Get Messy Art Podcast

Using Art to Narrate Your Journey with Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd

Together with Caylee Grey and guests, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.

No more excuses. Okay? Okay.

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The podcast is back! And we’re jumping right into the deep end. We’re not talking about surface level art here, no no, you can’t really do that with my guest. Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd and I are talking about a way to get around how damn hard it is to put your inner heart into your art. Not just putting your likes and dislikes onto the page, not just your paper ephemera, and not just what you did that day (although all of those are great). We’re discussing V’s favourite technique for telling your story without it being draining.

Cause we all have issues. We all have a story that has led us to the point we’re at. We’re all still on a journey. It may be beautiful, it may be painful, it probably is raw. Art is very good at helping unload that weight. But it’s not necessarily easy to do.

We wanted to talk about the creative process of making an online class, but in true Vanessa fashion, we ended up talking about so much more than that.

I’m glad you could join us.

Podcast Show Notes

IN THIS EPISODE, WE DISCUSS

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Caylee:
Hello, you beautiful human. Welcome to the Get Messy podcast. Today’s guest is one of my really good art friends. It’s more casual, I didn’t prepare anything. I mean all of these episodes are casual, I don’t know if you know that by now, but this one is particularly casual because V is a good friend. And she and I just finished working together on a class called “The Inner Heroine”, it launched two weeks ago now, and I just wanted to get here with her to chat about the creative process of creating a class and creating an online class.

Caylee:
I also ended up talking to her a lot about… “The Inner Heroine” is her class, and so we spoke a lot about using art to tell your journey, and how to not be as close to your circumstances, and to able to step away from it in order to tell your story. So we spoke a lot about that. And just talking to V is wonderful. You’ll hear her beautiful accent, where she says “Collage”, and all those actually French words that English people just really butcher.

Caylee:
And yeah, V is an amazing art witch. She is an archeologist and an artist, and she osculates between these two poles of her personality, and she explores the many iterations of her reality in her art journal. She is a human that shares her art and her process with others in such a vulnerable way that it really encourages you to open up, it encourages you to dig deep and explore yourself. And the magic thing that I have found from Vanessa is that she really gets you to dig deep into yourself, and to dig deep in your heart, and she’s like a little catalyst for creating those art magics in your life.

Caylee:
I don’t know, I just can’t say enough good things about V, and so I think I’m going to stop trying now, and I’m juts going to let you form your own opinion, and see her for yourself. If you want to follow her on Instagram, her handle is… I’m not going to pronounce it in French, but it is [French 00:03:15]. It means from my skull, if I remember correctly. I’m just going to link it in the show notes, you really don’t need to try and figure out what I’m trying to say in French, I can’t speak French. And she also has her own website, [French 00:03:31] .com.

Caylee:
She also is one of the three sister witches at Art Witch Academy, and I’m going to link all of that below. You can explore, you can see her art, you can see the art that other people are creating from her experiences from her class. And yeah, her art journal pages are just absolutely raw, and honest, and gritty. And as V says, they are her truth. I know you’re going to enjoy listening to her in this episode, and I hope it encourages you to explore your own journey through art.

Caylee:
V, welcome to the podcast.

Vanessa:
Thank you so much, I’m happy to be here.

Caylee:
Man, I always love chatting to you. Have we done a podcast episode before?

Vanessa:
Yeah, I believe we’ve done at least one before. I’m trying to remember if it was about Rituals or Totems, but I’m not sure. And I know that we did one way back in the time for Get Messy.

Caylee:
Yes, that interview. I just think every time I talk to you, it feels like it should be a podcast because of how wise you are.

Vanessa:
You’re too kind. I think we have a nice interaction that happens.

Caylee:
Yeah. I mean my heart still… every time I go to Paris, it’s still like, “You’re my city”.

Vanessa:
Totally, that’s the same thing for me. That was such a wonderful trip, and so spontaneous too, back when we were allowed to be spontaneous.

Caylee:
Oh, yes.

Vanessa:
And I loved that the first thing you said to me when we met was how short I was.

Caylee:
Yeah, because you don’t look short. You don’t look short online.

Vanessa:
I’m not short, I’m average size.

Caylee:
You’re very short. I expected you to be much taller than me. But yeah, that trip was so great because it was one of those rare occasions where meeting someone in person that you know online was even better, like 100%.

Vanessa:
[crosstalk 00:05:44] same thing.

Caylee:
This whole episode is just going to be us crushing on each other.

Vanessa:
Just gushing.

Caylee:
But today I’m excited to talk to you about The Inner Heroine. And The Inner Heroine is a class, it was released through Get Messy. You and I combined our powers. When I say combined our powers, I just mean that you put your power out there, and I just did the tech and the admin around it.

