Local Artist Feature: Vanessa Autumn

Vanessa Autumn is a self-taught, visual artist and naturalist. She enjoys long walks on the beach (actually), getting lost in the woods, traveling and being immersed in new places, and a life revolving around food (growing it, foraging it, cooking it, eating it, sharing it).

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How would you describe your work?

My work is quiet, curious, thoughtful, feminine, and soft.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

I’ve been a pretty consistent listener to the podcast On Being for the past few years. I’ve had my mind and heart blown wide open by some of the conversations they’ve created. It has definitely changed the way I’m navigating this life I’m living.

Do you have a piece of work which stands out in your mind as something you are exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?

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I've just started exploring the medium of drawing and painting around year ago and fell in love with it instantly. One of the first large watercolor pieces I finished last summer really hit a sweet spot in my heart. It felt great to be proud of a piece of work that came from a completely new and unexplored area of creative expression for me.

Often as artists, we take on the role of the harshest critic of our own work, so to have a proud and empowering moment of finishing a piece in a new medium that I taught myself, really encouraged me to continue making new work and exploring new territory where failure and success are both an inevitable outcome.

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I am making plans for my first publication— a small illustrated foraging handbook for identifying wild food that grows natively in the midwest. It’s going to be a pretty big project, and  I have a lot to learn on my own, and that’s all very exciting for me.

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What do you want others outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts?

Speaking from the perspective of a someone working more independently, there are so many hats to wear as an artist. Especially when you are starting out and don’t have it in your means to pay someone to do your marketing, your bookkeeping, your project managing. Finding a balance in making sure you are on top of all the other responsibilities of being an artist, and also giving your art the attention it needs is an ongoing effort for me.

How can communities, specifically Grand Rapids, better support the creative workforce?

In Grand Rapids, a lot of people seem to be "ga-ga" about art for two weeks when ArtPrize takes over downtown, and then forget about it for the other 50 weeks of the year. But there’s an incredible amount of art happening all year round in the city. There is always an opportunity to make your holiday shopping, your weekly date night, your kitchen remodel, etc. a way to support the creative class.

There’s an ongoing joke among a lot of creatives who I know -  that as artists we all understand from experience the importance in investing in the arts, so we are all just passing the same $20 bill around to each other trying to support our fellow creatives. I’d love to see support and encouragement of the creative class grow as the city grows more and more every day.

What are you passionate about besides your work?

Pretty simply, the outdoors. Living in the city, I start to feel a little stir crazy if it’s been a week and I haven’t made time to spend time in the woods or take a trip to Lake Michigan. I have learned so much about how to navigate this life I’m living by paying attention to nature. Nothing clears my head better than spending a quiet hour outside paying attention to the trees or the water or the plants around me.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?

Don’t wait for permission, don’t wait until you know what you’re doing to start, don’t wait for someone to tell you yes. Just do it. (I remind myself of this almost daily.)

Looking for more? You can find more about the artist here.

Vanessa DeCouto's recent exhibition at  MadCap Coffee

Vanessa DeCouto's recent exhibition at MadCap Coffee