Sage Venna’s Journey in Creating
Sage Venna has a compassionate air about her. She moves gracefully, taking in spaces and admiring them as she considers how to fill them with her art. Rooms, canvases and blank screens allow Venna to explore worlds filled with sci-fi aliens and creatures from the deep.
Venna was obsessed with comic book artist Roy Lichtenstein as a child and remembers reading a hardcover book of his artwork constantly. “I just thought his comic book styling within the fine art world was almost funny,” Venna says. She admired the way Lichtenstein stood out against his peers in art history, which she studied in books at public libraries in North Las Vegas growing up.
“I love art shows, I love art meetings, I love art talks—anywhere where there are people talking about art or doing art … that is my favorite part of community.”
Venna entered and won SLUG Mag’s t-shirt design contest in June of this year. The winning design is of a gangly Beehive with plant-like legs and a bashful expression as it looks pleadingly above. Venna’s inspiration came from her love of playing with tropes, and the beehive is the biggest Utah trope. Venna had some initial doubts about the design. “I made this silly little beehive creature and put it in there, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is probably too creepy for this!’” she says. “I wanted to give into the tropey-ness of Utah but make it weird because I feel like SLUG likes the weird stuff,” she says. “All of my artwork has kind of a creepy element to it, and I feel like Salt Lake definitely has some creepy spots.” Venna hopes her collaboration with SLUG will help create a space for an alternative culture within a relatively sheltered state, and she appreciates people sharing in the weird.
Venna’s first inspirations in art came from what was accessible in her community. “Community provides a safe space to produce artwork but also [generates] an appreciation for the arts,” Venna says, “so I was always in libraries as a kid because they are so open to … the public, and they create some of the best art places.”
“I wanted to give into the tropey-ness of Utah but make it weird because I feel like SLUG likes the weird stuff.”
As distantly as she can remember, Venna was drawing compulsively, describing it as an itch that could never be scratched. “I always felt like something was possessing me as a kid to draw all of the time, and that’s what I’m always doing, even to this day,” she says. Struggling with dyslexia from a young age, Venna’s ability to read and write came after her innate ability to visualize and observe. “I think visuals were the only thing I was really relying on. It was like a survival tactic,” she says.
As Venna grew, she was nefarious for taking anything she could get her hands on, wherever she went, as a medium for creating art. Her parents hounded her for drawing on receipt paper from their bakery, for doodling on the walls all over her childhood home and especially for converting every notebook her mom bought into a sketchbook, driving her mother nuts.
Her process now keeps her in two alternating states, she says, a state of creating and a state of gathering, and both are vital. “Nothing is truly original,” she says. “Everything just kind of evolves, which I think is really cool because you can take two separate art movements, combine it with stuff from today, and then you have something new.”
Venna now most often uses a system where she can flow from pen and paper to digital by scanning her sketches, uploading them to her iPad and using software called Procreate to add and detract from her physical piece. Still, sketching is where it all begins. “Nothing I sketch is serious. It’s all an offshoot of something that could evolve,” she says. Venna’s final products are digital pieces that have been thoughtfully built out from physical sketches.
Art has guided Venna through strife and hardship. She briefly used stop motion animation to explore her mothers’ diagnosis with Lupus when Venna was around 20 years old. “She was this happy, sick person, and no one could believe that she was sick,” Venna says, “so I made this animation about her Lupus and living with [it] and the generations that will live with Lupus because it is passed down genetically.” It was her chance to share her creative process with her mom, to create a connection between the two’s life experiences. Most of her drawings are of fantastical creatures and odd things, Venna says, but this piece was different. The animation was featured in an art show, and Venna holds the piece dear.
“I always felt like something was possessing me as a kid to draw all of the time, and that’s what I’m always doing, even to this day.”
Venna entered SLUG Magazine’s t-shirt contest out of a desire for community. Venna believes she shares SLUG’s goals in prioritizing public access to art and connecting people through the arts. “My favorite part is bringing people together,” she says. “I love art shows, I love art meetings, I love art talks—anywhere where there are people talking about art or doing art … that is my favorite part of community.”
You can browse Sage Venna’s fantastical, creepy, and beautiful artwork on her Instagram, @probablyanartistt, to keep up with her newest creations. You can pre-order Venna’s t-shirt at slugmag.bigcartel.com during SLUG’s call for orders of the limited run, which ends on August 22.
Read our interview with Haley Bruno, winner of last year’s design contest:
The Wolf Girl: A Look Inside Haley Bruno’s Art