Artist Feature Marrilee Anderson (@avesaira) creates symbolic art that inspires her and has gotten her through hard times of isolation and mental illness. Learn more about her, the power of mentors, and using art a tool to open up to the world around you in her artist interview!
You have a passion for storytelling and art, how do you tie both together?
Every piece of art has a story to tell, whether it be complex with many facets or as simple as a single word or emotion. I’ve always had a deep need to create pieces that embody a purpose or meaning greater than the work itself. I spend countless hours researching symbolism for elements to many pieces I create, a form of connection that gives me great joy.
In the past I created worlds, drew countless maps, scenes, characters, and creatures as a way of coping with social anxiety. The very last one I started creating was Avesaira, a world filled with races inspired by some of my favorite birds, another crazy love of mine. I ended up evolving, changing how I wanted to create art, and now use the name to encompass all of my creations and no longer let myself be secluded to a single world. I often look back at those stories, and hope to create future projects encompassing those long ago stories to share with the world.
You’re very open about your struggles with depression over the years, how has art been a part of your mental health journey?
Growing up was extremely socially taxing for me; I was extremely introverted and did not know how to open up to others. Instead of suffering through trying to communicate I would escape. Find solace in the worlds I created for myself. I still felt abnormal at the time, and it reflected through to my art; I would start many creations and not finish them before starting something new. I felt like there was something broken inside of me and I was lost without being able to connect with anyone even though I deeply wanted to.
Art was always there for me, saving me from completely breaking down; eventually it became my savior. The crippling self talk was eroded by other people, some now amazing forever friends, that connected to me through the narrative of art and story building. I went from being that girl sitting by herself at the lunch table, being laughed at, to someone happy to be alive, and sharing memories with some of the most creative imaginative people I know. A shared bond that only art can hold.
If you could go back in time and tell your past-self one thing in regards to art, what would it be?
The wishful part of me would love to go back and tell myself to practice more, don’t be afraid of studying without the need of making something perfect straight off the bat. Be more okay with failure and not worrying about making mistakes.
The real me wouldn’t go back at all, shocking right?! Every little moment that has brought me to where I am today is precious to me, even the worst of days of wanting to give everything up. Going back would mean I would change who I am today; who I’ve encountered, and I wouldn’t give any of this up. Embrace yourself for who you are, love yourself, and know that it is okay to be who you are, failings and all.
Tell us more about your (truly stunning) bird collection #avesvisioncollection?
This collection means the world to me, it is the first time I’ve ever completed a series this in depth and it feels overpoweringly beautiful. It started with my love of birds, flowers, nature, and evolved into a series dedicated to those that have made an impact on my life. I wanted to give them empowerment in the areas of their life they may struggle with; my way of saying thank you and leaving them something to inspire their own journeys of growth, and those around them. Each bird in the series carries with them a necklace, which I will be crafting those necklaces to be paired with limited hand embellished prints; a way of taking the artwork with you on your journeys.
The first piece of the collection depicts a gray catbird, my soul animal, that follows me everywhere I go, even far away from home its call finds me. I did not know it at the time but I came to find out it represents language, communication, listening and singing your own song, how to speak to others; everything I was searching for, right there waiting. I only had to listen. Paired with the gray catbird are an assortment of flowers and plants I dearly love and have significant meaning to my life that give me strength, courage, and connection that will travel with me onto the journey ahead.
Do you think having a more typical day job actually enhanced your art? How?
Yes, I started off in the typical cashier job, stocking shelves, unloading trucks, not some place you want to be a forever home. There I met the most wonderful mentor one could ask for who guided me into the world of custom framing where I spent a decade learning new techniques that would be ever resourceful for my future art projects.
During this time I put my own art behind and dedicated my time to master as many framing skills as I could. Through it all I was able to connect with new people, new friends, and hear their stories of art they made or acquired through the years, all was amazing, and insatiably inspiring. The hunger to work on my own art and stories I left behind grew every day, until a crescendo of sorts came over me, and I knew I had to make a change. While I enjoyed working on the dreams of others, I wanted to work on mine, truly see the future ahead and embrace it. That typical job ended up being a stepping stone on my journey, a beginning, with many paths ahead and I cherish every one of them.
What Bee Paper product is your favorite and why?
The 140lb Cold Press Watercolor Paper will always have a special place in my heart. The first Bee Paper product I ever owned, first watercolor paper I ever used, and completed my first art series with. It has a nice rough surface texture, and will accept a lot of abuse where other papers would warp and shred with too much water and brush contact.
Any advice for the struggling artist?
Never give up, keep following your interests until they become a burning passion. Failures will happen along the way, embrace them, love them, they show you how to grow and become stronger. Fear will try to break you, instead use it to drive you to the path you truly want to be on. You are not alone on your journey, there is an endless world of connection waiting for you, let your art guide you to it.
You will run into those who want to steal your passion, tell you it’s not possible to get where you want to be. Treat them with compassion, but do not let them steal your fire; instead grow brighter and accomplish more than they think possible, and in turn their own fire will ignite to join you. When you are lost, it is never too late to start a new direction, close one door and open a new one, rise up, live the life you want to live, and never never stop being you.
Follow Marrilee on her Instagram @Avesaira