Interview with Arvilla Mae

We sat down to chat with illustrator Arvilla Mae to learn about how she became an artist, what inspires her and how she stays creative…

What’s your background and how did you become an artist?

I had been a creative soul my whole life. When I was on the soccer team maybe 8 years old, I would be excited to be on the side-lines not playing because I told my mom I was designing my prom dress. When I got older in school, I was drawing doodles in my notebooks, taking photographs with disposable cameras, and filling up notebooks with songs, poems, and dreams. My cousin told me my photography was good one day and that sparked the idea to take a photography class.  My high school was offering a vocational study outside of regular classes to study photography. The class was equivalent to a college course every day for 4 years, where we explored photography, graphic design, and videography. Did I fall in love? Yes. That is when I realised, I could make a career out of art.

How would you describe your own work?

Whimsical. Political. Humorous. Powerful. I am ever changing and evolving so I would say my art reflects how I feel on a given day too.

Who are your biggest influences?

Octavia Bromell inspired me at an Adobe Max conference with her story about dealing with mental health. It inspired me to become more vulnerable with my art. Her story hit home for me as I struggle with anxiety and depression and it’s not always easy to publicly speak about it. I believe art saved my life just as she said it helped her. She seems like a wonderful human, whose art is whimsical, colourful and beautiful.

Lisa Bardot because she is an inspiring teacher, who breaks down art and drawing in a simple way. She makes a lot of wonderful brush packs which i’m obsessed with. Her art is fun, playful and she seems like a confident person who manages her life with grace, but with a hint of vulnerability too. She is a mom and an artist and that just inspires me to not give up on my dreams even though I have kids.

Yao Chen is a watercolor artist and her art has inspired me to do more watercolor and not be afraid to let the colors bleed.

Henri Matisse is one of my favourite traditional artists. His art is so inspiring. I love his imperfect and skewed portraits perspective, cut out collages, and mixing detailed patterns into his work.

Where do you seek inspiration?

Life. Movies. Jokes. World News. Other artists. I would draw my kids doing funny things, like stealing my coffee. Or I would write about how laws are changing for women’s rights all over the globe. Other artists have inspired me to keep going.

What keeps you creative?

Art is supposed to be shared otherwise it’s not art. When I heard art explained this way, I stepped aside from my own judgement and started exploring and playing. My kids would draw outside the lines, play with paint and mix colours I would never dare try. Being playful with your art and not taking myself too seriously has sparked a huge change in my art expression.

What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a creative rut?

I find myself having artist blocks especially now during these challenging times of us all being at home. I have to stop myself from going into a state of depression at times by not thinking about what others think of me and thinking of what I love, like and what inspires me. I just start, even if it’s drawing a banana, or something that makes me laugh. It always involves something at some point.  If not now, maybe something later. But the main thing is I give myself the time to process my feelings through my art. I also have created challenges for myself, for instance drawing something every day for 30 days, 60 days and 90 days. When you set goals for yourself, even small ones – it creates a habit. So, it’s not so hard to come up with something and it doesn’t allow you to lose momentum.

Talk us through your creative process

I used to be a more traditionally based artist, even though my training is in graphic design. I love drawing with just a pencil and paper, but I create a lot of my pieces on the computer, from either a sketch or drawing, and scan it in. My iPad changed everything for me. I can now easily screenshot my drawings, and digitise them, and even record the process of how I created it. In additon, i’ve also explored blending, creating characters and even jumping on the Folkart Challenge this year.

If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self – what would it be?

I would say stop worrying about what other people think of you and your art. You should create art for yourself, and hope someone is inspired by it. But if not, that’s okay because your art is yours and it needs to be shared with the world.

Explore Moments from Arvilla Mae by downloading the Momentful app today on iOS and Android.