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We All Breathe Again, by Anoushka

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anoushka entry page.png

Anoushka's Instagram: @adgdraws

A Conversation with the Artist
We interviewed Anoushka on her views and artistic journey


So to start off, what inspired you to join the zine?


Anoushka: I want to go into what inspired me to make this magazine with you (Micah), what inspired the prompt, and then my artwork. 


So you’d been talking about making this collective magazine featuring artists from the server for a long time, because by that time it already became sort of a community. I thought it would be really cool for us to do a bigger, collaborative project with more people involved, so I was in. 


And then for what inspired the prompt. So, I made this Discord server in January 2020. I wanted to make new artist friends because in the middle of quarantine and school, I was really stressed, and I’d been neglecting art as a hobby. I thought if I made new artist friends, they’d inspire me to get back into it again. And, that was exactly what happened: as I met and talked to these amazing artists on the server, I became more and more inspired to create more art again. It was really refreshing, like a *breath of fresh air.* So, I thought that having the magazine prompt parallel this art community’s impact on me would be really cool. 


In terms of my entry, I submitted an artwork to the magazine because I just wanted to push further with this project. I was already so passionate about it, so to have my own work featured would make it even more rewarding for me.

So with your zine entry, what was the creative process like making it? Was there a specific approach you took or obstacles you faced in the process?


I knew that for the artwork I was submitting, I wanted it to be about my friends. I had a lot of mental health issues going into high school, and very little self confidence, but throughout my highschool years my friends helped me grow that confidence back. Around them, I was able to return to my old, happy self. So I knew I wanted it to be about them. And in terms of a “breath of fresh air,” you can interpret it in so many different ways. For me, and with my friends, it was a sense of comfort — like I’m home with them.  I think of it like a warm hug, harmonious music, swirls, warmth. That was how I wanted the artwork to feel like. But translating what that feeling would look like was what was really difficult for me. I went through one or two weeks of just making different drafts until I finally came up with a final composition that, I think, was able to translate my feeling into a visual piece. I'm really happy with the final work. When I look at it, it makes me feel what I was envisioning when I first thought of it.  


Interviewer: Awesome. Yeah, I get that breath of fresh air feeling myself from your piece. 



So, this next question is something I think about a lot. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve always associated specific music or songs with pieces of artwork. I was wondering if you ever connect music with art, and if so how?


With almost anything I look at — art, photos, or even videos — I always connect a song with it. With my artwork, It’ll either come to my head immediately or I'll look for a song in my Spotify to try to find one that matches. And so with this piece, I have a whole playlist full of songs. I didn’t make the playlist specifically for this piece, but it’s for songs that give me the same feeling I was trying to evoke in this artwork. There’s this one song called Confessions by Sudan Archives — That’s definitely one that connects with this artwork. Specifically the chorus — the pre-chorus to the chorus — it’s just so grand. There’s all the instruments playing, her voice, it all just meshes together in this really nice harmony. That is what I would pair with this artwork. 


Beautiful! What about just in general? Are there any music genres or artists that impact your work?


I would say in terms of genre, I like sad indie songs lol. Bon Iver, Lamp, Mid-air thief, Sufjan Stevens. Songs that are either super sad or super delicate. That kind of music always puts me in the mood to create art.



Speaking more broadly about your art, are there particular artists, concepts, or colour palettes that inspire your work? 


I would say for main inspirations, I've been into more whimsical, swirly artwork. My work is also very color driven, so I love cool color palettes or interesting color combinations. Artists like Bang Sangho, James Jean — they just have these really cool compositions where the entire page is so complex and multidimensional. And their color palettes are insane. 

I also really like this one artist, Joyce Thornburg. Her art is not the kind of genre I was talking about with Bang Sangho and James Jean. But, it's super jarring, and she also uses quite a bit of color. I don't know, something about artwork is super raw. That's what makes it really powerful to me. I was able to meet her, which was so freaking cool. She's such a cool lady. I would say she’s in her mid to late 60s, and she's just so badass. Her work has a lot of feminist messages, and I just loved it. I've been following her artwork ever since. So she's also another big inspiration for me.


That is so cool! Adding on to that, have you met any other artists that you like or have been really awesome, I guess?


