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Life & Work with Maurice Vellas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maurice Vellas.

Hi Maurice, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My earliest forms of creative expression and curiosity were drawing and improvisational storytelling. I was interested in how to channel or “become” someone or something other than who & what I usually was. I liked to imagine myself as part of a big adventure most of the time as a kid, and that was probably the seed for the curiosity I try to approach my work with now. I like to try to sense, “where is this leading and what is this new and different feeling?” I was mostly doing drawing and some painting until I discovered filmmaking through an incredible course at my high school where I found a new passion and a lot of others to explore it with. That led to my entry to Virginia Commonwealth University where I studied film and anthropology. I graduated in 2015, and in 2017, with the help of many fellow alumni, I completed my first feature film, which I wrote and directed.

Since then, I have continued to work in the film industry and have resumed a concentration on my painting practice, while I also continually seek to merge new and different streams. Following an interest in working more directly with the earth and seeking to better understand its elements such as plants, water, and soil I earned my Permaculture Design Certificate from Austin Permaculture Guild in 2022, which also reflects my pursuit of just and equitable food and water systems and social equality. I hope to incorporate these new insights into land-based work in the future.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s definitely been a long and winding, sometimes bumpy, sometimes rocky road. I found more ease in my art and in my self-expression earlier in my life and struggled with blockages, feeling empty and uncreative, and questioning my path at times as I became an adult. I became more concerned with things I didn’t notice as much a kid. I was involved in my art as a business and salesperson, which brought with it added responsibility and pressure to succeed (in whatever way that might be, but usually through recognition). And of course, as we grow, most of us come to know greater difficulties and grief. It’s just a part of life. And the good thing is that when that begins to become integrated, it really gives the creative work a whole new level of depth and awareness.

Even in my slumps, I was always doing something. If I wasn’t drawing or couldn’t, I was taking pictures or writing something because I did believe in the power of a creative act to heal and transform and perhaps make sense of otherwise inscrutable circumstances.

I still face some of these difficulties and probably will for some time, but simply remaining dedicated and bearing it out while trying to look after myself as a person is how I deal with it now.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Currently, the emphasis of my practice is on painting. I believe my painting and drawing work has evolved a lot over my career. Like with many artists, it has gained in detail and sensitivity as I’ve become more experienced. One constant, however, has been working without too much premeditation on the exact form or content of a painting, working with what arises. Even though painting is an additive process, it can often feel like I am unearthing an image. For a while now, my paintings have been very slow to take shape, sometimes taking months, and a lot of that time I may not be actively working on them. I know this would drive some artists insane, but it works for me. I find that if I rush to finish, I start relying on what I think would be stylish instead of something really true. I compensate for the long process by working on several pieces at once.

Initially, I was concerned with creating great depth and detail in my drawings as well evoking multiplicities of meaning through forms and negative space that suggests but doesn’t insist on symbols or direct meaning. In recent years I moved towards seeking more simplicity and leaning more deeply into the space of color and emotion, being greatly influenced by the color-field movement.

In the meantime, I also continue to develop ideas for new projects in other areas such as film and focus on gathering new skills for future work including land-based work.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I’m hoping to participate in and organize more public showings of my work in the future, so stay tuned or contact me if you’re an artist or art curator hoping to collaborate.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Zac Rodriquez

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