Vanessa:
Which is definitely not one of my powers, so if it wasn’t for you, there would be nothing.

Caylee:
Yeah, it worked out pretty well. Maybe you want to start with what exactly is The Inner Heroine?

Vanessa:
Right. The Inner Heroine is about… it’s really a journey. It’s a class that is a journey, and it’s based on the heroine’s journey. But as much as creating this class was a huge journey for me, actually taking it will take you down some really interesting paths as well. So the idea is to use the heroine’s journey as a framework to tell your story.

Vanessa:
And when I was thinking about doing this class, I was realizing that some of the barriers that stopped me from maybe getting some of the things I’m holding onto, so what stops me from letting go of those things, is when I can’t feel I can express myself fully. And some of the reasons why I couldn’t express myself fully is because you don’t want to hurt anybody else, or you don’t want to say things that make you look so angry or petulant, and so you end up self censoring yourself.

Vanessa:
So the best and easiest way I’ve found to be able to tell your story without telling it in so many words, was to use this idea of the heroine. So fictionalizing your story. So that’s where this idea of using the heroine’s journey to tell a fairytale version of what’s happened to you, as a way to bypass that self censoring voice that we all have inside of us.

Caylee:
It’s brilliant. Yeah, I love the way you say self censoring. I think that we do it a lot, and we’re told that we have to do it, and all our circumstances make us do it. And our kindness, like you say, we censor ourselves for other people, for ourself. And yeah, I agree, I think that… I mean art journaling in general is a great way of being able to tell your story, but the way that you have but Inner Heroine together, and the journey that everyone goes on, it works.

Vanessa:
Yeah, and I think that that’s the biggest part, is for example we can maybe stop ourselves from let’s say investigating our relationship to our mother. For example, I have a fraught relationship sometimes with my mother, but I don’t want to cause her any pain or any embarrassment, and so why not put this in the framework of a fairytale, for example, or a poem, or whatever appeals to you. That way you can really say things that you want to say, but you are at the same time addressing all those feelings and how all of that pertains to you, for example.

Vanessa:
And I think that that’s… The mother example is maybe a bit heavy, but you choose whatever story. Some people may have lost their jobs recently and need to address that, and feelings of being hurt and being cast aside, but maybe don’t want their employer to know that they’re talking about them.

Caylee:
I think The Inner Heroine is really great because we’re told that we can express ourselves through art, and we’re told that art journaling is a great way of processing your emotions, but if you sit in front of your art journal, in front of your journal, you sit at your desk, and you’re just like, “Okay, what now?”. And I find that The Inner Heroine, even for me, I’ve been doing this art journaling thing for a few years now, but even for me it was like you gave me the guide and you’re like, “Do this”, and I was like, “Oh, this is really good”.

Vanessa:
Well that’s, I think one of my strong suits is being able to impart some knowledge that I’ve had, and some insight that I’ve had on my own story. And whenever something like that happens to me, I’m always so excited to share, because I think that’s a really big part of the stuff that I have inside myself is also like, “Hey, look at this. Look at what I found here. Look at this, it’s so interesting”. It was a big part of my archeological career as well.

Vanessa:
So that was… I knew that The Inner Heroine would be beneficial to people, no matter what their story, no matter what they were trying to say. It can be super mundane, it can feel too mundane, but nothing is too ordinary because it’s your lived experience. So no matter what you want your story to be about, your journey to be about, this class is going to help you put that within this framework and get some really interesting insights out of it.

Caylee:
I love how you say that. I feel like another thing were told, especially as women, is that, “Your story doesn’t matter. You are just one in millions of people, so why are you special? Why do you get to tell your story?”. And the truth is that it’s not about finding worth in our stories, right? And so even the mundane stories, and even the every day stories, they’re worth telling just because they’re worthy. They don’t need to do anything to be worthy of being told.

Vanessa:
Absolutely. I’m so over that discourse. I’m so over this whole idea that women’s crafts are just hobbies. Some women throughout history had no other way of telling their story than through either ink if they were lucky to have access to paper and ink and time to write things down, or through needle and thread. So through the samplers they would make, or through the mending they would do, so many of these women’s stories are lost because of that.

Vanessa:
And so the story telling aspect of this class is really important to me, because it’s part of your lived experience. And like you say, it’s not necessarily something you want to cry on all the roofs and say, “This happened to me”, but it is important to you, it’s important to your legacy, whatever that means to you, that word. And it’s also important because you’ve lived through it, and so you’ve learned something from it, or you hope to learn something from it. So it’s for sure necessary to document it.

