I photograph for my linen pieces. Being able to grind them into paint and then paint them back into their portrait pulls it all together and makes my work make sense.
The mixing process is not even close to perfect. There are flaws, and I love them. My work takes on a life of its own. There are pieces of the ground botanical that doesn’t grind as fine as the rest, there are places where the paint sticks a little better and where I thought it would stick more. You can see my brush strokes, as you look closer. As much as art is about creation and control, I have learned it is equally about letting the materials and subject matter speak.
When writing and illustrating Iconic: Masters of Italian Fashion, what were the biggest differences you saw between the designs from French fashion houses you’ve written about in the past, and the designs of the Italian fashion houses?
Both are incredible and masters of their craft but I think Italian designers are more driven by passion and French designers are more driven by the intricate details.
When did you first come up with the concept for Beauty Bar Chocolate?
It all started after I left the fashion world, I started working with an integrative doctor and she really found the underlying cause of my health issues. She took tests, she worked at healing my gut heal, and I went sugar free and added adaptogens to my diet. I never thought I was a sugar addict until I went sugar free. I didn’t like chocolate before, but after going sugar free I started to crave chocolate like I never had in my life. I looked at all the markets and couldn’t find a chocolate that didn’t have all the fillers in it. At that point I knew I wanted to have my own product. I already knew that loved working with people since I had been a merchandiser when I worked in fashion, so I thought what came with a product that makes people feel beautiful from the inside out.
I started culinary school (Matthew Kenney/ Plant Lab Culinary School) after getting my health coaching degree. When I graduated IIN (The Institute for Integrative Nutrition,) we had to come up with our own product and I came up with the chocolate brand right then and there. I wanted it to have beautiful packaging, be sugar free, have adaptogens, and make people feel beautiful.
I launched it a year and half ago and that’s why I say that Beauty Bar Chocolate is more than chocolate. It’s about bringing inner peace from within.
Which products are part of your daily beauty regimes?
DIVYA: The first thing I do every day is cleanse my face with our Drift Away Cleanser. I moisturize with Dive In Moisturizer, which is amazing under makeup. I apply Dualist Concealer, especially under my eyes to hide my late night emailing habits, add mascara and Lip Retreat Oil (I use on both my lips and cheeks for a glossy flush of color!), and I’m out the door.
LINDSAY: Lately, I’ve been prepping my skin for makeup with our Hidden Glow Brightening Cream. It gives you an instant warm luminosity while also brightening skin overtime. If I need a little extra coverage, I’ll use Nude Illusion Foundation but many days, I just use our Dualist Concealer to spot correct. I’ll use our Lipsetter on lips and cheeks, apply our Unlashed Mascara, and I’m ready to face the day.
Share a bit about how Disney films from your childhood have influenced your work.
As a child I was in love with Disney films……Snow White, Peter Pan, Dumbo and Bambi to name a few. I had books from those movies and traced and drew the images in those books over and over.
Years later when I went to art school, I began to realize the effect those movies and books had on me. My abstract drawings and paintings looked like abstract backgrounds for those movies with a few bulbous images (think seven dwarfs) invading that background.
Some time ago, I discovered that a genetic disorder lay deep in my family history. In searching for answers, I scoured medical and DNA books and found a correlation between the illustrations there and the organic, cartoony images I was already using. So I made a conscious decision to combine these disparate sources. Even though it seems that animated movies and cartoons have nothing to do with medical illustrations, I see a strong relationship and that is what turns up in my work.
What place or places have you traveled to that have inspired you the most as an artist, and how did growing up in Asia influence your artwork?
Asia has definitely been my biggest influence. I grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore, and I think it really sparked my love of mythology. I’m sure I would have always loved the fantastical beasts from Greek legends, but they feel almost nostalgic. In Asia it’s easy to stumble across stone foo dogs guarding doors, golden winged Garuda watching from rooftops or to find a Qilin on Hong Kong’s hundred dollar bill. That imagery still feels very immediate to daily life.
It definitely made an impact on how and what I painted. I learnt all my core drawing skills doodling Chinese dragons with bulbous goldfish-like eyes – which is so forgiving because you can’t really get anything wrong. It’s not like drawing a human face. I only started tackling portraits after I’d anthropomorphized animals – which only happened after a trip to Japan. I came back drawing cats in kimono and dogs as samurai.
Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind your ‘Landscapes’ collection.
My recent ‘Landscapes’ collection was inspired by recent travels, my love for the outdoors, and the peace I feel from spending time in nature. I love to take in those picture-perfect moments when time itself tends to gently sit still.
I think we treasure these portraits of nature so highly because of the truth they display so deeply. The deep, authentic, overwhelming joy each of us feels when stunned by the canvas of color from a sunset, rolling hills cascading into the horizon, & stillness of a mighty mountain valley beckons us to cherish the truly rich things of life and so often simultaneously stills our stirring souls.
I hope that my Landscape paintings leads viewers to pause, recall a memory in a special place, or even trigger a humble awe of what’s around us.
Last year I had the chance to take your class through the Watercolor Summit, and you offer other online classes through your website as well as hosted and private classes. What is the most rewarding part about sharing your passion for art with others?
It has allowed me to communicate with other people in a very deep way. So often when you are in a room of strangers finding a way to communicate with groups of women, in our culture, can be difficult because there are so many cliches that we put on people (ie stay at home mom, career mom). Teaching allows me to see people coming to a table together, working with their hands and there is no box to put them in. This opens up lines of communication and people have started painting groups afterwards and talking about in depth things in a public place. So I’m amazed about how painting disarms people. Painting becomes a way to communicate in a wholesome in depth way.
5% of all sales of your artwork goes to MOSAIC for foster children. Tell me a bit about MOSAIC and why you chose to donate to the organization.
I have a heart for children especially those in need. This organization is amazing. When a child first comes into the foster care program they are taken out of bad situations and very often leave with only the clothes they are wearing. Mosaic gives these children a chance to shop, pick out anything they want and it’s all brand new, it’s theirs. The thought of a child not having all they need is gut wrenching. Children can’t help the environment they are born into, they have no say over the difficult situations adults put them in. This is just a small way that I can contribute, by using my art to provide a token of security in their lives.
Vicki Rawlins finds the perfect balance between Mother Nature and art
Tell me a bit about the process of creating one of your pieces…
Sometimes I have ideas around a piece I might want to do, but when I go out to forage what I need I can’t find it! This usually leads to something beautiful because I’m forced to go back to my studio and “play”! Once I get foliage to work with, I dump it out on my table and just start pushing things around and start creating. I never draw anything, I just use scissors and tweezers to build each piece, never using glue or anything to adhere the foliage to a surface. This means I need to be VERY careful!! I barely breath sometimes, because one bad move and things will move out of place. I don’t have a ceiling fan or a cat, ha! Once I get things looking the way I want, I photograph the work, and then put the foliage back outside!
All images in this post were provided by the individual artists, creatives and entrepreneurs above.