Interview with Visual Artist: VASH

Vash x Brooklyn Cloth

Step into the vibrant world of Victor A. Saint-Hilaire aka VASH - a true artistic force based in Yonkers, New York. With a background in digital illustration, acrylic painting, and murals, VASH's creative journey is a masterpiece in itself. His knack for storytelling through art shines as he weaves spirituality, folklore, and historical inspirations into his work. Balancing simplicity and depth, his pieces lead us on an exploration of the human psyche and the very essence of reality. Join us for an exclusive interview with VASH, as we delve into the inspirations, motivations, and profound narratives that define his captivating style.

vash x brooklyn cloth

1. Could you share your journey of becoming a multidisciplinary artist, and what drew you to digital illustration, acrylic painting, and murals?

It all happened on its own if I’m being honest! It started off with me doing a lot of drawings on characters from shows I was watching or video games I was playing when I was a kid. And though I knew I wanted to pursue art as a career, it wasn’t until High School that I started taking specific courses like Graphic Design in order to step in that direction. This taught me a lot about the basics of creating digitally along with some of the professional etiquette of being an artist. From there I decided to expand on my traditional skills by enrolling in the General Illustration courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology which provided a really balanced experience of digital and traditional media like Oils and Acrylics.

Truthfully, I didn’t know I wanted to create murals or do any form of teaching until one fateful summer day, where I helped out my dear friend Angel Garcia on a Groundswell mural he was working on. I was aware that Groundswell specialized in acrylic murals, so I decided to invest more time working with the medium and that naturally led to a lot of personal and collaborative projects done in acrylic paint. While doing that, I’ve continued to work digitally to create things like shirt designs, flyers, stickers and illustrations to sometimes even very simple and short animation art.

2. How has your education at the Fashion Institute of Technology influenced your artistic style and approach?
My time at the Fashion Institute of Technology didn’t necessarily inform my style, but the fantastic professors I had the honor of studying with and learning from gave me some of the practices and tools that would help me establish it in later years. It wasn’t until I had more time to myself that I really began to explore the things that influenced me. I’ve been realizing that a lot of it is informed by my upbringing in the Dominican Republic; from the Taino influence prevalent in the culture to the awesome games and shows I grew up with. As well as the spiritual practices I’ve incorporated into my life throughout the years.

3. Could you tell us more about your role as a Lead Artist Muralist with Groundswell? How has this collaboration impacted your artistic perspective?
My role as a Lead Artist with Groundswell has been pretty awesome and rewarding. I’ve had the honor of working with Youth and other Art educators from various parts of New York and the world to create murals based on themes we explore, and the communities where the murals go. All the murals I’ve created in collaboration with my students are based on their ideas and that of the community members we create with. While teaching the process of mural-making, from designing to transferring and painting it; my role has included creating lesson plans for our sessions, maintaining good communication with Community Partners and making sure we are having a good time while taking on the challenges that come with creating a mural.
My time as a Teaching Artist at Groundswell has taught me the importance of art as a form of medicine. It allows us to navigate our personal and collective wounds while giving us the opportunity to imagine ways to better care for ourselves and our communities. This is something I've further expanded on through my personal work and other community projects I've done with the mutual-aid Public Assistants, who welcomed me in, led by DonChristian Jones, and the visual apothecary known as Medicine Walls, founded and run by Crystal Clarity. Both of these individuals are astonishing and endlessly creative forces who I've been fortunate to have met in this lifetime!

4. Your work seems to touch on the human psyche and the nature of reality. How do you approach translating these deep concepts into visual art?
I try to utilize thick lines, vibrant colors and patterns to tie in the concepts I'm often navigating through my personal studies and experiences. I'm someone who likes to learn about spiritual practices from various cultures and they sometimes inform the imagery and symbolism I put together to convey a message. And as a visual storyteller, I enjoy inventing characters that help convey various meanings while emphasizing subject matters regarding the healing of the heart and finding ways to cultivate joy and harmony while deepening our personal and collective care.
vash x brooklyn cloth
5. Living in Yonkers, New York, how does your environment influence your artistic creations?
I am surrounded by a lot of nature where I live. So most of my life I've experienced the contrast between commuting to bigger and more active cities like Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx to then returning back to my little quiet part of Yonkers. This has allowed me to remain connected while also having space to navigate my understanding of the world in which we exist and how we are affected by it.

6. Could you share a specific project that holds significant meaning to you and walk us through the creative decisions and emotions that shaped its outcome?
The creation of my personal mural ANU, which I painted at home during the beginning of the Pandemic back in 2020 was very significant to me. At a time when there was a lot of uncertainty regarding the state of the world, our safety and the stability of my career as an artist, I was able to find comfort and grounding in creating a mural that highlighted meditation, stillness and mindfulness. And because I was doing it from home, I got to slow down and take my time painting it - which isn't usually an option when creating murals.

7. As a Lead Artist Muralist with Groundswell and a Freelance Artist, your schedule must be quite dynamic. How do you manage your time between collaborative projects and personal artistic pursuits?
I've been fortunate enough to have been working with nonprofits and freelancing for almost a decade so these days I have a good idea of how long any project can take and what is needed from me. Because of that, I always make sure to pick an amount of projects that afford me the time to dive into my personal work. I believe it’s very important to cultivate your own voice, especially when doing any form of community/activist work. And I’ve learned how these practices can inform and strengthen each other.

8. What are some of your aspirations or goals as an artist? Are there specific themes or concepts you're excited to explore further in your future works?
Some of the aspirations and goals I have as an artist include having exhibitions for my work as well as the work of other great artists whom I love and have a lot of respect for. I want to put together some books which I'm still figuring out the subject matter of! I also want to create new paintings that will allow me to sit with my culture and expand on my knowledge of it. And I want to continue to find ways to connect with other people/communities while sharing as much of what I’ve learned over the years as possible. With that said, I remain open to the possibilities that time may bring along the way.
vash x brooklyn cloth
9. How do you envision your collaborative work with Brooklyn Cloth impacting both your art and the audience that engages with your creations?
Collaborating with Brooklyn Cloth has been a fun learning experience. I've never teamed up with an established clothing brand before, and getting to collaborate with their awesome staff has given me new insights into how to present my work and grab people's attention when I'm promoting it. As artists, we are often required to take on many roles in order to best display our work and create thriving careers so I’ve always found it challenging to keep up with the ever-evolving process of putting it out on social media while remaining relevant. This collaboration has definitely been a very reflective moment for me.
I envision that new audiences who aren’t acquainted with my work may come along for the ride and hopefully stay around to witness whatever future projects I get to be a part of.

10. What do you hope viewers and fans take away from the collaborative pieces you've created in collaboration with Brooklyn Cloth?
I hope that viewers and fans are able to appreciate that this kind of work happens through the efforts of many people. I may be the artist behind the designs but being able to work with Brooklyn Cloth and watching them do their magic while putting things together is what allowed this project to come into fruition as it did. I cannot express how grateful I am to be able to work with such an incredible team of professionals in order to make something that’s very important to me.
Whether or not viewers consider themselves creatives, I hope this project serves as inspiration for anything they may be in the process of putting together for themselves or with a group of people. Give it time, give it love and let it become what it needs to be.
I would like to extend my gratitude to Joe and Danny for giving me the opportunity and support in putting all of this together with Brooklyn Cloth. And to Jennifer for compiling these questions.

CLICK HERE to shop from our collaboration with VASH - limited stock available.

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