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Meet Darcy Vahle of CallowLily in Malibu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Darcy Vahle.

Darcy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
According to my parents, I started drawing when I was two years old; as soon as my twitchy little hands could grasp one of those chubby Crayola crayons, I was hooked. I spent the next 19 years drawing and painting on anything and everything, from “re-illustrating” my Care Bears and Lisa Frank coloring books to drawing on my classmates’ backpacks. Thanks to nine very difficult years in Catholic school, my affinity for artwork became my outlet, the only way I could survive being different from my classmates (some years later, I would be diagnosed as being on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, which explained my struggles with social dynamics within school). But no matter how outcast I felt, no matter how much I was bullied, art was always my safe place. Escaping reality via creating was the way I survived reality. High school wasn’t much kinder, so I graduated early and started taking psychology and art classes at the local college while working full time. A few months after my twentieth birthday, a friend of the family decided to mentor me and he helped me create my first website to promote my artwork. He taught me how to handle my own printmaking, how to use social media like MySpace to share and promote my work, and his belief in my talent helped me believe I could do what I loved for a living. Shortly thereafter, I jumped the retail ship and put everything I had into starting my own business, working under the pseudonym of CallowLily. And as of today, I’ve been my own boss for over a decade. Aside from some very basic art classes over the years, I’m self-taught. My art has found its way onto TV, into major retail chains like Hot Topic, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think I struggled like most creative types do, with the added bonus of being neurodivergent (which comes with its own special set of obstacles). Being autistic isn’t a disability or illness, but it can make certain “normal” functions, such as socializing and relating to others, tricky to navigate. It means working art events or doing gallery shows is a slippery and often overwhelming slope. I’m more comfortable by myself with a sketchbook than I am being at a crowded event or social gathering. The great thing about art though is the fact that struggling or going through rough patches can oftentimes serve as inspiration for an artist. Rather than lamenting the bad things I’ve experienced, I can turn them into something I consider beautiful. Even better, if I let my rawer emotions come through onto the paper or canvas, and I share that with the masses, I get the most amazing messages from people all over the world who can relate and want to share their stories with me. Even if humans as individuals sometimes feel like they’re fighting a battle alone, we’re all a part of the same war. Relating to others through artwork, be it visual, musical, etc., feels like some miracle of connectivity. I’m grateful for every single thing I’ve been through, for better or for worse.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with CallowLily – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize in traditional (aka non digital) illustration for the most part; oftentimes my subject matter involves pretty faces in dark environments symbolic of difficult feelings or situations. But there’s always some spot of brightness, and I use darker themes to bring my own reality to light. I’ve dabbled in various mediums and products over the years: textiles and clothing, jewelry, dolls, and even furniture. I do a lot of commissioned portraits and logos, as well as tattoo designs. My business and skillset is ever evolving, and I’m always excited to try new means and methods of creating. The visual art market is highly saturated and it’s a rat race to keep up with changing tastes and trends. Thanks to the 24-7 convenience of social media, it’s easy to discover infinitely talented artists and to promote one’s own work, but it means a lot of stiff competition. I’m proud of my ability to persevere even when business occasionally slows down. Art is a tricky business because you have to find that precarious balance between staying true to your aesthetic while still creating imagery that appeals to people. My technical skills have evolved and branched out over the decades, but I’ve stayed true to my dark vs light themes and the big eyes I’ve always loved drawing.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’m actually deep in the throes of packing to relocate up to the Seattle area. I was born in Los Angeles, but spent a majority of my formative years living in Northern California. Being raised amongst the old growth redwoods along the foggy coastline gave me a certain reverence for being away from the concrete, steel, and noise of a big city. I moved back to the LA area when I was 25, fell in love with my now husband, and that’s kept me here for the better part of a decade. But I’m ready for a change of scenery and pace. There’s a lot of incredible sights and experiences to be had in Los Angeles, inspiration is literally everywhere. I’ve just reached a point where my mind needs more tree lined horizons and quiet, instead of constant traffic and people angling to take selfies against the backdrop of the famed Pacific Coast Highway. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Pacific Northwest art scene has to offer, what new connections can be made, and how the change of environment affects my artwork. I’ve started working on a tarot deck inspired by my visits to the PNW, lots of botany and wildlife rather than my usual “pretty girl in a dark place” aesthetic. Ultimately, I hope my Southern California roots mesh with my future adventures up north and some hybrid of manmade and natural grows within my artwork.

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