AV: I was born and raised in Tarboro, NC. I started off at Meredith College because they offer a respected interior design program. I got into some interior design and art courses and for some reason, it just didn’t feel like the right fit at the time, so I switched my major to English. I had always wanted to study abroad, so I left in the middle of my sophomore year and went to Australia. I was only supposed to be there for six months, but I absolutely fell in love with the place and the people and ended up staying for two years to finished my degree. So, my first degree is a BA in English from the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia — to which most people reply, “You traveled halfway across the world to study English?” — but obviously, I wasn’t there as much for school as I was for the beaches! After I graduated, I came back to the States and worked some before returning to school at ECU where I received a BFA in Art. I helped start a charter school in my hometown after I graduated and then moved to Raleigh about three and a half years ago.
TS: When did you start painting?
AV: I’ve been painting since I was little. I remember as early as 4th grade getting picked up from school and going to after-school art classes because I just loved it. I always chose art as an elective throughout high school and I took art during my time at Meredith. I painted while I was in Australia but not seriously. When I came back to the States, I was working in a job where I had to utilize some graphic design skills, which intrigued me to go back to school for graphic design. I didn’t paint as much during my time at ECU, but it was definitely a well-rounded art experience where I learned more about the principles and theories of art and design. When I moved to Raleigh, I actually worked for Wine & Design as a painting instructor and then worked for almost three years as the graphic designer for Paperbuzz which is when I started getting back into painting on the side. After awhile, I decided it would be an opportune time in life to pursue a career of selling my original art if I was ever going to try.
TS: How long have you been doing this and are you painting full time?
AV: I’ve been selling my art for at least a year and a half, including while I was working full time at Paperbuzz. It got to be too much working two jobs, and thankfully, there was a lot of demand for my paintings. The art side started to take off enough that I could quit my job to fully focus on it, and I’ve been painting full time since September.
TS: How often do you paint? All day every day? What does a normal day look like?
AV: I don’t really have a set schedule, which I probably should. There are days I honestly don’t feel like painting, or I’m just not inspired or not in the mood. I still work those days, but I use them as “tech” days — so I work on my website, write a blog, take photos for social media, or I’m networking and emailing. I still pick up a couple of freelance graphic design jobs every now and then, so there are days I’ll be working on those. Then there are days where I will wake up, start painting in the morning and won’t stop until 7 or 8 at night, and there are Saturdays and Sundays I paint. So, it’s not like a regular work week and a weekend — but I really like that; it works for me and having that flexibility is a luxury I don’t take for granted.
TS: What is your inspiration?
AV: I feel like my inspirations have changed a lot. I used to be influenced more by graphic design and typography, and I originally wanted to start a letterpress business. I took letterpress at ECU and my family has been in printing for generations, so it was something I gravitated towards. Hatch Show Print is a really cool old-school letterpress company out of Nashville that I was very inspired by, but now working with paint is so different than ink. These days, I truly find inspiration everywhere. Color and color combinations are probably the biggest influence, but I’m starting to get drawn more and more to textural things, appreciating how light moves on a surface or how objects have certain depths. It shouldn’t be too hard to tell from looking at my work that I’m very much inspired by the coast and days on the water in the sun — I’m currently reading Hemingway’s “Islands In The Stream” which is feeding my love of the ocean until summer gets here.
TS: Who are some other artists or painters that you follow?
AV: Well, because of social media, you can follow so many people. I obviously follow what seems like 5 million artists on Instagram. There are a lot of contemporary artists doing really inspiring things and they all have individual styles. In terms of historically significant painters, I’m particularly drawn to the works of Matisse, Derain and Gauguin. Lately, and I remember writing an art history paper about this in school, I’m inspired by the movement of Fauvism — which is a Post-Impressionist movement. Fauvism essentially translates to “painting like a wild beast,” with impulsive brushstrokes and bold colors. I find that freeing and exciting. I should have a definitive list in my head of every artist that inspires me, but it’s just a rotating collection of so many talented people. There are several southern artists with brilliant styles; great work consistently coming out of Charleston and Atlanta. I’ve also unintentionally come across a lot of Australian artists doing really beautiful and unique work.
AV: I paint with acrylic. I’ve painted with oil in the past, and I appreciate it but don’t have the patience for it. I like to layer quickly and don’t like to blend so much on the canvas; I find that acrylic gives me that immediacy and structure. I’ve also experimented some lately, mainly with my seashell series and abstracts, working with acrylic and then taking oil pastel and working back into it and exploring the how the different mediums work together, which I’ve liked a lot for the textural variety.
TS: Are you interested in working with different mediums?
AV: I’m totally open to using different mediums and I think that’s vital to growth as an artist. I’ve worked a little bit with gouache. It’s a really nice high pigment medium and it’s flexible since you can use it like acrylic, but you can treat it like watercolor, too. I don’t really love working with watercolor, but I’m starting to like gouache because it’s almost like a watercolor you can cover up your mistakes with!
AV: I get asked this question a lot. There are actually a few reasons behind the name. Firstly, my parents named me “Anna Vaughn,” so most people call me “AV” for short; a friend in Australia took that to another level by always calling me “Aviation Station” (strange, I know). Secondly, flying is big in my family. My grandfather who was in printing was also a navy pilot in WWII and several family members fly airplanes, both recreationally and professionally. Flying anywhere is a thrill because I’m always ready to have my eyes opened by a new destination and point of view; I even enjoyed that long 14 hour flight from LA to Sydney — it’s part of the adventure. I love those vintage photographs when travellers used to get dressed up in their Sunday finest to board an airplane; it used to be such a glamorous and special experience and now I feel like we all wear sweatpants and forget how awesome it is that we get to soar through the sky. And of course, I’m proudly from North Carolina: “First in Flight!” As an artist, I had considered simply going by my actual name, but my vision for starting this business is to be about much more than myself; I have some exciting ideas for what that might look like in the future.
TS: What would be your advice to entrepreneurs/other creatives?
AV: I think it’s really important to have vision and just trust your vision. I sometimes have a hard time doing that. Vision can be a lot of things: a definite plan where you have a vision for how things are going to take place, or you have a vision for things you want your life to be about and the work you do plays into that. I find myself more in the latter category. I just know that I want my life to have and be about certain things and art fits really well into that vision.
AV: I wish it was a really cool secret spot, but it’s Jerry’s Artarama. It’s practically right around the corner from where I live and the staff in there are so nice and accommodating — they know me by name now because I’m in there so often!
TS: What is your favorite place to eat in Raleigh?
AV: Centro — it’s downtown and has great food and great vibes (and great margaritas).
TS: Favorite drink?
AV: Coffee in the morning, and sauvignon blanc at night.
TS: Favorite store/place to shop in raleigh?
AV: I shop at Whole Foods way too much.
TS: If you weren’t painting, what would you be doing?
AV: For a while, I thought about going back to school to be a nutritionist.
TS: What’s your current TV obsession?
AV: Drunk History is absolutely hilarious to me — and educational!
TS: What’s your guilty pleasure?
AV: Online Shopping
TS: Who would you want to play you in the movie version of your life?
AV: Sienna Miller
TS: What is your happy place?
AV: Australia is definitely a happy place for me because I have such incredible memories from there, but really, anywhere in the sun. If I have warm sunshine, chances are I’m good.