I’ve known Olivia for a while now and I was really excited for this interview with her because one of the things I appreciate most about her is her creative spirit. I love how much she loves to make things for the sake of art alone. That she takes her time and enjoys the process just as much as the finished result.
When I asked Olivia what place inspired her most she immediately said kayaking Lake Martin so that’s exactly what we did. Even though I grew up about 20 minutes away from here this was the first time I kayaked on the Lake. I am consistently shocked by how unfazed people are with the fact that they are going into water where alligators live. I don’t think I was hiding very well how absolutely nervous I was - I couldn’t stop thinking about an alligator swimming underneath my kayak and flipping it over at any moment. Meanwhile, Olivia has taken off her shoes, propped her feet up on her kayak and cracked open a beer. She is totally zen surrounded by nature.
How long have you been kayaking on Lake Martin?
I’ve been coming here for a few years but I haven’t explored the water until maybe the past two years - I love it. I love the natural landscapes of Louisiana and all the cypress trees - I love that they’re so unique and grow in water.
Do you remember what it was like the first time you came here?
The first time I came here was with my parents. We had just got our dog, she was maybe two months old, and we took a little drive out to the country to Grand Coteau and Breaux Bridge and we stopped here.
In High School, me and a couple of friends would come here kind of often. We would come to get away from life for the afternoon - have a little picnic on the dock.
What keeps you coming back to this specific location?
It’s so peaceful and it’s nice to connect with nature. It's a good getaway - it feels like you’re really far away but you’re only 15 minutes out of the city. I love listening to the surroundings.
Does living in Louisiana and Cajun culture influence your art?
It does in the sense that it’s home but I guess that’s the only aspect. I’m the first born Louisianian in my family - me and my brother. It’s special to me in a way that nobody else in my family can really relate to. It’s nice that it sets me apart.
And your mom is from El Paso?
Yeah my mom is from El Paso and my dad is from New York - the Bronx
Do those other cultures influence you as well?
Definitely, especially the Western culture. A lot of my work is based around that because it’s not just aesthetically beautiful but it’s where my ancestors are from. I think that’s really special to study the plants and the landscapes that they lived off of. As far as New York goes I always wanted to move there as a kid. I was always obsessed with perspective - especially in the city. You have all of your lines going to this one vanishing point and I always thought that was fascinating in my early art days. I would draw cityscapes or geometric driven doodles
How do you decide what medium you want to work with?
I guess it really depends what I’m feeling. Colored pencils are awesome. I did a lot of plant studies - really detailed, realistic drawings of them. But now I feel like I’m steering away from that because it’s so detailed and I can only handle so much attention and focus for so long before I either get bored or frustrated and just want to get some paint and be totally abstract and just throw it on a canvas. So it really depends how I feel. Lately, I’ve been interested in doing some small painting studies of desertscapes and plants as well. Just changing it up and getting back into acrylic painting. It’s been a few years since I’ve dove into that.
You work with several different mediums: painting, colored pencils, ink drawings, photography. Tell me more about your artistic process - do you mess around with all of them at once or do you play around with say photography for a while and then get burnt out and move on to painting?
From time to time I get burnt out but most of the time I’m working on several things at once. I’m very bad at finishing things. So usually I’m working on a few things at once. I move on and do something new and then eventually go back to a project and maybe it’s done like a year later. It really depends on how badly I want to finish it.
What do you think is the most underrated form of art?
Charcoal. Because your very gestural with it. It’s hard to be very detailed unless you're working on a massive scale. It’s so fine and messy and you have to be very clean if you want clean results. I’m not a clean person when it comes to working - I’m always covered in whatever medium I’m working with if it allows me to be.
Is there another medium that you want to work with but you haven’t yet?
I’d really love to do ceramics. Between that and metalsmithing - like working with silver. I’m obsessed with western jewelry and it would be so awesome to learn all of the processes that go into making that type of jewelry. I really wanted to get into leather working too and I’ve dabbled a little bit with it - dying it and stamping it as well. I haven’t gotten too far. I was trying to incorporate that into my jewelry work for a little bit and all the pieces sold which was cool. It’s cool that some of my leather work is out there.
When you start working with a new medium for instance your jewelry pieces, do you do a lot of research ahead of time or do you get your materials and just feel it out and play with it?
I pretty much just feel it out and see what works. Often times if it’s bead work I play with it and see what colors and shapes work together. Making jewelry, at least for me, is a very meditative practice - placing the little beads and seeing what goes where. It’s a very present moment. Which all art is - I really love that with painting as well. You’re working with color and mixing colors. When I make my palettes I tend to just use primary colors and black and white. I like making them all and going from there - besides like burnt sienna - those are tones I like to buy. It’s a challenge but I get a lot from it.
How do you combat creative burnout?
I’m still trying to figure that out. Coming out here to the Lake is really inspiring - it’s very clearing and centering. It’s nice to just chill and observe and be here. I feel like I need a lot of space when I get creatively burnt out. I need to shut myself off from most things. Sometimes I’ll read and do a little bit of research here and there. It’s mostly just to get my mind going again.
Do you have certain places you go to look for inspiration?
Not really. Any sort of drive is good. If I lived in the west I’d be out there everyday doing something new. I love it out here it’s just totally different than being out in the desert.
