August 28, 2009


Matyld {left} Henrietta Underwood & Lois Morton Warden share some gossip by Vivienne Strauss

From my earliest memories, I have been drawn to the expressive line quality and washes of color that are found in the art of Ludwig Bemelmans, Raoul Dufy, and on hundreds of magazine covers from 1925 - 1940s. I'm always delighted to see the large Palm Beachy-colored painting by Marcel Vertes hanging in my brother’s house. This type of art has a joie de vivre that attracts my eye, and it’s this quality that attracted me to the art of Vivienne Strauss on Etsy. Vivienne is a self-taught artist who paints through color-blind eyes {yes, tricky at times but a bit easier with watercolor} "I really love working with watercolors because they are much more vibrant." Her paintings are full of whimsical detail, not self-conscious or fussy on technique—even her captioned titles are charming!

"Elinor, having recently attended a Bergman film festival, now thought about everything differently."

Artist, Vivienne Strauss

My Dog-Eared Pages has a chat with Viv:

As a gal who studied Philosophy, how did you start painting? I'm a very late bloomer, I finally graduated with a degree in Philosophy because that was where I had the most credits. At 40, I finally know what I want to be!

What came first, collage or paint? Collage came first. I've always been obsessed with images. So often you can't find the image you want to express the idea you have so, the only way to do that is to create it yourself. Though I prefer painting to collage, I don't think I could ever give it up altogether, it is a nice break from painting and often gives me ideas and inspiration.

Where do you come up with the fantastic captions for your work? Every once in a while I have a title first and then the painting follows. More often than not, the title evolves as I paint.

I see inspiration from so many places, objects, and people in your work... that makes me curious, where did you grow up? I grew up in northern Wisconsin and Florida. After high school, I lived in Atlanta for quite a while and then Birmingham, AL. I lived in the south for a long time before we relocated to Portland {OR} last year. I don't really find inspiration in much prior to 1960 unless it is a portrait of people with their pets. Hearing about little idiosyncrasies about cats or dogs gives me instant ideas and inspiration. Most inspiration seems to come from found photographs, old yearbooks and old movies.

Do you and your husband {Matte Stephens} critique each other’s work? Well, Matte has been a painter for 15 years, I've only been doing it full time for a little over a year. He has been a constant source of encouragement and support since I started painting full time. We rarely look at each other's work until it is finished. I can honestly say, I don't think I would have kept at it without him.

Question Roll

Current obsession: Watching Jeanne Moreau films over and over, I think she is one of the most intriguing actresses ever.

Last thing you bought: Some new running shoes

Favorite vacation spot: NYC

Reading now:
I go through phases where I re-read old favorites because it seems so many new books are disappointing. Though Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year was incredible!

Listening to: Nothing current I'm afraid. I enjoyed 90s music in the 90s but now I seem to have reverted back to my favorites from the 80s. The few current musicians I listen to are Jolie Holland and Andrew Bird. I never tire of my Billie Holiday or Edith Piaf, though!

Inspiring artists: Edward Gorey, Max Ernst, Kees Van Dongen, Raoul Dufy, Ernest Kirchner, Florine Stettheimer

"Madge was supposed to have met Shirley at Bloomingdales over an hour ago and couldn't imagine how she and Jeffrey had gotten lost." {above}

Museum pick: Musée d'Orsay in Paris

Best store: Powell's Books

Favorite shape: the triangle

Cocktail of the moment: It's been the same for a very long time, Tanqueray and tonic.

Greatest inspiration from: Just letting my mind wander where it wants to, a simple phrase or scene from a book or movie can often start an entire series of paintings.

Last movie you saw: Le Doulos (directed by Jean-Pierre Melville starring Jean-Paul Belmondo).

Best movie interior: This one is hard, there are so many! If I had to choose just one it would have to be Auntie Mame, Butterfield 8 and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, whoops that's three!

A day at the Beach, Biarritz, September 1931, Oil painting

Most precious belonging:
My collection of Eva Zeisel Schmoos

Can’t live without:
My glasses or coffee!

Favorite item of clothing: My vintage faux leopard coat

Favorite time of day:
Early morning when I take my first sip of coffee

Important thing you already knew at 18: That I was born in the wrong era

Searching for: The perfect black and white striped shirt, I have dozens but none are "perfect."

"Eldora didn't have the heart to tell Roland that he would probably never be more than a third-rate magician at best."

Favorite Philosopher: Ayn Rand

If you had to write one of your whimsical captions for a self-portrait, what would it say?
A lot of my paintings and titles are very thinly veiled self-portraits!

To buy or see more wonderful Viv Strauss:


  1. Wonderful wonderful interview! Vivienne is my best friend and wife. She has an amazing since of humor and a wonderful way of showing that through her paintings. She is a constant source of inspiration for me. :D

  2. Thanks Matte! Viv is great and I feel like she's an old friend even though we've never met!!

  3. Fantastic Interview! I so enjoyed it and Viv's work and point of view. Plus all the dogs she includes in her art. Pithy and Delightful!

  4. Aw, what a wonderful interview !
    I love Vivienne's unique work and she even gave my name to a painting ... YAY !

    x x x

  5. We are just crazy about Vivienne's work here at My Dog-Eared Pages... she's smart and fabulous! Characters galore!

  6. I need to post my piece that Vivienne did of my mother and her mom- a Christmas present-thanks to Your post! pgt

  7. pgt, I would LOVE to see it. I am such a huge fan of Viv's!


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