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Meet Willa Vennema

Today we’d like to introduce you to Willa Vennema.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
My journey as an artist started as a young child growing up in Greenwich Village, New York City. During college, at Oberlin, and later The Cooper Union, I focused in on my “Maker” urges working in printmaking, photography and painting.

While growing up surrounded by art and culture in the big city certainly affected my values as a person, I have found that having nature in my life is more important to my well-being and inspiration as an artist. By prioritizing time over money, my family and I have been able to spend every summer on Swans Island, Maine, off the coast of Acadia National Park.

It is on this remote island that I have found my muse. I soak up the light, ocean views dotted with Islands, and complex rock formations during the summer months. During the winter, back in the studio, these images percolate and bubble up as I enter the flow of painting.

Please tell us about your art.
Making art for me is a process of discovery, a practice of being present, and always a joy in creating something of beauty. I use the encaustic hot wax painting medium because it offers the most options and flexibility of any mediums I have tried. The hot wax and pigment is applied quickly to the substrate. It dries almost instantaneously, and then can be manipulated in many ways. To make my pieces I employ a variety of techniques such as layering, collaging, imprinting, and scraping into the wax with various utensils. I love the texture, luminosity and mystery this medium brings to the art of painting.

I work both abstractly and semi-representationally and am always pushing my boundaries by trying new techniques or shifting my focus or subject. I work in series format, pursuing an idea for months or often years, as in my “Boat Series” and “Islands and Ocean Series” featured with this interview.

When I think about what message I want to communicate to my viewers, I realize that it has always been one of hope, and of appreciation for beauty. There is so much political and social turmoil in the world today, it can become overwhelming. I hope to create a small respite from the chaos, by creating paintings which require quiet contemplation from the viewer. If my work can offer a moment to refocus and renew one’s appreciation for wonder, curiosity, and the natural world, I will be thankful.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
For me, success as an artist is learning to have a positive inner dialogue about one’s creative life. No amount of outside recognition will ever be enough, if the artist does not value her own abilities and have peace with her path in life. It is so easy to get in a funk about where we are in our artistic career, and it is easy to compare ourselves to other artists who have had more shows, or have been awarded more grants and on and on…

If, as an artist, you have found a way to put creative time into your life on a regular basis, and you are able to derive satisfaction from this time, even though it may also involve some self-doubt and frustration, then you have found success.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My work can be seen at:

Portland Art Gallery, 154 Middle Street, Portland Maine, 04101

Harbor Square Gallery, 374 Main Street, Rockland Maine, 04841

And in group shows throughout New England in conjunction with New England Wax, a professional artist’s organization.


Art lovers can support my work by: Following me on Instagram– By visiting one of the galleries where I exhibit, attending an opening, and of course, by buying a painting.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jay York
Willa Vennema

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