Caylee:
Yeah. Okay, so yesterday I was watching a video, and it relates to what you and I were talking about before we hit record, about how time just goes… What is time, really, actually?

Vanessa:
What is time?

Caylee:
This year, what is happening? But the one way… Time just runs away from us, but the one way we can get back that time is through the lessons that we learn, and through reflecting on it, and just taking… learning. Figuring out what lessons we learned through the time, and that’s a way to get time back in a way.

Vanessa:
Absolutely.

Caylee:
You know what I’m saying?

Vanessa:
Yeah, absolutely.

Caylee:
And so yeah, The Inner Heroine, man, it’s just so important to be processing all of that and to be learning. And even if it’s a small thing that you’ve learned, even if you’ve just learned something about yourself, that’s just so beautiful and just so worthy.

Vanessa:
Yes, this is the thing-

Caylee:
Keep coming back to that word.

Vanessa:
Yeah, and it’s a good word. A lot of these journeys that are heroine undertakes, or that we undertake, don’t happen because we decide to. Sometimes it’s because we’re sent on a journey, and we sort of realize what’s happening half way through. It’s not like you’re going around… Well, I do this sometimes, but not everybody does this sometimes. But it’s not like you’re going around saying, “Oh, I’m in this section of the heroine’s journey right now. Today I’m in the road of trials”, for example.

Vanessa:
But once you’ve sort of emerged or have a little bit of a distance from your story, you can see how it fits into that framework. So in regards to time and thinking about time, there is this idea of having the right time to start documenting this story, because if you’re in the crux of it it’s a bit difficult. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it’s a bit difficult.

Vanessa:
So for me, in creating this class I had to step out of my story and see all the steps that I had gone through, and then see how they meshed with The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock, which was the framework that I was using for this story. That’s why it’s called The Inner Heroine, and not The Heroine’s Journey, because I’ve adapted it and used other elements, including my own lived experience about it. And so then you do get a sense of time, and a time that was past, and the growth that you’ve experienced, which you may not consciously realize that you’ve done unless you take the time to do this exercise.

Caylee:
Yeah, I think-

Vanessa:
If that makes sense?

Caylee:
… there’s so much value in acknowledging the path that we’ve been on and where we are getting here. I was speaking about this with my life coach yesterday, and bare with me as I try and articulate myself, but the idea that everything, our entire past and our entire future, is all wrapped up into who we are right now, and who we are right now is what can wrap our head around everything.

Vanessa:
Yeah.

Caylee:
Our journey of the past, our journey that we’re going to be taking to where we want to be.

Vanessa:
Yeah.

Caylee:
All wrapped up in now. And part of that is acknowledging our previous path, and where we’ve been and how far we’ve come, and celebrating it, even the hard stuff. And I don’t mean throwing a party for it, obviously, but celebrating it and just giving it acknowledgment, or turning it into art, or just saying, “Hey, that happened”. And I think a class like The Inner Heroine is just so good at celebrating everything that made you who you are right now.

Vanessa:
Yeah, absolutely. The best thing that can come out of this class, of doing this exercise, is finding the nuggets in the mud, finding the treasure that’s buried in the story. And sometimes it takes a little bit of a framework to be able to see that. Even for my own story, when I was designing the class and everything, and I was in the… lesson three is all about meeting the monsters and going through this road of trials, and I had this really big insight that not all the monsters are outside of us, some of them are inside us.

Vanessa:
And I was like, “Oh, no”, but at the same time it was the best insight and it really helped me to move on from the story, to be able to acknowledge that it’s never one sided, it’s a dynamic, right? And so pertaining to what you said earlier about the past and the future, it really is like a spiral, and each time you learn something new, you’re just somewhere else on the spiral.

Vanessa:
Even through sometimes it feels like you’re always going back to the start of these journeys, and you’re like, “Haven’t I learned my lesson already? Do I really need to do this again?”. But then you sort of realize you’re on a different journey elsewhere on this spiralic path, because the person you were in the past is not the same as the person you are now, but is a big part of it too.

Caylee:
Oh, that’s some good insight.

Vanessa:
Yeah, that’s really what came out of creating this class, so imagine when I’m going to take it again.

Caylee:
Okay. So I think we’re talking a lot about The Inner Heroine class in particular, just because it’s so meaningful for both of us. How would someone, if they don’t have the space to take the class, the space in their life, how could they apply The Inner Heroine to themselves? It’s kind of a difficult question.

