I’m pleased today to present my recent e-interview with Victoria O’Neill, an artist who works in multiple mediums and is owner of ArtyPantz Productions LLC. She has been sharing her creativity with people of all ages for many years, and a trip to her online store will show everything for sale from acrylic paintings and collage art mermaid paper dolls to her Golden Rule Coloring Book and Intuition Kits. She is also the inventor of the WrapADoodle Swaddle Blanket, a product that made its debut in January.
Tell us about your creative pursuits, paid and unpaid.
I have been making things with my hands for as long as I can remember. My mother taught me how to sew my own clothes when I was in the third grade. She was way ahead of her time and into collage back in the 1950s. Our family was large, six kids. We collaged a refrigerator box and filled it with costumes and played for hours.
We would shove a mattress out the second story window on top of a tree, and use it as a slide, then drag it back through the window when it was time to go to bed. Our family played charades for as long as I can remember. We started and published an alternative newspaper and built and operated a live theater. We also had a used clothing store called Refried Jeans.
Imagination, critical thinking and the questioning of authority was highly encouraged in our family. My father, who referred to himself as Captain Splendid, was among many other things, a painter, and it was always understood that his paintings were the only material things of value that our family owned.
An avid reader, I just loved writing stories and it was always assumed that I’d be a writer. At 16 I picked up a pen one day, started drawing and knew how. Drawing led to painting. I had a pretty good run with the paintings, but stopped to raise my kids. I made all their clothes, toys, puppets, mobiles, blankets, dolls, etc. then created cloth doll sculptures that sold off the living room walls. I took a class in surface design and learned how to make fabric.
All of these things have been in galleries here and there over the years. I’ve taught art over the years to all ages in various settings. When our kids got older and all were in school, I created ArtyPantz Productions, which has become an umbrella for various endeavors, including creating traveling interactive theatrical storytelling events for kids and adults, using beautiful handmade puppets, props costumes, etc. Everyone participates and then makes something to keep at the end.
Do you have any formal training in your creative discipline(s)? Do you feel training is important in creative development? Why/why not?
I attended The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in the early ‘80s to learn how to add more depth and dimension to my paintings. The painting teacher emphatically advised dropping out because I already had my style. He said the act of wanting to make the paintings better would make me look closer at what I was painting, and then I’d automatically make it happen. I took his advice, left, and the paintings did evolve.
I have taken and taught art classes along the way, learning just as much by teaching as by taking. The advantage to taking a class is that you may save some time and money learning how to do something. One of the images I’ve sent for this post is my first crack out of the gate in a recent stained glass mosaic class. If I had tried to learn this on my own, my fingers would have been cut to pieces, I would have wasted a lot of glass, and it would have taken more than one attempt to be successful.
What habits do you cultivate to facilitate your creative “flow”?
I literally cannot turn it off the creative flow while awake and/or while asleep – as evidenced by these owl puppets I recently made in a dream first, then completed in the real world upon awakening.
I’m 56, and, at this stage of the game, have an abundance of creative confidence to try anything, just knowing it will turn out well, because I am an artist! I’ve earned that title. I was recently invited to join a group of accomplished painters in a plein air event for charity. Having never painted from nature in my life, I was so honored to be invited. To my happy surprise my painting was one of the first sold at the exhibit.
1. Open wide. The biggest component of creativity is receptivity. If you’re not receptive, nothing can come to or through you. Being open is probably the most important aspect of being an artist. The challenge then will be to pick what you want to bring to fruition and focus on it. And that is a serious challenge that I grapple with on a daily basis.
2. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure exists to egg you along, pushing you in whatever direction you need to go to get it right. And also don’t be afraid to let go. I’ve abandoned many ideas when they made themselves known to be duds. But when something does take hold, you can’t be blocked if you stay in motion. Maybe it’s like climbing a mountain – making your way over hill and over dale, knowing without a doubt that you will eventually reach the top and experience that oh-so-amazing view.
Which artistic project that you are working on excites you the most right now?
Designing fabrics for the WrapADoodle Swaddle Blankets! There are six different fabrics in the works …The screens have been made and I’m now just waiting for samples to be printed and sent for approval. It was so exciting to draw the pictures for these fabrics and I just can’t wait to see what they look like!
How do you select your creative projects? What elements of a potential project tend to intrigue you the most?
Basically I get an idea from seemingly out of nowhere. The idea captures my attention. I absorb it, go for it, and then it just blows through and eventually comes out the other side, realized.
I’m intrigued and my interest maintained by the challenge and process of bringing an idea into some kind of reality. Basically figuring it all out and making it happen, and relishing the final “Ta Da!” moments.
Any other advice to artists to help them make their creative activity more satisfying?
Know and respect the value of creativity. Creativity is a gift to be grateful for. Share your creativity with others.
Imagination is the cornerstone for all worthy human endeavors and creativity is the manifestation of imagination. We need creativity to uplift both ourselves and the people around us – all to move civilization forward, one step at a time.