Vanessa Lamb is a painter and chemist from Long Island, New York. Vanessa’s love for both the arts and science have happily married—Vanessa works as an Associate Scientist for Clinique R&D while simultaneously managing her personal brand, Expressions By Van, where she devotes her time to painting vibrant pieces inspired by loved ones, the Black community, and her surroundings.
When asked about how she profits from her paintings, Vanessa shares that it has been a challenge and explains, “as an introvert, promoting myself is a bit out of my comfort zone, but with every event it gets easier… What I found does not work, is trying to cater your work to who you think it will attract. Authenticity is key.”
Share a little bit about who you are!
I am Vanessa Lamb, an artist and color cosmetic chemist from Long Island, New York. I grew up in Uniondale, New York in a school district that certainly celebrates art, music, and performance. Art was always a part of my childhood. You would find me in every additional art class and art club. Of all the different mediums I have tried, I love drawing and painting the most. I am in love with both the process of creating as well as the energy the colors bring to a space once it is complete.
I read that you were a Chemistry major. When did you begin your journey as a painter and illustrator?
In addition to the arts, I was very into science and I was also good at it! My very passionate science teachers in school encouraged me to find a career that balances art and science. When I graduated college in 2015 with my Bachelor’s in Chemistry, I was working toward being a dentist.
Believe it or not, dentistry involves a scientific brain and problem solving, but also exercises the dexterity and sculpting of an artist. In the process of applying to dental schools I felt that I was missing that creative fulfillment. I discovered that science greatly outweighs the art in that career. Around that time, I reconnected with painting while doing research on other careers that explore art and science.
I searched and searched for months and one day came across some cosmetic chemistry jobs in my area. With no experience, it was a bit of a challenge getting my foot into the door, so I started off as a temporary consultant. Now, I am an Associate Scientist for Clinique R&D. Formulation is a fun challenge, but I really love creating the different shades for product types using an array of colors. Throughout this journey, I’ve never stopped painting and illustrating and that business has continued to grow, so I think I’ve found the perfect balance.
You incorporate an array of colors and expressive brush strokes in your paintings that help to create movement. How would you describe your style?
I would best describe my art as figurative with abstract elements. Most of my paintings have backgrounds with a particular color scheme, but to create that I just do what feels right in that moment. That’s what I love about the creative process, there’s no right or wrong. I always create to express and I find that people really connect with it. That just encourages me to keep going and to keep sharing. I think you said it best when you used the word “expressive”.
What does your art represent?
It represents a state of being. Sometimes it is who you are and other times it is what you feel. I name my pieces based on how they make me feel. A few of my most recent are “Allure,” “A Mother’s Love,” “Expressive,” “Unique,” and “Uplifting.” My art is inspired by my family, friends, and surroundings. I’m really into showcasing Black beauty. I paint a lot of subjects with curly hair, braids, and headwraps. I’m inspired by my community and I want them to see themselves in my art.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
To name a few, some of my favorite artists are Nikkey Creative, Brionya James, and Fahiym Williams. They all incorporate lots of color and Black beauty in their own unique styles.
Do you have other creative interests or hobbies?
Early on, I created many dance pieces—I mentioned earlier how my school was really big on showcasing the arts. My mom would always take my family to productions by BAM Africa and Alvin Ailey. Even now, my brother, Cary Lamb Jr., is a dancer and performs with STOMP Off-Broadway. I still enjoy going to shows like that and I also love to tap dance—although COVID has put a pause on that!
I noticed that you use your platform to share positive quotes that relate to topics that many creatives shy away from or are uncomfortable with discussing—doubting yourself, feeling like giving up, having low self-esteem. Why do you feel that it’s important to have these conversations, especially within the Black community?
I feel that in order to grow we really have to be honest with ourselves and where we could use improvement. Oftentimes we may feel like life is happening to us but we have to exercise our authority where we can.
Your work features individuals who look like you. Why is representation important in art?
Representation is important because it can shape how people view themselves as well as how we view others. In the media, we often see a very narrow view of what it means to be beautiful or what it means to be Black. The more we diversify representation in art, the more we challenge stereotypes and can provide a more accurate view to the world.
Authenticity is key.
Artists have unique journeys and I always wonder how fellow artists go about putting themselves out there. What has your experience been with promoting your work and profiting from it?
I’ll say this, it has certainly been a challenge! As an introvert, promoting myself is a bit out of my comfort zone, but with every event it gets easier. I’ve had the most success with in-person interactions than online interactions, so I think you really have to discover what works for you. In doing research on how to increase my online presence, I’ve discovered that the best way to do that is to be present. I’ve gained the best results from connecting with those who I feel will connect with my product, and then finding others like them. What I found does not work, is trying to cater your work to who you think it will attract. Authenticity is key.
Shed light on a moment when you were faced with adversity, and tell us how you maneuvered through it.
The moment that first comes to mind is my first few years in college. I had a very tough time adjusting to being in a new space, trying to sustain and maintain distant relationships, with realizing and coming to terms with how it feels to be a minority in a PWI, and tackling a vigorous curriculum. During this time, my mental health was not in a great space so I could not fathom how I would be able to get through it. At first, I tried to just power through and show up, even if that meant not taking care of myself. When that went completely left, I discovered that I had to show up for myself in order to really excel in those other areas. I had to prioritize my mental health and peace of mind. Only then was I able to have clarity when navigating the other areas of my life.
What are some of your proudest moments as a painter?
My proudest moments as a painter are definitely when I host solo shows. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to fill a room up with what I create and have people come out just to see it.
How can we stay connected with you?