IF Interview with Vivienne Flesher



How did you get started in the illustration field?

Upon graduating i didn’t think my portfolio was quite ready so while i continued to work on it i freelanced doing mechanicals for Harpers-the literary magazine and SWANK-the porno magazine. One day i needed to have the editor of SWANK sign off on a layout. His office door was closed and he didn’t respond when i knocked. I called him from my desk phone and he asked me to return to his door. He opened it only a crack and pulled me inside. The room was dark, the curtains drawn, all the furniture had been pushed aside the air was thick and warm and there was a naked woman standing in the middle of the room. The editor introduced us and oddly enough we shook hands. Mid-handshake i wondered if her hands were all that clean…..Later that night i decided my portfolio was suddenly plenty ready. I continued working for Harpers and quit SWANK.

How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?

I started drawing with pastels in life drawing class at Parsons and just continued. Recently i’ve been changeing the way i do some assignments.

What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job? What is your creative process?

Every job is a little different. Some clients are able to give me tremendous freedom and others have constraints placed on them which get passed to me. Illustration is a collaboration and we work it out.

What is your creation process (start with sketches, etcâ?¦)?

Often i’ll ask if the client has something in mind, then i do rough thumbnails trying to see what direction is working and the ones i like i send along. We keep talking/sketching.

How do you market/promote your work?

i do snail mailers and e-mailers and annuals. I love doing snail mailers because i get to use one of the stamps i’ve created for the US post office. It gives me a little thrill!

Do you have a rep? Why/why not?

I used to have the wonderful Vicki Morgan for many years. When i moved from NYC to San Francisco i was traveling a lot and not available to do a lot of work, i thought that wasn’t fair to her or her business. I love Vicki and we talk often and i consider working with her all the time.

What was one of your favorite assignments?

I’ve had so many that i’ve loved and far too many that i’ve loathed. Where to begin…it was a unique assignment with a company called Rabbit Ears, they created children’s books and movies. There were several people there who were extraordinarily creative and their talent pushed me to be a better artist.

Describe your work setting.

I’ve always lived in small places and traveled a lot, it was a trade off. Recently i married a wonderful illustrator and painter-Ward Schumaker- who also happened to own a large home. So for the first time i have an abundance of space to do my work and it feels great.

Do you have side projects you work on?

Yes, it’s a great thing to have personal projects in your life. It’s a way for you to grow as an artist. Also, you never know what will happen, for instance, several years ago I got a dog-Alfred-an extremely handsome and complex French Bulldog who I drew and photographed all of the time. I had thousands of photo’s of Alfred and wondered if i could do something more with them. So, I wrote a story based on a particular neurosis of his and created a children’s book. It will be published by HarperCollins Spring of 2008, called ALFRED’S NOSE. Please be on the look out for it-it was a labor of love!

How do you maintain balance in your life between work and play?

I don’t always do very well, that’s why i travel so much-i get away from everything that way. It’s easier now that i have a husband who i enjoy seeing, we try to make time for each other.

Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?

Unfortunately yes. Not so often in my illustration work-when i have a job i know what’s expected of me, when the deadline is, how to keep working or reworking it till it’s finished successfully. But I’m working on a large painting right now, i have no deadline, i can do absolutely anything i want , and it is giving me a lot of grief!

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I know i should say i go to museums and galleries and i do that sometimes, but for something completely different i go yard saling with 2 good friend’s and we have a blast!

What has been inspiring you lately?

taking photographs.

Any advice for others who are pursuing creative goals?

Brian Cronin said it better than i can — this is his quote:
“i’m not big on advise but since you asked.!! i would say try and be as honest with your self as possible when it comes to your work and in life in general don’t do thing for just the money do things that make you happy if you can. obviously we all have to make a living i guess don’t destroy what you love for money. or do something else for the money and keep your art for you.”-Brian Cronin

Thanks, Vivienne!

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Posted by penelope on 07/19/07 under Interviews

  • http://yelloweesa-paginasamareladas.blogspot.com Heloisa Beatriz

    Vivienne Flesher´s work is just WONDERFUL! It´s just the way I´d like to
    draw. Strong and subtle at the same time. It´s just a real pleasure to my body and soul!! Thank you very much for presenting us this great artist.

  • http://www.anthonyzierhut.com/blog/ Anthony

    Beautiful artwork and the interview is inspiring, honest — and humorous (that deal at the magazine – sheeesh!). I love the various media you use and the wonderfully abstract compositional sense you have. No two pieces seem to be alike, and yet there’s a strong, cohesive aesthetic throughout. Thank you for taking the time to write about your work too; it makes me want to draw even more.