Vanessa:
Well, no, I think it’s… I think they could apply to it by bringing in myth or fairytales or archetypes, depending on which word you want to use for that layering of a fictionalized veil that you put on your life. So if you look at your life with this veil of fiction that goes on top of it, then it helps with the interpretation of the story and finding the story itself.

Vanessa:
So actually, this happened to me when I was getting a season of fairytales, which was such an awesome season for me, because that was the first time that I actually fictionalized a story. And it was my own story, and you only found that out at the end of the season. So that was such a big light bulb moment for me, and I think that’s the seed for this class, was this insight that if you tell your story through myth, you can really address some of the harder or more murky elements of it, and bring that to the light.

“If you tell your story through myth, you can really address some of the harder or more murky elements of it, and bring that to the light.”

– Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd

Caylee:
Yeah, good tip. Good tip. I think, yeah, if you’re not in a space to take the class, that’s a really good way of getting the essence of the class and understanding that. And if you want to know exactly how to do that, obviously taking the class. But this is not a promotional thing.

Vanessa:
That’s right.

Caylee:
This is not a podcast advert, we’re just both really passionate about this. So tell me, V, how did The Inner Heroine come about as a class?

Vanessa:
It started… I was working on the rituals call, which was a year long class that I also did in partnership with Get Messy, I should say. And then that summer was the summer of the season of fairytales, so I had these nuggets, these little seeds that were planted, and ideas that I wanted to delve more into. And then you launched your creator incubator class. I think that was 2018, probably in the fall of 2018, so it’s been two years.

Vanessa:
And so I remember doing that class. Your class really helped me to structure my thoughts, and structure my ideas into lessons that were action items, basically. We all know how you love those. Into these actionable items. And then just it started to flow so quickly, because I knew I had my own story that I wanted to tell, and so finding this idea of the heroine’s journey as a storytelling trope, and then combined with this idea that I had during Get Messy season of fairytales, it just flowed so nicely into this structure and it allowed me to tell my story.

Vanessa:
So the class itself was structured and ready to go probably at the beginning of 2019. But then we launched Art Witch Academy, so that was a little bit of a detour. And then what happened to be happens to many, many of us, is I got caught in some kind of perfectionism and stress about which book I was going to use. So for the longest time I was on this quest to find the perfect book, and because obviously you’re making a class, you want it to look good, right? And it has to fit with your story also, right?

Vanessa:
So I was looking high and low for a book, and then my eyes fell on this book that I’ve had in my library forever. Probably the last three moves. As you know, we move every few years, and so this book has always been in my library, and I was like, “What is this?”, and it’s the Da Vinci book that I ended up using for The Inner Heroine. So when I saw that book I was like, “This is the one”. There was a big click click, and then everything sort of fell into place.

Vanessa:
Even though there was the interruption of the pandemic starting, and all sorts of exiles, and plane rides, and stress, and all that stuff, I was able to come back from… I was [inaudible 00:24:28] to Canada for a little while, then I came back to China, and to my stuff, and to my studio, and was able to finish filming to class. And then here it is at the end of 2020. So it’s really been two years in the making.

Caylee:
Yeah. Yeah, I love it. I think it’s really cool. So it was supposed to come out in April, but I remember talking to you, and we were like the best thing about having our own businesses and putting ourselves out there, is we get to just decide… we told everyone April, but it’s fine, we just move things and everything is okay.

Vanessa:
Absolutely. There’s something about the timing of this class which feels really right for now.

Caylee:
Yeah, isn’t that interesting?

Vanessa:
Yeah. I think that’s amazing, and that’s also part of it.

Caylee:
Yeah, sometimes you have a plan, a very specific plan, and then life happens. A pandemic happens.

Vanessa:
That 2020 happens.

Caylee:
And you realize… and there’s just so much value in things happening when they’re supposed to happen, and letting go of that a bit.

Vanessa:
Yeah.

Caylee:
And I think this relates also to your own journey, is just you’ve got all these scheduled things and these planned times when you want to have everything done, but if you let go then it comes out at a better time. Because we know, you and I both know, this is the time that the class was supposed to come out. This is when it’s needed, this is…

Vanessa:
Absolutely.

Caylee:
I don’t know, the response, people need it now.

Vanessa:
Yeah, I think so too. It was like even I need it. That’s why I’m redoing the class, just because this has been a really persecutor year for everybody, and even though for some of us we’re still navigating some of those waters, there is a lot of healing that can happen and being intentional about your understanding of what’s happening to you. And it helps you have a sense of control. I know you just talked about letting go, but also when you have a little bit of the sense of understanding the structures of what’s happening to you, it can help to calm down some of the anxiety around it.

Caylee:
Yes. Yeah, so I would not recommend letting go of everything.