Well, I didn't know about her artwork until I started working with her, but for two years I interned for this artist called Shreya Mehta. I was in the studio with her all the time, so I became very familiar with her artwork and the type of artwork she does. She's a very spiritual artist. She does glass sculpture, large mixed media paintings. There's a lot of layers behind each piece that she makes. I learned a lot from her, her practise, and I got to see the lifestyle of being a full-time artist. So not necessarily in terms of art style, but in general she has been an inspiration to me. She's such an amazing woman, and I'm so privileged to have been able to work with her. 


Yeah. I was able to see her pieces, and her stuff is beautiful!

In terms of your art, do you ever explore mediums other than visual art? (Music, writing, etc)

Yeah. I think almost every artist has said this, but I will also say it — I've always been a creative person and exploring different mediums. When I was younger, I would do a lot of videos and vlogs, which I think is a form of creativity. I was also super into music and acting. For drama, I did my school plays. For music, I've been singing since I was very little. I trained in classical music and opera for a couple of years, which was super cool — it gave me appreciation for opera music which I didn't have before. I used to play drums for a little bit, but I was never that good. And then I also played piano for a long time. So, I was a big time musician in the sense that I did a lot of it. But then like as I got older I kind of transitioned more into visual art. I had always done art, but I never took it too seriously until much later. But, I still sing all the time. I don't do any formal training anymore, but I still sing when I am feeling upset, or when I hear a song that I really like, or when I feel really angry. I just sit down to sing and play the piano, and it’s really cathartic for me. 


Is there anything you want to get into?


Whenever I'm doing one thing, I’m always thinking about something else I want to be doing. So when I was doing music all the time, I always thought about how I couldn’t make time for art. And now, I’ve stopped doing my music lessons so I could make more time to do art, but I sometimes question whether I really have quit my music. It's just a constant back and forth. I also feel like I miss acting. I haven't done it in so long, but then, whenever I have to do some form of acting in an English class or something, I find it really fun to get into character. I may not be great, but it’s just so fun to me. So I kind of wish I could do everything, but that’s impossible. Or maybe I could do it all and just not be very good at all of them. I don't know if I want to do it all and just to enjoy it, or if I want to just stick to one so I can be really good at it. That's something I constantly struggle with. 

What are your earliest memories involving creative expression?


I think my earliest memory was making those video blogs. Whenever we would go out on vacation somewhere, or even just at home, honestly, I would make these vlogs called Anoushka dot com. I thought I was going to be the next biggest youtuber. 


What did you vlog about?


Just, anything I was doing. I would make up skits either with my friends or by myself. Or if my family was on vacation, I would vlog about what we were doing. I remember this one time we were in Rome during Christmas time, and we were in St. Peter's Square where you see the pope. I remember being like, “Welcome to Anoushka dot com! Today we're going to see the pope!” That's probably my earliest memory. 


Hahaha — That's amazing!


How have people in your personal life influenced your art journey?

My family has always appreciated the arts. My parents adore art — we have works all over our house, and they've been collecting art for a very long time. Then, they're also very into music. Then when I was younger, my sister was also very into visual art. I mean in general, my sister was always my biggest inspiration growing up. I would look up to her for everything, and part of that was wanting to be an artist like her. So she's been super involved in my creative journey. Honestly, I don't think I would have started drawing more if it weren't for her. And now that we're both into art, we always tell each other about projects we want to do. We recently even worked on an art piece together for my parents. So yes, she’s definitely been a big part of my journey. 


Can you tell me a little bit more about that piece that should be for your parents? 


Yeah, so it was for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary. We’d wanted to make a collaborative piece for a long time, our parents have wanted us to make an artwork for the house for a long time, so we finally did. The inspiration was this art piece my sister saw on Pinterest. It was a paper collage, where the layers formed this portrait of a woman in a plan garden, but in a very modern, block colour, almost cubist fashion. It was a lot more my sister’s style than mine, because there was little detail and I’m very detail oriented. But she really loved that piece, I thought it looked cool, so I thought: why not? So we used the same technique, but instead the papers form an image of my mom and dad clinking champagne glasses together — celebrating their anniversary.

In general, are there any themes or topics that inform your artwork?


I’ve delved into my mental health struggles through art. Perfectionism has been one of them, but also other mental health struggles I’ve faced. A lot of my art also has to do with growing up.


