While Vanessa Prager‘s resume says “No formal education,” for the 26-year-old painter, illustrator, and younger sister of photographer Alex Prager, artistic blood clearly runs in the family. Vanessa started painting at 19, had her first show in 2003 and has been wooing the art world with her unique works ever since, even garnering a recent commission from Shepard Fairey. “…It’s exciting to see how she has developed her own unique voice,” says Alex. “Her pictures now are super psychedelic. They feel like the 1940s mixed with Blade Runner and Mad Max.”
Vanessa’s paintings and Bic ballpoint pen drawings will be on display together for the first time for one night only at the ADBD gallery in Los Angeles on June 2. So, on the heels of her show, the sisters (who live together in Silverlake with their dog, Jake) sat down to talk building forts as kids, first paintings, sisterly collaboration and eating vegan:
Alex: Okay, when did you start painting and why? Vanessa: When I was 19. Seriously, sometimes I can’t even believe all the years I spent without! Remember I was really bad at drawing when I was younger?
A: I wouldn’t say really bad! V: Yeah it was bad, really stiff and I was trying so hard to get it right but it just wasn’t. I used to sit next to mom while she drew faces and I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out. Not until I was 16 did I even start to draw with any skill.
A: Well, we used to act when we were kids–it paid our way through some of our private schooling. V: Yeah, but I wouldn’t say those commercials I did took an artist’s touch. My talents more lied in building forts, drawing with that neon puffy glue on t-shirts and using that crazy device that let you draw tons of ellipses in a big circle over and over again. We built the best forts in history out of that brown couch by the way.
A: Yeah, that was fun. Well, what was the first painting you ever made? V: I did my first painting when we lived in that apartment on Beachwood. Technically I was okay. I got caught at his hands, it just kind of fades out there.
A: Why did you start painting? V: Mainly because I wanted to work bigger and use more color than my pencils would allow. After using straight graphite for a while I tried colored pencil and oil pastels, but it wasn’t good enough. Someone suggested oils, I think it was you!
A: Alright, tell me something I wouldn’t expect that has inspired your art. V: You must suspect… but electronics from anytime before the 90’s, especially ones that emit light. Old televisions especially, and things like clock radios, computers, toasters. They have this weird deadened kind of life about them, as if they have numbed personalities, you know?