Vanessa:
No, of course.

Caylee:
But choosing what to hold onto and what to let go of it what brings inner peace, right? Or some kind of inner peace.

Vanessa:
That’s it. Well if you allow for things to happen, then things happen. If you leave some room for surprises, then you get some really good insights because you’re not controlling the narrative too much. So there is the benefit of understanding what’s happening to you, but of not knowing beforehand why it’s happening and what the outcome is going to be.

Caylee:
Oh, that’s good. So for anyone… Well, most people have not created their own online art course before. Let’s talk a bit about that. I mean you clearly see it as your own creativity, right?

Vanessa:
Yep, absolutely.

Caylee:
What’s your thinking behind it? Do you create something and you go, “Oh, that looks pretty good. I should share it”, or how do you see [crosstalk 00:28:10]

Vanessa:
Yeah, that’s really interesting because there has to be a Venn diagram. Let’s say we have a Venn diagram.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Vanessa:
You need a spark, right? Just to plug in the season right now, Get Messy season of spark. You need a spark, you need something that makes you want to, “Ooh, let’s go dig there. Let’s go see where this shining ball is taking me”. But you also need structure, because your class cannot be, “Hey, look at me while I paint all of these pretty things”. I mean, it can be that, but it needs to have some kind of structure for people to latch onto, and to be able to make art that is their own using this structure that you will offer them.

Vanessa:
Or maybe that’s just my classes. I don’t want to come off condescending or anything, but just for me, when I take a class, if it’s just art journal with me, I don’t come out of the class with feelings of accomplishment or knowing that I can use these techniques otherwise. I guess the stated goal of my classes is you won’t necessarily learn techniques that are mind blowing or that you haven’t seen elsewhere, but you will for sure have a set of tools that helps you to really apply whatever the theme of the class is to your own work, and to your own creativity.

Vanessa:
So I think that’s why my approach is a bit different from some other classes, and I also think that’s why it works so well with Get Messy, because you have people who are so willing to go there and who are so willing to try new things, and who appreciate this idea of expanding their creativity toolkit.

Caylee:
Yeah, I also think you and I are completely different in what we create, but I think we’re both rooted in similar ways of creating in that we’re searching for something… I have no idea how to articulate this, so I’m not even going to try. But I think the value of teaching the way that you teach is that I get to apply it to myself, and I get to take what I need from what you’re giving.

Vanessa:
Yes.

Caylee:
You’re kind of giving what you know, and I can say, “Right, that. I need that, I need that, I need that”, and I can add it to mine, and so that in the end you’ll have all your students, and they’re creating art that looks like them. It’s incredible.

Vanessa:
Exactly.

Caylee:
You don’t want it…

Vanessa:
I know, it’s the best part. What’s coming out right now from The Inner Heroine is so cool to look at because it’s so different. Some people are working in an altered book, some people made their own journal, some people are just using paper pads, but it’s all okay because my classes, what I do is I give you permission to do that. I want you to do that, I want you to do whatever works for you.

Vanessa:
And I think I say it at the very begging of this class, collage for me is the fastest way for me to express myself without censoring myself because of the perfectionist inside all of us, or the inner critic, whatever you want to call them. For me, collage helps me go there right away, and for some other people it can be drawing, it can be painting, it can be writing.

Vanessa:
And so you do whatever allows you to bypass that inner critic for this class. And all of my art spreads are just examples of how you can integrate the themes of the class, but a big part of the lessons is also the prompts that I give people, for them to be able to insert their own story into the lesson structure.

Caylee:
Yeah, I think that’s the hallmark of a good class. I think there is definite benefit in learning how to watercolor a flower exactly like the instructor. There’s benefit in that.

Vanessa:
Of course.

Caylee:
But there’s also, if you dig deeper, and finding that from yourself…

Vanessa:
Yeah.

Caylee:
Yeah, there’s some kind of magic there.

Vanessa:
It’s like for me, I won’t show you how to do the flower, but I’ll ask you to find out for yourself why you feel the need to paint or draw this flower.

Caylee:
Oh.

Vanessa:
Like, “What does this flower mean to you?”. It goes into the root of this desire to express yourself this way.

Caylee:
Yeah, and you’re very good at that, at making people dig.

Vanessa:
Well that’s the aim anyway. I mean because I enjoy that for myself also, so I also allow myself to go there. But I’m always so humbled when people are willing to let me be a guide for that, because I know it’s sometimes hard and I know it’s sometimes very raw, and I feel very proud that people are sharing these stories and are responding to the lessons themselves.

Caylee:
Yeah. So when you’re creating a class, you have that spark in your own creative practice.

