Artist Journey: Vivien Mildenberger
last updated 18 February 2022
Residing in hilly Tennesse keeps Bright Artist, Vivien Mildenberger, continually inspired and refreshed. After years of battling the urge to draw what felt trendy or in line with the status quo, Vivien has developed a beautiful, niche, and recognizable portfolio. Her passion for art goes beyond the brush, as she hopes to bring the words of the stories she is illustrating to life. We had the chance to get to know more about her journey, and are excited to also share her In The Studio video with you for the very first time!
Was there something specific about your childhood that sparked your interest in art?
Stories! I remember reading stories and brimming with excitement and energy from being transported to worlds so fantastical and tantalizing. I wanted to hold and cherish that feeling long after all the pages were turned. The only way my child brain knew how to release this energy was to draw! I wanted to visualize what these amazing, far away places looked like. Somehow I never felt I could capture what was so vivid in my head. Thus begun the long journey that I’m still on now: to get better and better at bringing life and color to the words that I find so mesmerizing.
What sorts of everyday elements do you have around you that keep you inspired?
My grandma gave me a lot of my favorite children’s books from when I was young. Many of them have very challenging and unique art that I love to gain inspiration from. They remind me of how it felt to be a child and experiencing those books for the first time. I also keep my art materials out at all times, so I can make marks whenever the fancy strikes me. Sometimes I’ll walk by a painting in my PJs on the way to brush my teeth at night and add a line or a blob that makes the whole thing come together. My studio also has incredibly huge windows that look over farmland and forest, a view which I often find empty enough to fill with my thoughts and imagination.
Edited by Sydney Emerson
Throughout your journey in becoming an artist, did you ever think about choosing another path? If so, why?
I think it’s scary setting out to be an artist. So many times it’s tempting to quit when you’re first starting out. So many people will tell you “that’s no way to make money” or “only very few people make it”. My answer to those people has always been “I’ll show you!” and to work as hard as I possibly can to make this career work. I never thought I would be good at anything else. At this point I couldn’t picture myself doing anything different! I’m not sure I would even put away my paintbrushes to be a time traveling food critic, though that would be tempting.
How did you develop the style that now defines your portfolio?
I spent so much time at art school trying to draw like someone else, or to fit into “trends” I saw all over the illustration world. There was one fundamental thing missing, and that was me! I came to a point where I was curious about how I naturally drew, and gave myself space to embrace it. I’ve spent years making lists of things I NEVER want to do again, and things I ALWAYS want to do when I draw. I’ve completely given in to the artistic process, and now the choices, lists, and materials have become intuition. But the process is never ending and always shifting as I learn and grow.
As time has gone on and you change as an individual, how do you see that growth reflected in your art?
I often find the most meaningful change comes from traveling and being around different cultures. Little things like learning local folktales, or uncovering a strange historical fact that you can only gather by being there in person are significant. My art is constantly evolving to incorporate more diverse stories. The last few years spent in quarantine have made that sort of stimulus harder to come by and I’ve found myself being inspired by moods and emotions. My work has become more atmospheric as my inspiration comes more from internal sources like my imagination or state of mind. Seemingly unrelated, my hobbies also play a big role in my illustrations! I’ve become emanored with weightlifting and learning about different muscles and how they move. This is a great example as I’ve now changed the way I approach drawing the human form. My drawings are me, so whatever happens to me happens in my drawings too!
What projects have you worked on during your time with Bright and what can we expect next from you?
I’ve done quite a few books with Bright at this point - actually I’ve done all of my books with Bright! Most of them have been biographies about fascinating people, many of them scientists. I love drawing books about science because its magic in the real world! I have two new books coming out this year - Fighting For Yes by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, and Comet Chaser by Pamela S. Turner. Both are about incredibly inspiring women. I hope to branch out into more fiction and fantasy work soon, it’s my big wish to build and imagine new worlds as well as representing this one.
“It’s an honor representing Vivien as she’s thoughtful, conscientious about deadlines and as you can see, she’s one of a kind in her artistry and craft. As her agent, it’s been a pleasure to see her grow.” - Anne Moore Armstrong