Feature: Meet Wokingham Artist Vic Delaney 

“I hope if my ancestors are on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’  I’d be one of the ancestors they investigate, not one that they skip over. 
I want them to go ‘Check this woman out..she did good stuff!’”

It is 7:03pm and I’ve been table-hopping in Sedero Lounge for four minutes. Attempting to find the quietest spot in the restaurant, I’ve knocked over a sizeable lit candle in my haste to make a decision. Back it goes, no harm done. I’m spared from causing any further potential damage (arson) as Vic’s smiling face appears. This table it is. 
LET’S FILL THIS TOWN WITH ARTISTS’ her tote bag reads.

I’ve wanted to interview local artist Vic Delaney for many months, quietly observing as she shared her art practice on social media. It was the illustrated Wokingham map that perfectly showcased Vic’s talent and put her artist self on the map. The stunningly detailed piece was so well received that she now does commissions for individuals, organisations and businesses (most recently Chalk restaurant). 
Sipping our hot chocolates, all candles still standing, Vic describes being at the beginning of a career change, her admiration for Dave Grohl and the importance of doing what makes you happy.

A mother of two, aged six and eight, Vic was a primary school teacher for 13 years before losing her job during the pandemic. She tells me how the overwhelm of teaching affected her mental health. “I was having panic attacks and not sleeping. It was relentless, a hamster wheel you can’t get off and people just keep chucking more things in so you can’t do what you’re there to do properly. It’s really tough.”
Whilst she was devastated to be told she no longer had a job, she now sees the experience as a gift. “It was absolutely the best thing to happen. It gave me time to fall in love with making things again. I watched ‘Grayson’s Art Club’ and was like ‘Oh yeh, I’ve got pencils and paper..’. It’s been a long time coming.”

Three years on, Vic has struck a balance between time in the classroom as a learning support assistant and time alone to create. “I love it. It’s still hard and very intense because I’m often just with one child but I have a really good relationship with him and I feel like I know him as well as my own children now.”

A child of the eighties, Vic spent all her time making art. Sometimes finding school challenging, creativity was her escape. “I didn’t really fit into any of the groups at school, the art room was my safe place, it was my comfort zone.  I did quite badly at A-Level actually, disappointingly so, I thought I was better than the examiners did obviously!”
Her University art experience didn’t get much better.  “All the other students were older and slightly mad, this one lady just poured paint on her head then slammed it on the wall…that wasn’t my jam.” 
Switching courses to Media and Cultural Studies, Vic had other creative dreams before becoming an artist.
“I wanted to be like Zoe Ball..My University had a pretty good radio course so I learnt how to produce a radio show, it was really cool. I interviewed the Lostprophets’ lead singer…a few years later he was arrested.”

Vic continued to draw and paint on the side as she embarked on a teaching career, before the demands of an increasing workload, marriage and children took over. “I kind of forgot how much I loved it- not just drawing – I made a table lamp with my Dad.  I’ve realised I need to make things, I need to do things with my hands, I get tetchy if I haven’t done it for a few days.”

Touching on losing her identity to motherhood, she is grateful to now be expressing herself more fully. “It’s been a real blessing to have something that is mine. Because you just become so and so’s mum or so and so’s partner, and no one sort of sees you for you anymore and you don’t see yourself for you because you’ve got this other role. It’s been really good to rediscover that I have a skill that isn’t cooking or cleaning or folding pants!” 

She currently works with two main media; pen and paper, her comfort zone, and Lino, a newer territory that she finds soothing. “Carving it out with blades, you have to really focus because if you slip, you can’t undo the mistake, you’d have to start again or cry! You have to be patient, that’s why I like it.” She compares the experience of creating to that of pregnancy yoga. “It’s like a complete emptying, you just let everything go and re-set yourself.”

Personal connection to the subject matter is a theme running through this artist’s work, with her most significant piece being the map she hand drew of her home town. Originally a personalised gift for a friend’s parents, Vic then created one that anyone could buy. Complete with road names and illustrations of Wokingham’s most notable buildings, it’s a beautifully intricate piece of art that she thoroughly enjoyed creating.  “I’d never done anything like it, it took a very long time. I got so into it, I’d drop Luke off at nursery and literally run home, put a podcast on, and just lose myself for two hours.”
10% of profits made from map sales went to the school both Vic and her sons attended.  “If you’ve got a talent or skill I think you should try and help other people.”

Vic is now halfway through a commission for both Chalk restaurant and Grasshopper bar, where several of her original drawings can be found. “It came completely out of the blue and I never dreamed a business would ask me to do something for them. I still feel weird calling myself an artist, it’s a bit like I’m pretending. Until recently it never occurred to me that I could make money out of what I feel like I’m genuinely good at. I’d never been encouraged to follow my passion.”

Earning money through their art is an achievement some creators could only aspire to. “It feels like a big two fingers up to those art teachers who said ‘That’s not good enough, start again..’. I’d just love to see them and be like ‘This is what I’m doing now, you made me feel like I couldn’t and I can.’
“I do it now for the process, rather than the outcome and if the outcome is good and other people are willing to pay me for it, that blows my mind.  I’m really proud, I feel like I’m just at the beginning of a career change.” 

A dreamer at heart, Vic names Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl as her biggest creative inspiration.  “He’s completely self-taught in everything he’s done and that’s very punk rock and I love that.”  Grohl’s words “Say yes, then work out how you’re going to do it, and you will get there..” (from his book, The Storyteller) have helped Vic in moments of self-doubt.
“When I got the Chalk commission, I was terrified because they were asking me to do like 25 different pictures and I just went ‘Yeh I can do that!’ and in my mind I was going ‘Holy shit, can I? Can I do this?’ . I think his advice is brilliant and I’d encourage my children in the same way.”

It seems Vic’s not the only artist in her household. Last year Patrick (seven at the time) worked alongside his mum to create several pieces for the Royal Berkshire Hospital Corridor Exhibition. All but one piece was sold. Afterwards, Vic was contacted by a customer who commissioned Patrick to create a picture for her.  “She came to collect it, paid him and said ‘This is going in my flat in Cyprus!’”. Vic and Patrick will be exhibiting at the RBH again this year.

Among Vic’s favourite creators are Grayson Perry, Dutch illustrator Melanie Drent, French Impressionist Camille Pissarro and fine artist Alex Kelly.  “I love Frida Kahlo, all the symbolism she used and the way she portrays how hard her life was in such a beautiful way. I’d like to do a bit more self-exploration and social commentary.” 

Describing herself as an introvert, I ask what advice she’d give to her fifteen year old self. “I was an angry fifteen year old. Anxious and pissed off the whole time. I would tell myself that actually it will be alright. Just stick to what you know you can do and don’t let what other people think define you, because you can do a lot more than what anyone thinks you can…A lot more than what you think you can.
I hope that I’m showing my children that it’s never too late to do what makes you happy.”

We talk about the joy of experimenting and following your curiosity to see what’s possible. “I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m thinking “Well what else can I do? What else am I capable of?

I leave feeling inspired by Vic Delaney. She lives consciously, with intention, choosing the road less travelled, day in day out. Because what greater gift can you give your children, than that of a fulfilled parent? 

Find Vic at:
Instagram: @vjdelaney 
Facebook: Vic Delaney


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