Vanessa:
Yeah.

Caylee:
And this is something that I’m discovering more and more and more, the more I do this kind of work and the more I work with artists. The most important part about being an online creative teacher or having a creative business, the most important thing is your creating and your work that you’re doing. I have noticed in times where I’ve birthed a class or an idea for a class, I’ve been… what’s the word? A loyal subject? No. I’ve been constantly showing up, and I’ve been doing the work and the work of creating just for myself. And that’s where the spark happened.

Caylee:
And maybe the class itself doesn’t need to be in that period of fruitfulness for me, because it’s similar to writing, is a famous thing where they say for writing you have to be the madman, where you just get all your idea out and you’re just creating and you don’t censor yourself. And then after that you come back in a different space, it’s not the same. You put on your different hat, where you are… I mean I can’t remember exactly, but it’s like the architect…

Vanessa:
Whoa.

Caylee:
Basically you have to separate that wild creating from the structure. And you touched on that a bit with your Venn diagram about needing a spark and a structure. How do you separate those, and how do you put on those different hats for everything, all the different hats that you need in creating a class?

Vanessa:
Right. You know what that makes me think of? You know those memes where they’re like, “What my mom thinks I do, what my peers think I do”, you have those for whatever job, like archeologists?

Caylee:
Yeah.

Vanessa:
That totally makes me think of that, because actually I find that really super interesting because there is all that gusto, right? That super big enthusiasm because you’ve got that nugget that you’re following, that nugget of inspiration that really is showing you where to go. But if you’re going to be leading somebody into this class and showing them the steps that you went through, you do have to document those steps.

Vanessa:
So just like most famous writers will block off… I don’t mean famous, but I just mean when they interview people who write a lot, what they say is that they block off times to work. No matter how they’re feeling, no matter what else comes in the way, this is a block of time that is reserved for them. So for me, there is that flurry of creativity that happens, but I also set myself up for success in that I will block off the most times where I work better. So for me, the morning is when I’m at my most productive.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Vanessa:
Any writing or any admin, like emails, eating the frog from another one of your classes, from Level Up, anything that has to be done, I will do in the morning. So when I’m creating a class, when it’s past just the conception part of it, then I block off all the mornings to film the videos.

Vanessa:
And creating a class is a series of steps, and the videos are just… what you see is just the last step in a very long process, because you have to film the art being made, then you have to edit it, then you have to narrate it, and then you have to upload it, and if you live in China like I do that takes days because of technology issues.

Vanessa:
And then once that’s done, then you have to write the class content, right? And bring it all together so that it’s not just a series of super exciting art spreads, because there has to be the structure that allows somebody to take the class and go through the same steps you did, in a way that makes sense. Otherwise you’re just going to lose your students.

Caylee:
Yes, exactly. It’s like a recipe, right? You can have the best recipe passed down from your Granny, but it means nothing unless you know what to do.

Vanessa:
Exactly. If you add too much salt, that’s not going to be good.

Caylee:
Exactly.

Vanessa:
That’s why the structure part of your class when you’re creating a class is important, because it’s kind of like the same thing as when I was writing my doctorate, which I never finished, but you get super excited for the research part. For me, my favorite part was just before starting when you’re figuring out the structure of your thesis, and it’s super exciting because you have all your references and the images, but then you have to write it out.

Vanessa:
I really love your expression about birthing a class, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a long process, and the end result is fantastic, but there’s a lot of labor that goes into the first steps of it.

Caylee:
Yes, and if we continue with this metaphor-

Vanessa:
Do it.

Caylee:
… once we’ve birthed the class, it’s no longer ours, we have to give it up and we have to see what everyone else does with it.

Vanessa:
Oh, exactly. That is so perfect. What a great metaphor. It’s perfect. And then they grow up, and it’s fantastic because they fly with their own wings. But also it’s true, once the class is out there, it’s so cool to see people just take it and run with it, and just create these amazing journals and be so proud of what’s come out it. From past classes also that students and friends have told me what it meant to them and what it allowed them to discover, it’s just really, really moving to hear those stories.

Caylee:
Yeah. There’s a big vulnerability in putting a class out there, especially because you can’t really… I mean you try your best to a certain point, but past that point you can’t decide how it’s going to affect someone.

Vanessa:
Yeah.

Caylee:
And you can’t decide how they’re going to take it in, and how they’re going to add it to their story. I know that online a lot of people just focus on numbers and they’re like, “Oh, my class was successful because 1,000 signed up”. But well I know you and I are the same in that that’s not how we measure our success.

Vanessa:
Absolutely.

