Anja Van Herle
Diamonds in the Sky (small)
for your eyes only series
Anja Van Herle’s paintings focus on beauty and fashion
Beauty and fashion are two things that are not on short supply in Los Angeles, where Belgian artist Anja Van Herle is based. Inspired by the world of fashion, and fashion photography, Anja van Herle has a unique way of painting, in which she applies everything she loves about fashion into her work….not least dramatic colours! Some of her recent collector’s are Paula Abdul, Steven Tyler and David Guetta.
We caught up with Anja and she shared with Creative Mapping her working process… and what she loves most about life in L.A.
“I’m inspired by taking a stroll through the city and absorbing everything around me; the people, the boutiques, the fashion and accessories… all somehow find their way into my work.” Anja Van Herle
ABOUT ANJA VAN HERLE
CM: Where are you from?
I’m originally from Belgium but live in L.A
CM: What and where did you study?
When I was nineteen, I considered studying fashion design at the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Art and even thought about becoming a make-up artist. That never happened. Instead, I continued to draw and paint as I’d always done as a child, and later went on to attend the Higher Institute for Art Education, where I earned my Master of Fine Arts in Painting, in Hasselt, Belgium.
CM: What was your journey to becoming a professional artist?
After graduation from art school, I started to paint for a few years in Belgium, but always had difficulty finding the time. When I moved to L.A in 2003, I dedicated myself to work, essentially starting from zero again. I immediately began to improve on the figurative style I’d developed in Belgium. As an artist, it’s vital to show your work and interact with your viewers.
My first shows in L.A. were in Beverly Hills. These were the start of many other opportunities with area galleries, which in turn prompted me to continually refine my style since I always want to have only my best efforts on display.
There was a time when my work was darker in nature. While I was happy with these works, I always wanted to bring a new dimension to my paintings. Over time, my work became lighter, more playful and fun. These stylistic changes were a big turning point for me, and really mark the point where I feel I began to breakthrough. This is the point where galleries began to approach me to represent my work, instead of me knocking on gallery doors.
CM: What inspires you most in your city?
My work’s largely focused on beauty and fashion: two things that are not on short supply in Los Angeles. Sometimes I simply go for a stroll through the city, absorbing everything around me; the people, the boutiques, the fashion and accessories… all somehow find their way into my work.
“My work’s largely focused on beauty and fashion: two things that are not on short supply in Los Angeles. These days, I can apply everything I love about fashion into my work to add new dimensions and dramatic colour to my paintings.” Anja Van Herle
CM: What inspires you, in general?
I’ve always been inspired by the world of fashion and fashion photography. Even as a child, I was constantly flipping through fashion magazines. These days, I can apply everything I love about fashion into my work to add new dimensions and dramatic colour to my paintings.
CM: What’s the challenge of working as a painter in L.A?
Like any big city, the sheer logistics of getting myself or my work from Point A to Point B can be a challenge. Some of my works are quite large, so that can take quite a bit of effort moving between studios and galleries to art supply shops, printers, etc.
Although I live and work in Los Angeles, all my galleries happen to be out of L.A.
In that respect, I’ve found it to be a fickle art market, and not one that I’ve entirely understood. In contrast, I’ve developed some really wonderful, lasting relationships with galleries in areas just outside Los Angeles. Most of the images that are included here are available at JoAnne Artman Gallery in Laguna Beach, California.
CM: How do you work, from concept, to final product?
Every painting is an adventure. As an idea for a composition begins to form, I find myself travelling to the fashion district in downtown L.A, and to vintage stores and flea markets in the city in search of interesting and unique accessories that can inspire my work, and for ideas in the people, fashion and culture that I see.
I use the same process for every painting. When I have an idea, I make a rough design on paper, then shoot a few simple photographs of my models to get down the basic form. Sometimes my models pose with props and accessories, but just as often I will add these elements as I’m painting, or when I pour over my photographs and combine various elements from the shots I’ve taken. Once I feel I have the right composition, I’ll start on the painting. Recently, I’ve begun to stylize my work even more, often combing features from different models to create a totally new face; a girl that doesn’t exist.
CM: Which materials and programs do you most use when working?
My medium is acrylic on wood. I work with wood because it has a smooth texture and tone that naturally compliments the faces and skin tones of my girls. Many people seem to think I work with an air brush, but I don’t. I’ve developed a very unique brushing technique using ordinary paint brushes. My paint comes directly from the manufacturer, Nova Color, here in L.A.
I’ve also recently begun incorporating Swarovski Crystals into some of my work to give my girls some added bling. I get a great 3 -D effect and an amazing glittering shine using crystals to blanket the background of a piece, or even create sunglasses frames using nothing but shimmering crystals instead of paint. I recently created a piece using over 10,000 Swarovksi Crystals!
CM: Do you ever have creative blocks? How do you deal with these?
I paint every single day. I’m always producing new work, and always have an idea of what I will paint next. I jot down a lot ideas for paintings I’d like to make, so I have no shortage of ideas to try next. In this sense, there’s never really a moment where I find myself staring at a blank canvas, frozen by a creative block. There are some times when a painting just doesn’t seem to work, for one reason or another. In these cases, I either move right on to my next piece, or make a big, daring change to the piece that isn’t working. Sometimes you just have to take a risk to find that one special element that will make a painting work. Either way, you just have to move forward and never sit still.
CM: What approach do you take to marketing?
For me the biggest promotion for my art, are the galleries that represent me. A good gallery does a lot of promotional work for an artist.
CM: Favorites blogs & websites?
Anything and everything that has to do with fashion, art and shopping. A few of my favorites are: Creator Magazine, TuTu Much Media, Shu84, Trendhunter, Trendland, Chainsaws and Jelly. And of course you…Creative Mapping!
CM: Favorite industry events – nationally and internationally?
I went to an event last year and there’s an upcoming event in August “Oceana” the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation.
I also love charity events especially when fashion is involved. Another event is the ‚“Magic Show‚ a fashion expo at the convention center in Las Vegas.
CM: Where do you like to hang out in your city?
I love to walk on the beach with my husband or go for a hike in the mountains. I like local cafes, great restaurants and I love to hang out in vintage stores and flea markets. The Pasadena Rose Bowl has a fantastic monthly flea market where you can find all sorts of vintage items. I love just browsing for inspiration to see what will find its way into my work next.
CM: Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
I’d like to do something with Banksy. I attended Art Basel Miami last year and was very impressed with the ubiquitous street art in the Wynwood District; there are murals everywhere. Banksy’s work has really pushed street art in an interesting direction and inspired so many new artists. So much of his art is about the context where it’s found; it’s very site-specific. I just love the way he uses the urban landscape as his canvas.
I also would like to collaborate with an industrial designer, as for example Karim Rashid or Marimekko.
Creative Mapping © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Photography © Copyright: Anja Van Herle.