Self-taught artist Violet Astor discovered the meditative medium of drawing as a form of art therapy to aid her in her ongoing battle with Lymes Disease. Inspired by the tragic decline of the natural world and our ever-changing ecosystem, Violet uses charcoal on paper to capture beautiful drawings of endangered species that act as a powerful ode to the resilience of nature and a reminder of what is at stake. Soft texture, rich detail and dramatic monochrome imbues her works with a timeless and sentimental feel. Discover her incredible story and hear about her recent travels to India in our exclusive interview with the artist.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I discovered drawing four years ago when I became ill with Lymes Disease and a number of people suggested that art could be healing and therapeutic. I tried a few different mediums but ended up falling in love with charcoal for its versatility. Initially my drawings were only ever done for my pleasure and peace of mind, but as my health started to improve, I realised that it had surreptitiously become an integral part of my life.
What was the first artwork you ever made? Can you remember?
I remember doing a pencil drawing of my grandfather when I was about 10 and really enjoying the process. I hadn’t really done much since then, as I got a little distracted.
Tell me a bit about the process you use to create your work. What visions and inspirations lie behind it?
I often choose a piece based on an endangered species I have been reading about or seen in the wild. For example I drew a mountain gorilla after being inspired by the Netflix documentary ‘Virunga’. I try to create meaning and detail in the subject; for example a look in the eye or certain movement reflecting a feeling or mood that I am in.
Where do you go to seek inspiration?
I seek my inspiration from nature. I have just returned from a trip to India where I tracked tigers and leopards in the wild.
What do you love most about making art & is there anything you hate about it?
I love the sense of peace drawing brings me. I also love watching the piece of paper slowly come to life. I don’t enjoy how lonely the life of an artist can be.
What has been the greatest impact on you as an artist to date?
The greatest impact on me as an artist has been seeing the influence art has on people. How it can touch the soul and speak in a way that no other form of communication can. And for that reason I believe it can have a profound effect in raising awareness.
Give us a quick one or line about your studio space - what do you love about it?
I have been working out of my bedroom to date! I love the clarity of seeing my work with fresh eyes first thing when I wake. I also hate that! And the fact that charcoal gets everywhere. I am looking forward to working out of a studio soon.
Best advice you've ever received as an artist?
Someone once told me that the devil on your shoulder will spend time nagging in your ear about how bad your work is, how people will laugh, how you are no good. And while it feels like is trying to sabotage everything you do – it is ultimately trying to protect you from making a fool of yourself.
It has been really helpful for me to recognise the devil sitting there and laugh at it and not let it hinder my creative process. I have also discovered that if I really listen, it can actually help me recognise what needs to happen next in the creative process.
How long does it take you to complete a work?
It takes me about 4 months to complete a piece of work… sometimes more. I have just finished a commission that took me just under a year!
What’s playing in your studio right now?
And I am currently listening to Jock of the Bushveld audiobook. I also love This American Life and TED talk podcasts. And sometimes I enjoy silence.