  • http://wertzateria.wordpress.com michael

    i heart you viv! she and ward were two of my favorite teachers @ ccac and are two of my favorite people.


  • http://morriconei.blogspot.com Rob

    I love the colors in your pieces. They give off this dreamlike feeling that is just fantastic.

    Great interview, can’t wait to check out more of your work.

  • http://artmaker.blogspot.com ming

    that’s a really fresh style! traaa i’m off to read the interview

  • http://www.bunshine.com Sarah

    Thank you for the interesting interview. They are always a pleasure to read. I also have one comment for Vivienne — she is right about her dog, he is extremely handsome! I love that photo.

  • http://www.handbound.com Ashley

    Vivenne. I have long since been an admirer of your work. Kurt Hollomon introduced me to your and Ward’s work when I was attending PNCA. It would have been nice to meet you in person while I lived in Oregon. I thought you and Ward had been married for sometime.

    Thank you for sharing your work and thoughts. Really wonderful.

  • http://www.warddraw.com vivienne Flesher

    It’s so nice to read all your kind comments. Working almost alone-as a freelancer- I don’t always if my work touches those who see it. Thank you for this.


  • http://www.warddraw.com vivienne Flesher

    Hi all, i wanted to say how nice it’s been reading your comments. Working alone makes me wonder sometimes if and how my images are reaching people and i so appreiciate your kind words.
    Hi Michael!

    Thanks again,


  • http://www.warddraw.com vivienne Flesher

    Now i will hve written 3 times! It said my first comment didn’t go through, so i tried again!
    Oh, well….-Vivienne

  • http://www.kyletwebster.com Kyle

    Vivienne has always been one of my top 3 favorite illustrators (along with Gary Kelley and James McMullan). Thank you for the interview – lovely stuff.

  • http://theplumtree.blogspot.com priya

    thanks for the interview by one of my favourite illustrators.
    years ago, as a student, i used to see vivenne’s images in rare finds of back issues of ‘society of illustrators’annuals in some bookshops in india. i used to wish i could draw with the ease that she did. i also wanted to know more about her and finally got the chance in this wonderful interview.
    ps: love the bulldog!

  • http://www.derekgores.com derek

    terrific interview – her art has a pure, raw touch that not many can find these days.
    love the simplicity of the concepts too. no need to over do the story. most are simple figures alone with their thoughts…


  • Schots

    Loved the colours too! ^^


  • http://www.falquet.com Joan Perrin-Falquet

    I have always loved your mystical, musical use of color. Keep on creating!

  • http://warddraw.com ward schumaker

    And she’s even better at being a wife!

    Still amazed to be her husband,


  • curlyillustrator

    Your work is fantastic! So gentle and so much attention to detail. I’ve always loved working in charcoal and you are an example that it can be taken further than drawing class. Thank you!

  • heidi

    Hello Vivienne…Alfred is adorable though he has a very silly sitting style, similar to our Angus (who has about 75 pounds on Alfred).

    Your work gets more beautiful and lyrical, and thank you for sharing your talent with us.

  • http://http//plasticpumpkin.wordpress.com Ren Adams

    Outstanding work. There’s such a melancholy, dreamlike feel to each piece. I just love it.

  • http://www.frag-ment-ed.com maura

    what a great interview. so many inspiring things in here. beautiful work, too. what you say about having no deadline on paintings is so true. i do a lot of gallery work, but i have to have a date in sight – as a goal and a deadline- or i’m lost. . . or scrambling at the last minute. most times, that works out ok but scrambling is never fun – and so unhealthy! best to you, vivienne!

  • http://luludesign.com Kathy Crabbe

    I have ALWAYS loved your work and was able to speak with you about the ups and downs of life as an illustrator many years ago. I still appreciate you talking to me and no, I never pursued that dream! Instead I draw for myself and see where it takes me; commissions certainly do require a certain kind of personality; this you pointed out to me and I thank you again for taking the time to talk to me!!!

  • http://caroltaylor.deviantart.com/ Carol Taylor

    Hello, Vivienne,

    So very nice to see your more recent work. I discovered you (and Cathy Barancik) in the late 70s (Boston Globe illustrations)–it was such a joy to find artists who also worked in charcoal and pastels. I’ve always enjoyed your style.

    All the best,

    Carol Taylor

  • http://mariapacewynters.com Maria Pace-Wynters

    I really enjoyed reading this interview. Vivienne seems so down to earth and her work is so inspiring!



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