Kelli Laderer | A Decade of Change Artist Interview

Imperfectly Perfectly Me, Kelli Laderer


Hi Kelli, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Way back in the beginning, imagine a wobbly little four year old girl with big goals of becoming an artist, that’s me. I spent years exploring art, learning from mentors and teachers. But, I got a little off track and took the responsible route, e.g. going to college for graphic design. After graduation and the impending reality that this was it, I thought, “I need to do what I am truly passionate about, not this “so called responsible” plan B that had become plan A”. So I did it; I learned from everything I could get my hands on, put myself out there, and shared my work. Now, I’m an illustrator and hand-lettering artist based in the New Orleans Area, with fast plans on taking my little show on the road, working remotely as a digital nomad.

 


What, or who, influence your creative style and/or ethos?

WHOOOA! So many things have had an influence.. Let’s see, in the beginning I was in love with the work of Van Gogh, Monet, and Warhol because of the bold use of color and the emotions I felt when I saw them. But when I learned a bit more about art history I was like, “Expressionism and Impressionism are the shit.” To me they represented the dual qualities of identity: internal vs external. Expressionism, subjectively depicting the world based on one’s own experiences and emotions: how the individual's experience alters their perception of the world VS Impressionism, depicting how the environment, the world, impacts the perception of the individual. Identity and perception were always on my mind because I was having trouble wrapping my mind around the concept of identity & individuality. Questions like, “what is one’s true self?”, “are we only what the world makes us?” kept popping into my mind.  More recently, I began to be attracted to the quick and visceral nature art by Keith Haring, Timothy Goodman, and Adam J. Kurtz because of the speed it can spread ideas and emotion. I began to use similar methods in my own art; by documenting my journey in the form of illustrations and hand-lettering that I could share with others. I discovered a group of people going through the same situation who were eager to share their stories and spread these illustrations I was making; this was the beginning of @goodvibestype.    

Looking for more?? My experiences, and personal journey have been integral to what my art has currently transitioned into. Here is a stream of consciousness list of some of my influences & inspirations: mental health awareness, Activism, people believing in themselves unapologetically, finding purpose and fulfillment, graphic design and art history, perception, identity, nature, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, patterns and systems in nature and life, mindset, journaling, the concepts behind impressionism and expressionism art: the duel sides of perception and identity, holistic health, gratitude, entrepreneurial spirit, transparency, compassion, open-mindedness, self worth, self confidence, self love, self care. :)


What is something that we wouldn’t know about you?

After graduating from college, I was fed up with living to work work work for the “perfect” job, house, life. I had gone without sleep, proper food, self care, and community for so long that I was mentally and physically exhausted. I was still dealing with depression and I wanted to live for a bit before jumping into a full time career. So I traveled through Southeast Asia (specifically Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia) for about 6 months on a shoestring budget (because that’s all I had)  with the intent of figuring out this thing called life and how happiness fits into it. I ate meals for a dollar, stayed in hostels, volunteered my time and skills for room and board. Learned about meditation from buddhist monks at a temple established in the 13th century. I learned to drive a motorbike and, on that very same day, began a two week motorbike drive into the rural winding mountains of Vietnam. I had a few close calls, torrential downpours, flooded rivers, collapsed roads, kind strangers, a gift of a warm bowl of pho. I cooked and washed dishes overlooking vibrant green rice terraces and rugged mountains while living with a family I only shared a few common words of english with. I taught english to little kids. I visited, played, and simply shared some love with children at a local orphanage near where I was living. I learned vietnamese language basics and some specialized slang. I bathed an elephant, was taught how to weave by two grandmotherly Thai woman I luckily just happened to meet. I cliff jumped, yes, I admit it was only about ten meters, but I cliff jumped off a waterfall and that was big for someone with a fear of heights. I gained confidence, talked to strangers, learned new ideas from different people and cultures. I cried, I felt lonely and sad, I felt pure joy and happiness, I felt contentment. I witnessed extreme poverty. I saw smiles in the faces and eyes of the people with the least amount of material goods I’ve ever met. I rode in my first tuk tuk, got sweaty and lost in the streets of Bangkok; I haggled with taxis, got conned twice. I helped deliver donated clothes and food to a rural Hmong village in need. One village was only accessible by motorbike through off roads way up in the mountains; there were lots and lots of bumps, literally driving over piles of rock. I walked the ancient steps of Angkor Wat. I rode a rickety bicycle through harsh winds and a dark rainstorm to find the most beautiful sunset in Hoi An. I got lost and confused, tried crazy good food, and some really odd delicacies. I faced old and new fears and discovered new passions. I learned happiness comes from within, but purpose and passion sure help.   