Caylee:
So maybe we can talk about that, what is a successful class to you, V?

Vanessa:
For me, it’s really if even one person says to me, “Wow, you opened up a door for me”. That is the best compliment. That’s the most worthy thing that anybody can say, and I feel very lucky to say that quite a few people have said that to me. So that’s the most important part, for me. Because sure, I mean of course you want people to take your class, right? Otherwise we would’ve put this out in April when everybody was distracted, including myself.

Vanessa:
The point is to have people take your class because you have something to share, and you know that it could help some people and inspire others. But it’s not about the numbers, it’s really about the quality of what it brings to people’s lives. And because my classes tend to be about my own lived experience, then it’s really exciting when somebody else can get something from it and apply it to their own life, and that it becomes something beneficial because there’s some healing that happens or there’s some understanding that happens. And so that, to me, is the biggest measure of success for a class.

Caylee:
Yeah, I think in the end it always comes down to connection, right?

Vanessa:
Yes, absolutely.

Caylee:
And give and take. I’m finding more and more for me, everything comes down to connection. Connecting with other humans.

Vanessa:
Yeah, I believe it. Yeah, I agree. Especially now with everything that’s happening and not having connections in every day life, our day to day life. There’s something about connecting to like minded, like hearted people, people who are going through similar journeys, and the feeling of a community and a group coming together is really healing.

Caylee:
Yeah, it’s powerful.

Vanessa:
Absolutely.

Caylee:
Let’s talk about classes as a creative pursuit in themselves. Because I think for me, when I make a class, it feels like it’s just another way of expressing myself. It’s a creative outlet for me, and it’s a massive creative project, and I feel like it combines everything that I love, because it’s art and tech. So tell me, how do you see it as a creative project? Do you?

Vanessa:
Yeah. I’m trying to see, because I consider these classes that I make with Get Messy so different from my work on Art Witch Academy, because it’s like intuitively I know which goes into what container.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Vanessa:
And I’m trying to put words on that, but I feel like creating a class, it’s either going to be a really big all encompassing project, or it’s going to be something smaller that’s more self contained, if I can say it that way. We have, for example, on Art Witch Academy, classes that span many semesters, so that to me would be the equivalent of a class that I would make for Get Messy, which is an ongoing sort of project.

Vanessa:
But then there are smaller ones which are more akin to the seasons and Get Messy, where you can really explore a theme and explore a technique, for example, and I folly into that.So I don’t know, I’m not sure I see classes as a creative pursuit in of itself, or if I just… for me, it’s more like a big project that happens every two or three years. That’s a really interesting thread that I could follow, because in that sense, for me, it’s different.

Caylee:
Interesting. Yeah, I think there’s definite-

Vanessa:
I hope I explained that right.

Caylee:
Yeah. There’s definitely different ways of seeing a class and how you produce a class based on where it’s going to be. When I did a class for Creative Bug, that was very different to the way that I create classes-

Vanessa:
Oh, I can imagine.

Caylee:
Completely. Because we were speaking about making a class that encourages people to make art that looks like themself, and that they take what they need from it. That’s my class, and that’s what I would produce. But Creative Bug, it was very technique based and specific, and it was… I’m interested to hear from you, the way you do it, but when I do a class for myself, I basically just form and see what happens. I might have a technique that I have in mind, but I don’t create the page and then create an exactly the same page on camera.

Vanessa:
Right. Same.

Caylee:
Yeah, that’s what we did for Creative Bug. But it makes sense, because they’ve got a film crew, they’ve got other people there. They don’t have time to watch you experiment with things, and they’re not going to edit that out.

Vanessa:
Fair enough.

Caylee:
Yeah. Let’s talk about that. You don’t have a page created and then do the exact same thing for the camera?

Vanessa:
Absolutely not, no. And likewise, I don’t journal everything or listen to the videos and write down everything before I create the class. If I were to do that, I feel like I would be doing things twice. So for example, I had my lesson planned, so I know that for the lesson one I wanted to have let’s say four elements to it, and I knew what those four elements were. So then I did create a kit for my class, and had different sections for in terms of collage papers and elements that I wanted to be into each of these spreads. And then it’s just put the camera on, and then go.

Vanessa:
Once the spread is finished, it is what it is. It’s like the spread turns out to be what it needed to be, and I’m never not satisfied. I’m never like, “Oh, I should’ve kept this image for that thing”, or, “I should’ve used this technique for that part”. I think that circles back to what we were saying earlier about allowing for some improvisation and from some magic to happen organically, because it really does when you open yourself up to it. So it’s like I do have a structure, but I’m not super rigid, and everything that you see on camera happens as it happened.

