Visual Female of the Month – June
– Elsa Isabella
Elsa Isabella featured on The Visual Female a long time ago when I first discovered her paper dolls. Since then I have enjoyed following her on social media to see her journey as an artist. Elsa still focuses on her exquisite miniatures, but since attending art school showcases a range of styles and guided experiments like blind drawing. I wanted to get to know Elsa a little better, so for June I asked the lovely artist to be my Visual Female – and here are her answers.
Now for the interview…
How old were you when you started creating?
I can’t think back to a time when I wasn’t creating in some aspect of the word. I’ve always loved drawing – it really has been my one true love ever since I can remember.
Art has, and will always be the eternal flame inside my soul.
I first discovered your paper dolls, can you tell us a bit about these and what attracted you to drawing on such a small scale?
The way they first began was as simple as having brown paper grocery bags around and thinking ‘ hmm they feel like they would be nice to draw on!’
When I started drawing the Dolls I genuinely didn’t think they were that small until people started commenting on their intimate size – and in comparison to other figurative pieces, they are quite tiny!
After a while I moved on to drawing on carved ‘altarpiece’ chocolate boxes, which meant the Dolls became smaller because of the space of the canvas.
The Altarpieces usually end up just a few centimetres tall, with the portrait’s face being about the size of my fingernail.
I love seeing the intimacy between viewer and artwork, when people have to move closer than they normally would to completely see the image.
You are currently attending art school. What is the best thing and the worst thing about studying art?
Before studying at NAS, I was coming from a place of pure self-teaching.
The best thing is being exposed to artists, artistic styles, and mediums you may never have discovered on your own. It’s such a brilliant thing to be surrounded by like-minded people on a daily basis, and I have met some truly inspiring teachers, and students who have taught me a lot about art and humanity.
It really pushes you to create more, and learn more.
Studying art has definitely expanded my mind!
The worst thing isn’t necessarily a constraint brought on by the environment, school, or people – but more the workings of my own mind.
I tend to compare myself, and my work to others too much and definitely in the beginning I found myself feeling discouraged because of the comparisons I drew.
But over time I’ve learnt to control those feelings to an extent. It’s all a process of discovery!
I love actively engaging with the work of people I study alongside, it’s fantastic to see their mind laid out on a canvas, and has resulted in fantastic conversations!
Would you advise artists to seek professional training, or do you believe self-taught artists can be just as successful? What option offers the quicker road to success, in your opinion?
It all comes down to the individual, really.
Success is definitely not a quick road – it takes a lot of persistence, dedication, passion, focus, patience, love, and long nights!
Whatever option you choose you just have to remember that it is not set in stone. There are endless roads out there, and you just have to travel the one that makes you feel most inspired, and alive.
Does gender play a role in the art world? What challenges do you feel female artists face?
There are so many facets to this question that I don’t think I could begin to cover it within a few sentences.
Gender definitely has and does play a role. There have been moments when I have felt condescended, or patronized as a female artist – a lot of the time through people making comments that could be misconstrued as a compliment because it is said so easily.
Society has a long way to go but you can see the gears ticking in motion.
Art has brought a lot of positivity for women too – as a way of expression, as a voice, as a way of standing up, as a way to be represented, as a way to humanize a population that so often feels less than.
If you could pick any artist in the world (dead or alive) to paint a portrait of you, who would it be and why?
Vincent Van Gogh. He was able to capture the soul of a person in his artworks – I wouldn’t want a pretty picture, I’d want a true one.
You are quite open about your struggles with depression and anxiety on your social media feeds, how do you feel these impact on you creatively?
I wasn’t always open about it – it’s only relatively recently that I made the decision to be honest about they way I felt and open up about my struggles. I’m very glad I did.
The outpouring of love and connection I felt was quite overwhelming.
It was both comforting and saddening the amount of people who contacted me in regards to their own feelings of depression, and anxiety – comforting in the fact that they or I weren’t alone in our feelings, yet saddening to think how many people close to me struggle but keep it hidden away.
They impact both positively and negatively I feel.
It comes in waves. Sometimes I get to the point where I haven’t picked up a pencil, or paintbrush in over a week and I have to actively shake myself out of it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – it’s all a process of learning.
I find it unnerving when I don’t feel like creating, that’s usually the first sign to me that something is not right.
In saying that, if there were a magic pill that could take away the intrusive thoughts, and depressive moods – I wouldn’t take it.
Feeling that heaviness, and that sadness overall urges me to create more.
Looking at famous creatives, friends and your own experiences, do you think the life of an artist is destined for turbulence? Or can it be smooth sailing?
I don’t think I would want my life to be smooth sailing. The ups, downs, and variations are what make it so interesting, intense, and beautiful.
I’m not sure if an artist’s life is necessarily destined for turbulence, or rather everyone’s life is already turbulent but an artist fully embraces it all.
If you somehow hurt your vision, would you choose to wear glasses or contacts?
My vision is already pretty bad! I wear glasses full-time, without them I have trouble seeing even a metre in front of me!
Excluding sight, what two other senses are your favourites?
Smell: because it so expertly invokes memories in an instant.
Touch: because I couldn’t live without feeling the softness of a horse’s nose, the sharpness of jumping into water, the warmth of the sun, the electricity of heartbeats through skin.
5 most pleasant things to look at:
Sun rays in water.
Morning dew sparkling on a grassy paddock.
Embers and smoke swirls from a campfire dancing up towards the sky.
A steaming cup of chai.
5 least pleasant things to look at:
I’m not sure if I can name five!
I don’t like to see cruelty in any form.
Who is the most inspiring woman you know and why?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to be introduced to so many inspiring, and strong women on my journey thus far.
My mother, my aunties, and my friends – I try to surround myself with women who I look up to. It would be difficult to name just one as they are all so unique, and varied, and beautiful.
What is your favourite thing about yourself?
Even just a year ago this question would have been impossible for me to answer because I struggled to find a single thing about myself that I enjoyed.
But on this day I can say that my favourite thing/s about myself are: my compassion, my humour, my curiosity and inquisitiveness, my gentleness, and my creativity.
What is on your bedroom walls currently?
A Violin, dried flowers and gum leaves, drawings done by friends, a ram skull, fabric my dad brought back from Indonesia, photos of Frida Kahlo, a broken mirror, a love letter.
Favourite clothing / accessory / product at the moment?
Favourite artist at the moment:
So many!! I don’t know if I could possibly narrow it to down to just one – I’m always discovering new artists, and studying the work of people who have been favourites for years.
Off the top of my head, artists who completely inspire and ignite that inner spark include Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Daniel O’Toole, Brett Whiteley, Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud, Allison Sommers, Bronwyn Bancroft, Caravaggio, Jonathon McBurnie, Drew Holland, Henry Curchod, Neil Tomkins, Charmaine Olivia, Hamb, Michael Hussar.
And finally, any words of advice for people stepping into the creative sector?
Completely open to life – inspirations, and beauty, and sadness..
Breathe in life!