An interview with Vanessa Hughes, Manager of creative strategy & direction at Canva
Tell me about where you grew up?
I was born in Mauritius, an island off the East coast of South Africa which most people have not heard of unless I mention the Dodo bird... Yup that’s where the Dodo bird originated from. I spent most of my childhood years there and moved to Canada at the age of 12.
How old were you when you started painting? Where did your passion for art come from?
My earliest memory of painting was probably at the age of 7-8. The town where I grew up in Mauritius would host art contests for kids 5-15 years to express and explore their creativity and I would enter them with the help of my uncle, an artist at the time who would teach me some art techniques and let me use his supplies. He was definitely a big part of the start of my interest in art; specifically painting.
Tell me the story about why you decided to come to Australia? From what I remember you’re from Canada?
I don’t have a reason per say but more of a feeling... For as long as I could remember I had it on my heart to check out Australia. It could’ve been the plush Koala that my aunt and uncle had brought back from their trip to Australia that I loved so much!
What prompted the move two years ago now was that I had reached a point of burn out at my job and had decided that I needed a change... moving to Australia came to mind. :)
What does being creative mean to you? Where do you draw inspiration from?
For me, it is the most freeing way to express myself and the beautiful thing is that it comes in so many different forms; writing, playing music, drawing, painting, dancing etc. I would not be able to be content in other areas of my life without having a creative outlet of some sort. Creativity is so important to maintain a healthy mental state and it is a beautiful thing when you get to share your creativity with others.
There are so many ways you can draw inspiration from. For years, I thought that I had to travel overseas and find new exciting places to find inspiration (you definitely can) but I’ve learned that by simply being present and embracing the slow, you can find inspiration in your everyday. For me, it can be as simple as going for a walk and exploring new areas. Even if it is the same path you take daily, I bet you can find something new every single time. Living in Bondi especially, I love looking at the beautiful and unique architecture and drawing colour inspiration as well as design inspiration from them.
How did you come up with your art style? Talk me through how you feel when you paint?
I remember back in elementary school, we had to re-create work inspired by an artist and I had chosen Pablo Picasso. This is probably when I became a big fan of his work; specifically his cubism era where he would depict apart objects and analyze the shapes that are within the object; He would re-invent an object using geometric shapes and give it a new abstract look.
Up until recent years, I started showing a lot of interest in one line drawings and the artist that kicked this off for me was Christiane Spangsberg, an artist from Coopenhaagen. My style combines the two influences with my own love for mixing mediums and experimenting.
I feel present when I paint and this is something I can struggle with as I always have so much on my mind but when I paint my mind seems to clear up and it is very therapeutic for me.
Tell me about the moment when you felt the effects of Covid and how it impacted your life?
This year has definitely been a challenging one for all of us and without a doubt it has impacted each of us in some way or another but what has been so uplifting and encouraging was seeing people come together to support each other as well as seeing new businesses come out of this time.
Before the art, I was working at an event styling company and this was probably the first industry to be impacted directly by the pandemic. It was around mid-march that my hours were decreased by 85% bringing them down to a total of 4 hours a week. This was a hard hit for me (and many others) and I was now faced with the decision to book a flight back home to Canada as in my mind the chances of finding a new job were close to none.
Tell me the story about the moment someone asked to buy a painting? What were you feeling before and after? Did you ever expect to turn it into a business?
It didn’t take long for people around me to come together and support me during this time. My first order was actually on the day that I received the news about my hours decreasing. I was laying in bed and tears kept coming down when I received an unexpected money transfer. It was from my flatmate, also one of my best friends here, titled “for my first painting” and this was just the start of a beautiful new thing. Every day onwards a friend or relative would order a piece to support as well and it wasn’t long until complete strangers were ordering through word of mouth. So the answer is no, I never planned for this but am so grateful for community and God’s goodness towards me in this season.
Thank you for following along this journey and supporting creativity during an uncertain time.