Caylee:
Yeah, I think this is so related to just art in general, right? You have that structure, whether it’s showing up at eight o’clock in the morning every day, or it is knowing that you’re going to go art journal. A small bit of structure, but that structure enables that freedom and that improvisation. It’s like freedom through structure.

Vanessa:
Yes. It’s a container for the creativity to happen.

Caylee:
Ooh.

Vanessa:
And then once you have that container, it’s like you’re giving yourself permission to play. So let’s say that one day you don’t have four hours in a row, then maybe you’re going to reach for the oil paints, and you’ll reach for the gouache that dries faster, for example. Or collage, or just your pencils. So there is also an interplay between what’s available to you, and what medium or technique you’re going to use.

Vanessa:
So when I was thinking about The Inner Heroine, I knew it was going to be a big class with lots of themes to explore. So I knew that I was going to be doing collage, and then I also added on this idea of altering a book, because there’s so much fun that can happen when your substrate already has images or writing, and then you have this wonderful interaction between whatever you’re adding onto the page and what’s already there.

Vanessa:
And I think that was my basis for this, because I felt that was so much that needed to be expressed, so that collage would be the easiest way to do that without losing people because the class is too long or too difficult if you’re just sitting and watching paint dry. So there’s a mix of all these things, right? The structure, but also the medium you’re going to be using, and the techniques that go with that. So it’s all of these combined to become a class.

Caylee:
Yeah, I love that. I love how you say what’s available to you, right? It’s the same as what we were saying earlier about taking what you need from the class. And same with your story, you kind of see what you’ve got. You say, “Okay, I’ve got these paints, these paints, these paints”. Or in your own story, “Okay, this is the fact, this is a fact, this is fact, and now what can I do with this?”.

Vanessa:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean if I was a fantastic drawer who could draw wonderful magical creatures and princesses in two seconds, then I would be doing that. But that’s hard for me. And since it’s already hard to express some of the times that are in The Inner Heroine, for example, then that’s why collage becomes an easier step. Using magazine images and transforming them makes it easier for me to really get to the heart of what I’m trying to say.

Caylee:
Yes. You don’t have to make everything hard. You can also choose things that you really like that might be easy in one part, because the other part’s hard. You can give yourself some grace.

Vanessa:
Yes. Please do that, definitely. I mean that’s exactly the whole point, right? Otherwise you’re not going to tell that story, and you’re just going to be stuck in the mud instead of actually emerging as a beautiful lotus.

Caylee:
Oh, Hello, that is brilliant. I think that is a very good place for us to end. Okay, we can end with this. What would you say to someone that wants to go on that heroine’s journey, that wants to tell her story through art?

Vanessa:
I would say come along. Come along on my horse and let’s go. I really feel like there’s so much benefit from doing that. And even if you’re still in the thick of it, and of course it depends on the story, but for me, the second… I want to document my journey of 2020, and I haven’t emerged yet from this underground forest that I’m in, but I think that there’s something amazing about doing this as a community and as a group, and together we can really help each other out. The first step really is to take that first step on the journey. And if you do the free lesson, it’ll give you a really goof glimpse of what the rest of journey can be like.

Caylee:
Yes. V, as always, it’s amazing talking to you. I’m really glad that we did this is my morning time, because it’s left me supercharged and refreshed, and just so good for the day ahead. I’m going to go make some art now.

Vanessa:
Yes.

Caylee:
Any time I’m in your orbit, that is my logical next step. Thank you so much for chatting today, for opening yourself in general, and juts being vulnerable so that we can also be vulnerable and that we can grow from it.

Vanessa:
Oh well, thank you so much. I mean I feel really, really humbled by all of this, and thank you for being the best tech fairy art mother around, because that’s a really big part of all of this, that we didn’t talk about, but that is super important.

Caylee:
Yeah. Maybe we can chat again about that.

Vanessa:
Next time. Next time that’s what we do. I interview you.

Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd

Vanessa is an art witch who delves into archetypes, symbols and art that digs deep. She loves to show us how to make sense of our world through creating meaningful and healing art. The Inner Heroine is the fruit of over a year’s work and study of the Heroine’s Journey as well as having been enriched by her own life experiences.

Caylee Grey, host of Get Messy

The Get Messy Podcast

I'm Caylee Grey. Creator of Get Messy, official fairy freaking artmother and your pro excuse-squashing ninja.

In the Get Messy podcast I’ll be chatting to a selection of amazing, real-life humans just like you are who are dealing with the very same barriers … but overcoming them to create their art.

Together, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.

No more excuses. Okay? Okay.