Do you ever feel obligated for your work to have a “deeper,” or more profound, meaning? Do you think that “deeper” meaning makes artwork more valuable?


Yes. For the longest time I felt like there needed to be some sort of deep meaning behind my artwork. When I sit down to make something, something I am annoyed at, angry about, upset about — very negative emotions — and I would try to translate it into art. It’s like a coping mechanism. Or, it’s because I wanted to turn something negative into something beautiful. And so, for the most part, when I sit down to create an art piece, I have a meaning in mind. It’s just about translating that meaning into visuals.

But also because I didn’t make a lot of time solely for visual art growing up, as I was doing other things as well, I would only sit down to make art because I had a deadline. And when I'm submitting or showing people my artwork, I feel like I need to have some sort of meaning behind it to have it taken seriously. But as I've been able to create artwork more frequently, I've been trying to push that mindset away because there doesn't need to be a deep meaning behind your art for it to have value. And now that I can create artwork more frequently, I don’t mind there not being some sort of meaning. It can be that today I felt like drawing a butterfly, and tomorrow I could do something deeper.

How much do you think creative ability is an innate talent? Versus a skill, you can work at over time? 


So, everyone agrees that a large part of your artwork is a skill that you practice over time. I also think you can practice creativity in general. By exposing yourself to different perspectives and whatnot, you can practice your ability to think of new ideas. I remember someone told me that even though we don’t think of emotions as something we can practice, your heart is still a muscle. And that emotions and empathy are something you can practice — like developing an emotional muscle. So, I think the same way in terms of creativity. However, I feel like there are some aspects of being an artist that aren’t a skill. Like, the desire to turn what you see or feel into a tangible thing? That’s not a skill. It’s not necessarily a talent or a gift either, but maybe more of a personality trait?  I mean, I know an art piece is not just a product; it's your art. But it is a product in the sense that it’s something you could show to other people.


I don’t even know if having that desire is a good thing all the time. There's this one TV show character called Diane from the show BoJack Horseman, and in one of the episodes she talks about how she wants to write essays about her trauma. In the episode, she kind of panics and tells her friend, “I need to write these essays!” And the other character is like “why?” And Diane says “Because then the trauma would have been for something. I would have turned it into something useful, versus bad trauma which wouldn’t help me in life.” The other character tells her she doesn’t need to turn everything into something useful or productive or whatever it is. And I feel like it can be the same way for art. 

If your art comes from a bad place where you feel obligated to turn every feeling you have into artwork — or some tangible product — that’s pretty toxic.  And honestly, I think that's like what I used to do. Whenever I was upset and angry — part of it was that art helped me cope. But also, I thought that if I was angry I should turn it into an art piece so something useful can come out of it. But then that’s just me. A lot of artist's work comes purely out of desire, to process something, or to express what they can’t put into words, to memorialize something because it’s so beautiful. That’s obviously a very positive thing. It’s the same desire of wanting to turn a feeling into a physical product, but it’s coming out of love or self discovery versus this toxic productivity, where you feel like you always need to be productive. 

So I think that the desire to turn whatever you're feeling into a physical thing — that part is innate. But where that desire comes from is something you can work on, like a skill. If it comes from a good place, obviously great. But if it's from a bad place, you can change that — do away with toxic productivity and get into a more positive mindset.  


Going back to your creative process, what role do you think emotions play in it? 


Emotions definitely play a role in my creative process. My emotions dictate a) whether I'm going to do art, and b) what kind of artwork I'm going to do. If I'm feeling normal, happy, I’ll sit down on a bigger piece I’m working on. But if I'm really sad or upset, I don't want to sit down and work on an intricate artwork. I feel like if I do that, I go back into this toxic mindset (for me) of trying to turn my sadness into something useful. So if I'm in a really, really bad headspace, I usually don’t feel like drawing. I just want to cry and then be done with the emotion. But if I do want to draw when I'm really upset, I'll just scribble or do whatever I need to do to get it out of my system.


Our last question — what’s something that’s made you smile this week? 


Yeah. So one of my best friends moved to Peru two years ago. But last week she visited us for the first time since she left. She was part of my close group of friends, so we all just hung out together for five days straight. That's all I did — was just do stuff with her and my other best friends. Constant smiles. It was very fun. 



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