About Vlasta van Kampen
Vlasta studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design. With a scholarship she studied typography and book design in the Netherlands. There she discovered that children’s book illustration would become her life’s work.
Back in Canada she began a career combining studio work, workshops in schools and libraries, teaching at various Art Colleges and being an at-home-mom. She was a busy lady, managing to juggle all of this and nurture two very fine, creative children.
Vlasta has won many awards and has illustrated 39 children’s books. Aside from books she has done way-finding signage and paintings for Parks Canada and two commemorative stamps for Canada Post.
She has had three ‘One Woman Shows’ and been a part of many ‘Group Shows’. She has also served on a jury for The Governor General’s Award for children’s book illustration. A large body of Vlasta’s work, “Rockanimals” has been purchased by The National Library of Canadaand is now in Ottawa as part of their archives and art collection for children.
She currently works from her wonderful, bright studio, in the delightful, small rural town of Cobourg, Ontario. She is inspired by a love of nature and her boundless imagination gives her work a unique voice. She delights in developing animal characters and situations that will make the viewer smile.. Her art is storytelling in great detail and each painting is rendered in rich, saturated watercolours‘.
Grade school. Friday afternoon art class. I lived for this class. In this one hour of wild abandon I could transfer my fantasies to paper. No staying within the lines. No using the paper to the edges. My imagination and drawings had boundaries of their own and I had my own unique colour pallette.
I drew paper dolls and designer clothing for them. I designed furniture for my doll house. This all led to creating my own clothing line. Some of my outfits were outrageous I admit, in retrospect, and I admire my mom for allowing ‘this creativity’ to leave the house. Friends now confide that the whole school bus was always waiting to see what outfit I would dare to wear that day. I often reflect on my mom’s tiny sewing room where it all started. It was that room that hooked me. In there you could find almost anything, in different sizes, shapes and colours. Many projects were inspired by that room.
High school was very important. It had an Art Club. Result. Immediate membership and epiphany on career choice. ‘The Arts’. This was a career that was, in those days, frowned upon. “What could you possibly do in ‘The Arts?’ But I did go off to Art College. I wore a lot of black, as artists did back then and shocked my parents with my nude drawings from my life drawing classes.
My artistic endeavour is to entertain and engage the viewer, young and old, in a discovery trip into my animal world and to savour the humour and detail in each of my paintings. My work is for all to enjoy. I am a storyteller and in my paintings the animals take over. Each one is created with love and humour. I talk to them as I draw them. I laugh with them when they do silly things. I love what I do and I hope to do it forever, or at least for as long as I can hold a steady paint brush. And if the hand becomes shaky, then perhaps this will become my new style. That is actually a good possibility.
Mentors are important in our lives and the painter, ‘Arthur Rackham’, was mine. He greatly influenced my early work. His paintings were magical, his colours soft and rich, his lines bold and expressive. Even his trees were alive with personalities. He had a great sense of design and all of this helped to shape my work. I learned to not be afraid of watercolours, but to use them fearlessly and soon developed my own bold, rich colours instead of his pastels.
My family has always been very supportive and my children have been a great source of inspiration for many of my stories and illustrations. I have enjoyed a wonderful and exciting career with their support and encouragement.