Ep 55 Featured Image Podcast

Making the Art of Light – Vanessa Marsh – Ep 55

November 9, 2022


Authenticity is often present in strong, moving art. This ingredient is a given. But sometimes art can be even more significant in feel. It can be universal. I can’t always put my finger on how this occurs, but I can recognize it. The work feels bigger. It references far more than what is contained within its borders. 

Oregon-based artist Vanessa Marsh makes this kind of work. Her art is similar to photography, but on closer examination, it is not. Vanessa constructs much of her work using darkroom techniques, collage, drawing, and painting. Her varied images of landscapes, trees, and night constellations seem familiar, like a collective shared memory. They have a specificity but also remarkably a universality. Her work is beautifully varied, but all of it shares a common subject matter: light itself. Join us for this expansive conversation about constellations, human connection, and the nature of light.

Listen if you are interested in…

  • Getting to know Vanessa Marsh and how her upbringing impacts her art [1:22]
  • Reconnecting us to the cosmos [14:27]
  • Painting in reverse and the logistics of Vanessa’s art-making  [20:24]
  • The role silhouette and reduction play in Vanessa’s work [32:37]
  • Keeping the work going and the road ahead for Vanessa [38:59]

Big ideas and creative joy

Life can feel like an eclectic mix of locations and scenery for people who move often. When you think back on it, everything kind of blends together in a geographically diverse collage. That’s the feeling I got when I first saw the artwork of Vanessa Marsh. She spent her developmental years moving up and down the West Coast, and many of her pieces feature collaborations between California and the Pacific Northwest. The other feeling I got from Vanessa’s work is one of intense universality. At the core of her landscape work rests the cosmos. She loves depicting big universal ideas through the constellations because they simultaneously communicate the disconnection we all feel and our desire to reconnect with the world around us. Equally important to Vanessa is the creative joy she gets from simply making things. Experimentation and discovering new ways of bringing her art to life is a reward all its own. Both universal expression and artistic inquiry are required to keep her going on the art journey.

Turn off the lights and paint

Something I love about Vanessa’s work is that it looks like photography, but it’s not. It’s filled with different techniques and tools that make these almost real places completely her own. Vanessa creates paintings using transparent inks on clear sheets of Mylar as big as the piece. Because the Mylar acts as a negative for the final image, Vanessa has to paint in reverse. If she wants the finished product to display the color blue, she needs to initially paint it a transparent orange and then develop it by allowing light to interact with the photosensitive paper and the Mylar negative. Until she is ready for light exposure, Vanessa needs total darkness so all of her paintings are done with the lights off using templates she can feel around for. Darker silhouettes like mountains are achieved through masking techniques that block light exposure and create a profound sense of depth in the work. All of this combines for a truly unique art experience that needs to be seen.

Own your art

Artists should never stop pushing the boundaries of what is possible in their art practice. That being said, sometimes we feel pressure to pursue styles or techniques we don’t have an aptitude for. Vanessa loves photography, but admits she’s not good at taking portraits. She could have allowed that to keep her away from art altogether. However, she pursued her curiosity and came up with art that fits her creative skill set perfectly. Much like her work creates hybrid locations out of the various places that have impacted her life, Vanessa owns her art by creating styles and techniques that allow her to do what she loves. Listen to this episode for more on Vanessa, her process, and where her work is headed now!

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Vanessa Marsh

Connect with Nicholas Wilton and Art2Life

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Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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