Talk us through your design process, from initial idea to finished piece.

Sometimes I go through a process of research, brainstorming, and idea development before creating a final piece. Other times that creative spark randomly shoots an idea into my mind and I'll write it down to develop later. Currently I work digitally in procreate, because it allows me to work from anywhere, and I plan on working from all across the globe. 


What is your biggest art pet peeve, and why?

My biggest art pet peeve is when someone tells me they are not creative or says they want to draw but they cannot draw. I think everyone has that creative spark. Maybe it’s tiny and maybe they need to nurture it. Maybe they can’t draw right now, but if they have the will and dedication to practice, I believe anyone is capable of masterpieces.


What are you most excited about at the moment?

I am super excited about two self initiated projects! The first is where I create a piece of art each week in the goal of spreading awareness about mental health, and hopefully getting the subject in front of individuals who are struggling right now and might not even know this concept exist (because a few years ago, I didn't). The concept of Mental health was not taught to me, I discovered it on my own when I got stuck in depression: this abstract thing that I didn't understand or know how to get out of. After A LOT of personal research I adopted a number of lifestyle changes and habits to nurture my mental health and find myself again.

The other is a collaborative project I'll be launching in the upcoming weeks. This series is called Letters for Good. To give back, I’ll be creating hand drawn “informational inspirationals” in collaboration with others doing good to get more eyes on what these amazing people are doing and hopefully we can ignite a little good in the world.

 


Let’s talk more about A Decade of Change. What drew you to collaborate with us on this project?

When you first reached out to me I was immediately taken by the concept. A bunch of artist creating something that defines the next decade. How fun, how amazing. It was the perfect opportunity to talk about subjects close to my heart, individuality and mental health. I truly believe in the next decade, there will be a wave of change and awareness on how we talk about and incorporate mental health in our daily lives. We all know it’s good to exercise, it helps our bodies stay in shape and functioning properly, but what about exercising and taking care of our minds? I think that is equally important for our health. 


What’s the message behind your piece in the collection, and what does it mean to you?

I thought this was the perfect opportunity to talk about a subject close to my heart, individuality & mental health. Finding the courage to be vulnerable by being true to you, despite the possible rejection and judgement of others, is hard AF. My goal was to share my own experience in the hope that others can be helped by it. The print collection is about a decade of change, and I believe an amazing change would be a world full of individuals feeling free embracing themselves instead of getting trapped trying to be society's idea of “perfect.”

This illustration is about embracing yourself fully despite what the world thinks is “imperfect” about you. It’s about finding strength in your imperfections, in vulnerability, in order to nurture your self-worth, self-love, and mental health.


What would you like to change over the new decade?

To simply spread some awareness on the subject of mental health in the hope it can help someone in need. Plus, if someone is struggling with mental health, I think it would be wonderful if we can foster a community that builds that person up instead of tearing them down, to be able to open up the dialog on mental health so that people who have struggles don’t feel so alone, embarrassed, or inadequate. 


Lastly, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Lol, this is super hard, too many options. Hmmmmm. Maybe to create with a thought? Just think it and have the creation appear?? That would be pretty cool. :)

 

Find Kelli's piece for the collection here.

Discover Kelli's work at kelliladerer.myportfolio.com and follow Kelli on Instagram @goodvibestype.
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