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Up & Away: Interview with Crissy Arseneau

I was instantly drawn to Vancouver artist, Crissy Arseneau’s work upon first glance. Her vibrant colors demand attention (in a friendly way), and the intricacy of her cut lines really pulls on my exacto-knife heartstrings. Get to know her below, and I trust that her work will lift your eyes a little higher, and encourage you to look at the world more brightly. 


When did you first self-identify as an artist? Tell us a little bit about how your identity relates to your art.
Art and making have been a huge part of my identity for as long as I can remember but it’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve comfortably called myself an artist. Professionally, I have worked mainly in creative fields and that was where my energy tended to go; I made things personally as well but not consistently and it was all pretty unfocused. I was artistic but not “an artist.” That began to shift a few years ago when I made space for making in my life. The more I made, the more I wanted to make, and the more I did make. I tend to be an “all in” kind of person – when I am excited about something, it can be pretty all-consuming. Creating daily led me to work I got excited about and soon it’s all I wanted to do. Momentum is a powerful force!


What other artists, writers, or themes have influenced your own artmaking?
Growing up in a rural / suburban area in a smaller city and having lived in a larger city for so long is a huge influence on my artmaking. Both play into the themes, which focus on nature, the day and night sky, and urban vs. rural life. Music also makes its way into the work, with many of my pieces named after song lyrics. So many songwriters have created just the right line to express the feeling of a piece.


Why does art in general matter in our current social, political, or global climate? How does your own art speak to a challenge (large or small) in the world today?
Occasionally, I think art can make specific change, drawing attention to an issue or moving large numbers of people to see something in a new way. More often, it’s probably subtler, a collection of things that brighten our days in small ways. Much of the news we hear often focuses on the negative and polarizes people. Art can help bring us together, to see our perspective isn’t the only one, and that there beauty all around us. For the makers, I see it making us happier people than when we’re not creating, and that makes the world a little better because we’re engaging from a more positive place than we might if we didn’t have that as part of our day. For the people who appreciate the art (myself included!), it can provide a bright moment in their day, a reason to stop and take in the details for a little longer than they normally might, and offer something to contemplate. All in all, it makes our collective space a much nicer thing to be a part of.In my own work, I hope I’m translating some of the things that make my life better and happier. It’s about taking a moment, about noticing what is around you, the small things, and about looking deeper. There is so much vying for our attention, to have those moments where you look up and away from technology and witness the world directly or through a piece of art. The way the light is filtering through the clouds, the patterns as shadows fall across a building, the reflections in windows that make the outside and the inside one. That’s what I’m noticing and bringing to the work, and I hope that a little of that comes through for others when they look at it.
Who are your greatest champions? Tell us a little bit about your friends, family, or mentors.
Everyone, it seems! My partner, family, friends and the artistic community at large have all been so supportive in more ways that I can count. I’ve been privileged to have so many incredible people in my corner. Much love to my partner for all his kindness, calmness, and help through it all, and to my sweet pals and parents for always being there to share their wisdom and cheer me on!A huge source of encouragement has been THRIVE Art Studio, a community of artists that offer each other the support, accountability and motivation they need to accomplish their art making and art business goals. I’ve been a part of it for over two years now and the friendship and support I’ve gained, and also been able to give, has had an immeasurable impact.
What advice do you have for young artists?
An artist is someone who makes art so make, make, make. Be prolific! The more you make, the more you’ll learn what you like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work, what it feels like when things are flowing and what it feels like to find your way through when it gets challenging. We often think of art as the finished piece but the process of making it is such a huge part of it. Just keep making!

I would also suggest spending less time looking at other artists’ work and instead make and experiment to help you develop your own voice without too much outside visual art stimuli. It’s fun to go to galleries and look at imagery online – both certainly are wonderful ways to appreciate the incredible things people are making and offer inspiration, too – but limiting that external influence has huge benefits (besides just freeing up more time that you could be creating instead of consuming). Just pick up materials and try something. Find the bit it in that worked and build on that, or notice what didn’t pan out and try again with a different approach. A lot of the joy in making art is the challenge of working your way through things and doing so is a great way to make things that are fresh and new and very you!

It’s also great to forge connections with other artists (or a professional artist consultant service like Dazed & Confucius or a creative coaching service like The Story Shop Studio) – seek out the people that are enthusiastic and kindly critical about the work you’re doing. When you hit a snag, they might have an idea that helps move you forward. Chat with them about your art and consider what they are seeing when they talk about it (and return the favour for them if they express they’d like your thoughts on their work).

Anything else you would like to share about your story as a female artist?
While it’s certainly not something that affects women only, a trait appears to be disproportionately weighted towards female artists is the idea that we have to be 100% prepared or skilled to go for the things we want, or that the things we create have to be “perfect” before we share them; it holds so many of us back. Having strong people around me who may feel that now and then (or often!) but put themselves and their work out there despite it is a continual reminder for me to do the same. Community and supporting each other is key to all of us find our own versions of success.
Follow Crissy Arseneau @crissyarseneau on Instagram, or visit her website here.

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