Vanessa Ramzieh is a 26 year old professional body painter stationed in Boston, Massachusetts. She works for a professional company doing body painting in both traditional and airbrush work. We discuss with Vanessa her creative process, inspiration, and plans for the future. Vanessa says that music is one of the main driving forces behind her art, coining it ‘the anchor’ behind a lot of her make-up pieces.
Vanessa tells us she began experimenting with body art and painting at a very young age. “I always had an interest in make-up since I was a young girl. I used to steal my mother’s lipstick when I was young. In middle school I bought a pencil of eyeliner and used to sneak in the girl’s bathroom to put it on and then wipe it off before I left school. A rebel, I know.”
Beyond this, Vanessa has been involved in theater since the young age of eight, later going on to study acting at college. “My sophomore year of college, everyone, whether we were actors or technicians, we were required to take a stage make-up course. It was at that moment that I decided to make a completely new career path for myself. I continued acting, but with every show I was not acting in I decided to design hair and makeup for it.”
This environment allowed Vanessa to learn the professional skills required for a career in aesthetics and makeup. “Since graduating I taught myself how to body paint and expand my canvas.” Vanessa tells us that she later got a job at a professional theater as a hair and makeup stylist, to then go on to her current position at a company doing body painting professionally.
There’s no doubt that Vanessa’s job requires a huge amount of creative spirit. But what does creation mean to her? “Creation means the world to me. I actually got a tattoo last year in Jon Bellion’s handwriting on my right arm with the word ‘create’ it reminds me how important having dreams and passion is”, says Vanessa. “The moment you give away your dreams, it’s a step into reality”, Vanessa tells us that once she has a creative spark, she can never ignore it. “Inspire and Create are two very important words I live by because they make me whole.”
“The moment you give away your dreams, it’s a step into reality”
We are all inspired by different things. For Vanessa, her creation is inspired by music. “[The] majority of my creations come from music, whether it be a lyric, album art or person I feel values others artwork. I also am extremely inspired by other fellow artists.” Vanessa believes that it’s also very important to encourage and support other artists. “I follow a wide variety of art accounts on social media, no matter what their follower count is, everyone starts somewhere. I feel that it’s important to support others, it helps them feel whole and gives them the urge and strive they need to continue to create.”
So what musicians inspire her? “I have to start off with Twenty One Pilots right?”, Vanessa laughs. “They’re the reason why I’m here. If it wasn’t for them believing in me and my artwork, I’m not sure where I would be in my career path. I owe them a lot more than I say. Not only are they a supportive band, but they’re not afraid to truly let their artwork be out in the open, no matter how weird or odd it is. Not to mention they’re a band that focuses on mental illness so it’s a win, win situation.”
Twenty One Pilots’ stage-mate Jon Bellion, who opened for the duo on the Emotional Roadshow tour is another artist that inspires Vanessa. “[Jon Bellion] is another huge influence in my life but on a completely different spectrum. I’ve had the honored of getting to talk to Jon one on one, on more than one occasion, and he is the kindest soul I’ve ever met in my life. He’s inspiring to me because he believes in other people. He’s someone who truly loves and views art in a positive light. He constantly uses artwork on his album covers, he actually keeps a lot of the artwork he’s given while on tour. He’s also the same age as me, and if he can do it, why can’t I?”
Beyond musicians, Vanessa tells us she finds inspiration in places closer to home too. “Honestly, a lot of my friends inspire me with their artwork, especially people I’ve watched grow over the years. I have a bunch of artwork framed in my room to remind me how beautiful and passionate every person I follow is. Inspiration is an important feeling and have and to give. If I can inspire others, there’s nothing more I’d want in my artwork.”
“I have a bunch of artwork framed in my room to remind me how beautiful and passionate every person I follow is”
One thing that artists have to deal with is ‘artist’s block’. Sometimes life gets in the way, we are busy and buried under work and responsibilities. Vanessa resonates with this, telling us how authenticity is such a vital part of creation for her. “Sometimes I don’t have the urge to do it, I get too tired to do it or I just don’t want to do it. I’ve made mistakes in the past to create for the sake of my followers. I learned forced pieces just weren’t a part of me. It took away who I was.”
She tells us that she finds inspiration in other artists’ work. “Sometimes when I have had a long streak of lack of inspiration, I look at new artwork I’ve never seen before, listen to new music, etc. anything to spark an interest. I actually have this weird thing I do. When I go to concerts, instead of taking only photos of the performing act, I take photos of the projections, lights, clothing, set pieces, sometimes the weirdest things inspire me.”
“I learned forced pieces just weren’t a part of me. It took away who I was”
Artist’s block is hard, but it shouldn’t deter us as artists. “My best advice is to not be afraid”, Vanessa says. “I know is sounds silly or dumb, but something you may hate, someone else may love. I learned that so many times. I also understand how scary it is, to show a part of you to the world out in the open not knowing if good or bad will come out of it.” Art for Vanessa should be constructive, grounding positive experience and communicating authentic thoughts and feelings. “You just need to learn to focus on the good”, Vanessa tells us.
“My favorite artist, Jon Bellion, once said in a Q&A I went to ‘if you keep focusing on the negative comments, you start to ignore the positive ones. You start ignoring the people who are there to support you. You focus on ONE negative comment over hundreds of positives’. Since he said that I’ve learned to just delete the hate”. Vanessa loves inspiring others and spreading positivity and encouragement. “I think it’s amazing [that] I’ve helped others get into body painting or just art in general. Never be afraid to show yourself and what makes you proud. If you did a drawing and you are truly proud of it, why should you keep it from the world? Just block out the hate and let in the love.”
Vanessa’s large platform has given her the space to vocalise her support for mental health awareness. “Mental health is extremely important and I will probably be an advocate till the day I die, because no one was there for me when I was at my lowest. It’s important to let people know that they aren’t alone. When people, especially the younger generation, hear that people are JUST like them, they start to understand that they aren’t lost and don’t need ‘fixing’. I always tell people: your mental illness doesn’t define you, you define it.” Vanessa speaks from a place of personal experience. “I suffer from depression; I was diagnosed when I was 18 years old. Creating truly helped me pour my emotions into something healthy. I just want all my followers to know I’m just like them, were all the same just with different problems.”