Interview with pop surreal artist Veks Van Hillik

Veks Van Hillik was born in 1988, in a small village of the South-West of France. Influenced by his elder brothers, he takes up drawing at a young age and finds his first source of inspiration from the nature surrounding him, its fauna and flora. Veks later develops his own style: an oneiric, surreal one, while integrating other various influences. Artists such as Gustave Doré, Ingres, Caravaggio, Dali or Breton are constant inspirations from the past centuries but, as cursed by his generation, his work is also tinged by pop culture, video games, comics, street art and tattoos. Each painting or drawing from Veks Van Hillik presents itself like an ode to fantasy, like a secret window to his dreams and chimeras, of which each scene and character is a subtle mixture of innocence and darkness.
 
 
Hello dear Veks, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?

As far as I remember, I’ve always drawn a lot since childhood. I think my older brothers played a major role in my interest in drawing and creation today. The environment I grew up in also greatly influenced my way to appraise art, and my imagination! I don’t know if I’ve always wanted to become an artist, but in actuality, I’ve never stopped drawing!


What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?

I have many and various in influences, from pop culture in general, to the most classical art through nature;; I take in all that can feed my creative mood. To be more specific, I’d say artists like Ingres, Dali, Caravaggio, and many other Renaissance painters for the most classical. Contemporary artists whose work I appreciate are from various trends and movements; graffiti, lowbrow, tattoo, illustration, comics, etc ... Bom.K, Blu, Revok, Dran, James Jean, Je Soto, Dave Cooper, Femke Hiemstra (to name a few) are all artists I follow and for whom I have great admiration! The major source and reference for me remain the movies, especially Sci-Fi and Fantasy, with a particular obsession for Mr. Myazaki’s anime!
 
How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?

In my case, an artistic day is more an artistic night, because I work everyday in a tattoo studio; I only work on my personal paint projects in the evening in my studio! My process, for the rest, is surely most classical, in few words : Research, communication, sketches, studies, cats, eat, coffee, cigarette, movie, music, book, paint, sleep (ha ha!).

 

What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?

I never learned to draw in school, but I took a course in graphic design which allowed me to have a different approach to reading an image and it’s overall composition. Also during this same course, I had the chance to take Art History courses and it really made me want to become a painter. Going through the history of art really opened my awareness to many artists and various forms of expression. I don't think art training is essential; I guess some people have naturally highly developed artistic sensibility, the “Douanier Rousseau” is surely proof! However, having an open mind to artistic expression seems necessary to me to realize a career as an artist.

What fascinates you the most about surrealism / pop surrealism / contemporary art / lowbrow art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?

This trend for me is the ideal gateway between mind, dream and reality. In my opinion, surrealism helps relate the unrelateable and make real the unreal! The "realistic" treatment makes the absurd, the grotesque, the inconceivable tangible and transforms the dreamlike to truth! The themes that I prefer are childhood, nature, dreams; the inner worlds! I like my paintings loaded with a certain nostalgia. If the audience can feel they are in a dream or a memory I'll be happy and I will have achieved my work..


What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?

Creativity to me is closer to the therapeutic neurosis than a work process. Creativity allows a permanent emulsion, a reflection and perfectionism constantly renewed. It's certainly this idea of creativity that makes the work of the artist so addictive!

Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?

I always start every new painting with several sketches and studies to find what I think is a good composition. I began systematically from the bottom and then I work on my first shots, always by zones, and chromatic scales. I mostly use acrylic paint because it offers a comfortable speed of execution, but I happen to work in watercolors, in ink, pencil, or spray paint on a wall or a canvas! I especially like watching animation films when I design. It feeds my spirit’s image even if I don’t look at the screen while I paint. Hearing the film as it’s running allows me to imagine my own pictures, a bit like a book read aloud for children!


Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

I dream of working with oil but this technique scares me; drying time and painting techniques (wash, glaze, etc...) seem much more complex to me to set up!

Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?

I work in a room of my apartment I commandeered to make my studio, it is not very big but enough to work alone and to hide books, toys, skulls, and various objects gleaned to create an “inspiring” universe for me! The most curious thing I hide is not in my o ffice, but on my roof. In fact I live in a house decorated with many odd statues, the one visible from the window of my studio is a monkey with a cap and a vest!

 
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?

My biggest challenge? Being able to change my job and never settle in a creative "comfort / automatism"...

 
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?

Best: Disregard the opinions of others!
Worst: Disregard the opinions of others!

What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

Maybe the most complicated is the personal involvement in the work, it's a very stressful job; physically, nervously and mentally consuming! The art world is quite inaccessible and closed! At final, I don’t know a lot about the codes that govern this universe! I'm certainly the stereotype of one who wants to paint and doesn’t want to have problems other than the next painting, but today, to live with your art is also a lot of work besides creating: communicate, solicit, meet, explain, etc ...

 
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?

Today, my time is very divided, my life is separated into two distinct creative sections: tattooing and painting. Ideally I would like to dedicate myself more to painting, I guess it could allow me to evolve and deepen my own work! My ultimate goal would be to survive on painting and thus travel, meet, exchange ... To live with a job so introspective and personal seems utopian today, but my efforts aim in this direction!

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?

I don’t really have any tips. I believe that hard work pays off, but it seems to me that any "artist" (new or wise) working obsessively without even meaning to, it's a visceral thing which is an integral part of the creative work!

Your favorite art or life quote is ...

L’important, ce n'est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage... [LA HAINE, Mathieu Kassovitz]
The important thing isn't the fall...it's the landing...[ HATE, Mathieu Kassovitz]
 
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?

Regularly, I fish, a passion which follows me and my brothers since we were kids, in general I love the nature and this is my real hobbies. I sometimes play video games, and sometimes some table role playing games!


Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?

I am currently working on several projects, I continue to regulary participate in group exhibitions 2016, and I am seriously thinking of working on a publishing project! The next exhibition will be at the Arch Enemy Gallery, Philadelphia, (kind of mini feature call AnimalAnomalie in July) and I currently take place in group show Like a Virgin at Sacripante Gallery in Roma (Italy). In the near future I prepare few group shows in France, USA, and Italy.
 
THANK YOU A LOT! :)
 
I thank you dear Veks :) It was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)
 
Never miss Veks´news - follow Veks on his Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.
 
By contributor Linda. June 2015. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.