In the Studio with Vivienne Flesher

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday June 2, 2022

Peggy Roalf: Which came first, the pen, the brush or the tablet?  [

Vivienne Flesher: I got type-cast as a pastel artist, I loved the medium for years but tired of it and all the dust. I resisted working on the computer for years, even after Adobe brought me out to the Bay Area to work for a week. The folks teaching us from Adobe kept laughing, saying if I were holding a real mouse I would squeeze it to bits!

PR: Where do you live and how does that place contribute to your creative work? 
VF: I now live in San Francisco; however I still think of myself as a New Yorker. The Bay Area is so boring, the only thing to do here is to work. 

PR: Please describe your work space and how it contributes to the artist’s basic condition of working alone. 
VF:My studios has a tiny trampoline in one room, because I will never get used to so much space after just having just a table top to work on for so many years.

PR: Do you keep a sketchbook? If yes, how does that contribute to your work process?
VF: No sketch books right now. Though I do keep scraps of paper with notes to remind me of things. Then when I finally go through the notes I usually have no idea what I meant. 


PR: What is the most indispensable item in your studio? 

VF: That changes all the time: about 6 months ago, when I was  painting a lot, it would be my brushes and paints. Right now, i'm doing more computer imagery, so it would be my Mac, which Ward says I abuse; it never works very well. My files get to be 2 gig’s easily, and my poor computer is never the same after a few of those.  

PR: Your recent work, such as the intro pages for AI40 (above and below), have a strong, layered graphic style very different from your images done in water-based mediums. Could you tell the readers a bit about this assignment?

VV: The work I did for AI 40 was specifically created for the opening pages of AI40. Kelly Doe, the CD for the project, requested that Covid be a central part of what we presented. I have been working this way in Photoshop for a number of years and that’s all I’ve been wanting to do lately.

It began when I started using Photoshop as a tool in my illustration work. I realized I could never anticipate what the computer could give me and I found that collaboration exciting. I began adding a combination of painting, drawing and photography to create this personal work. I will begin posting some of these newer images on my Instagram feed soon. 

PR: Do you use photographic reference materials very much? If yes, how do you avoid the pitfalls that can arise when working from reference?

VF: I do use reference. One has to for portraits and for so much illustration. It has become a little game I play with myself, how much can I make this not look like the reference. Over the years when I have worked for clients worried about copyright issues i have actually gotten feed back from their lawyers. It was a great learning experience. 

PR: If you could work in just one medium for as long as you wanted to, what would that medium be—and how would you do to start out?

VF:i like changing things. Not sure if it’s been in response of having to work in pastel for soooo many years. But I am still changing, growing, evolving, why shouldn’t my work and my materials. 

PR: What kind of breaks do you take to clear your head when working to a deadline?

VF: HA! is there time to take breaks! I try to push on until the end, then take a break. Plus I'm not working for many clients any longer. I am at that lucky stage where I am selling from galleries, and have saved and I don't need to work for difficult clients any longer, unless I choose to. And there are too many difficult clients out there. It’s not always the AD’s fault; art departments have lost power over the years and non-artist types, who think differently, are in control. 


PR: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?
VF: if it’s for myself I understand how the art makes me feel and internally know when it’s done. As for an illustration, that depends; sometimes I run out of time—so it better be finished. Sometimes, at that point,  it too feels finished: I know have done my best, and I just hope the client feels that way too.  

PR: What would be your dream project—the one thing you have always hoped for in an assignment or an exhibition invite?
VF: My dream job has already happened. Years ago Lori Barra was an AD working for an ad agency in Tokyo. She called me (no emails then) and asked if I wanted to work on a huge Cannon project with her. I said yes, of course, traveling to Tokyo and ending up staying for three months, working for Lori and other clients as well. But the best part of that project was my lifelong friendship with Lori. 

Vivienne Flesher lives and works in San Francisco, California
Website:   inthestudiowith