Do you look online for inspiration - like are you a pinterest person? Or do you try to keep other artist work out of your mind
Not really. Besides Instagram - I like that because I like to curate photos. I like seeing what other people are doing in that realm but I’m not a pinterest person whatsoever. It’s kind of overwhelming for me. I’ve been curating my website and I love doing that. I’ve learned that sometimes less is more - you only want to display your best work.
Do you like to balance out your digital work with other work that is tangible?
Yeah that’s why I really want to get back into painting since I’ve been doing so much digital stuff. I’ve been doing digital collages which are super, super fun. And I’m working on a commission right now for a friend’s band. It’s website work and album artwork to be released in the fall. It’s also been fun to collaborate with people. My video work that I collaborate with my friend Carly Viator - we’ve had quite a few projects together and they’re super fun and it’s exposing me to a different medium that I’ve always loved. Just dabbling in all these mediums whether digital or tangible, regardless of what it is it keeps the creativity flowing.
What time period inspires you the most?
I would say the 60’s -70’s era. I love that stuff. I get all that from my mom. Really what inspired me to want to major in graphic design whenever I was in school was all the psychedelic music posters from that time period - Woodstock and all that. It was just the 50th anniversary of the Monterrey Pop Festival - the summer of love in 1967 - I just love that shit. I’m naturally drawn to it. That’s the music I was raised on - all about that peace and love.
You also play several instruments - do you feel like that is another creative outlet for you?
Absolutely, there was a period of time towards the end of last year where I would play my guitar for two hours minimum each evening. I just had the time and the space to do it. Again I need the space. I go through phases with music - I wish I was more consistent with it in this moment in time. You know with traveling it’s hard to keep up practice and I’m the type of musician who needs to practice everyday to get better. I naturally have some sort of ability but it could be way better and I get frustrated because I’m like damn my muscle memory is there but there is a lot that I used to know how to play that I’ve forgotten how to play. Ukulele was super awesome for a pretty significant period of time in my life but again with that I kind of dabble here and there. It used to be give it to me I’ll play you 20 songs right here but now it’s like I can play you 5. I want to venture out too. The goal eventually is to start writing songs. I haven’t written in a long time and I’ve never written a song but I think that’s super fascinating. Just another realm of the creative process that I would love to dabble in.
What are some of your other goals as an artist?
I would love to travel and be away from the normal Lafayette life. I would really love to move to New Orleans or even out west.
It’s my dream to be a full time artist I just know I don’t have the self discipline right now to make it happen. It’s a young point in my life and in my career. It’s been awesome the past year vending. That’s something different that I had never done before. I think I just get bored easy and I’m always searching for something new to get into or something old to go back to. Just keeping it fresh, keeping it interesting. I like the creative change. I just want to try everything.
With your vending are you selling your prints with the goal of selling physical products in the retail market or do you do it to further make contacts so you can do more photography projects?
I would say definitely both. It is a very easy way for people to acquire your art. That happens all the time where I make something or take a picture and someone is like I want that in my house and I’m like alright let’s make it happen. I can make a little print matted and ready to go for $20 bucks. It's like my little shop.
Do you like that aspect of it, having a little shop?
I definitely like it because that’s how I know how to sell it. With my previous jobs in retail I learned so much about selling other people’s work and how to do the business in that way which is super beneficial because I didn’t really have that experience prior to but now that I’m three years deep it’s cool to know that and take that really valuable knowledge with me and using it to my benefit and my work.
What’s a dream project that you have?
Just to really travel and be able to document that. Really any project that I can travel with and see new places and meet new people and experience new cultures - that’s my dream. To go around and whether it’s taking pictures or videography work or I don’t even know, anything that gets me there. I feel like photography is the most realistic as far jobs go. Really anything that gets me moving.
What business owners or artists do you admire or look up to?
The person that comes to mind immediately is Jillian. I can’t really answer for anything else - I just really admire anyone that I see or meet that has the perseverance to get it done. I think that that alone is just so admirable. To have an idea and want to bring it to fruition so much that you work long hours and do what you need to do to make it happen and put it out there in the world.
What advice do you have for other creatives?
Don’t be afraid of what other people are going to think about your work. Because your work is your work and you should own it. I think that’s probably what I’d have to tell them. Just to own it and don’t give it up. I get discouraged all the time and I think that’s very natural in the creative process but as long as you feel you’re going somewhere good try to do that because you never know who you're gonna meet or where it’s gonna take you. Just keep going.
When you do get discouraged in the creative process - how do you deal with that?
Creative support from your friends is a very valuable tool that I’ve come to learn over the years. I’ve had some close friends that didn’t really give a shit about art in general or your work but then you have your friends that are fellow makers that are super encouraging. We feed off of each other and encourage each other. We make things together which is always a really good time. It’s hard to get together often but whenever you make it happen and you make something even if it’s just sketching it’s nice to be in the zone with fellow people in their zone making things.
What is the most absurd thing on your bucket list?
I think it would be so freaking cool to go on some sort of meditation retreat somewhere in Asia. I would really like to explore that. I was really into meditating for a while and I know how beneficial it was. Just sitting and being with your breath. I find that fascinating and that would be a really cool thing to do - it takes a lot of discipline.
What do you think the world needs more of?
Love. That’s for sure. No but really, understanding and compassion definitely that is what it needs more of. Love, understanding, and compassion.
All photos (except for the first one) featured in this post were taken by Olivia Perillo
This interview was originally published on June 27, 2017