On storytelling through art
At 27 years old, Alice Herbst has already established herself successfully in the world of art sharing her work and personal thoughts through her Instagram account where she has already amassed an impressive 130k devoted followers.
Her work and personal style have reached far beyond Instagram though and has been described by The Art Gorgeous magazine as “depicting beautiful women being staged in a vintaged manner … a kind of Hitchcock movie meets Lucian Freud.”
However, her professional career didn’t start in the art world. At the age of 17, she competed in the Swedish Top Model and won! The world as she knew it was thrown upside down. She got an opportunity to move to Los Angeles to model full-time; she got a place of her own and even a car. Ironically she didn’t even have her driver’s license yet. Needless to say, it was a lot to take.
After spending some time in the city of angels, she decided to give up modeling and move back home to pursue her childhood dream — painting and creating art.
How would you describe yourself today in three sentences or less?
I like to create visual stories, and I have dedicated my life to them. It is important for me to be in control of my own future; therefore I strive to be as independent as possible. I am a goofball and a people watcher.
When do you feel most in tune with yourself?
If I start the morning by being quite productive - a walk with my dog in the forest, a workout, and then a breakfast that is allowed to take some time. I like to look at art just to get some visual memories of color and shape. Another big interest of mine is makeup which I like to play around with some days. A good morning routine can definitely set the tone for the rest of the day, but it is important to say that it isn’t crucial; I try to always listen to my body and never force myself to go all crazy with tasks.
What is crucial for you to maintain good mental health?
I came to the realization about 5 years ago that I am the happiest when I keep to a routine, work out and take care of myself mentally and physically. Some people call this lifestyle boring but I know that I truly am the happiest this way. Thankfully my lucky place is in my studio and I spend time there as much as I can. I never work till late in the night and my dog Nemo makes sure that I get up in the morning too!
“I believe that being happy in the now brings out the best for the future.”
What is most important to you: to look back at the past or focus on the future?
The past is a source of inspiration so I tend to wander back in time and revisit both happy and less joyful memories. Outside of my practice, I try to focus on the now. I used to be very afraid of the future because my busy mind often created scary scenarios that frightened me, which I now understand was an effect of long-term stress. I have learned to manage these thoughts, and I appreciate my life and my practice every second! I believe that being happy in the now brings out the best for the future.
What would 18-year-old Alice have to say about where you are now?
I would be very proud and positively shocked! Achieving a career in art was an idea that I scrapped before becoming a teenager due to it being considered a hobby more than a realistic fruitful practice. I did not paint or draw in my free time for many years. In the end, my preschool teachers were right about me when they wrote “artist” as they predicted my future in a memory album gift. I am happy that I found a way back to creating again.
What advice would you give your 18-year old self today?
A lot happened when I was 18 years old, but I remember this time as mainly something positive. This was a year that I felt confident and happy, so I would like to give the 18-year-old me a bit of a rest from overthinking!
Your public presence started back in 2012 when you participated in and won the Swedish top model. How did the experience change your life, and would you do it again?
Participating in a televised competition in Los Angeles was a fun experience! I also remember that I enjoyed this break from school since this was recorded when I was 18. The price, besides a car (which is ironic since I didn’t even have my driver’s license), was to sign with a modeling agency in Los Angeles and to travel there to work. I realized during these working months overseas that modeling wasn’t for me. Many different factors played a role in this decision, and I am not regretting the choice today. I am in a place now which I enjoy, and I have moved on from my modeling dreams. With that said - I do not regret participating. In the end, I sold the car and paid for my first art school education!
You have been very open about your struggle with body dysmorphia at a young age. How do you look back at that time in your life?
Thankfully, I found a way to transform this experience into my biggest life lesson with a happy ending. I now possess knowledge that keeps me close to the earth, and I do not want to talk down on people or their looks - because I know how complex one’s relation to their appearance can be. Today “BDD” is almost as widely known as eating disorders due to the widespread use of social media platforms and the result of a twisted ideal. I am very sorry to see how this has progressed, but I am optimistic about the research and therapy programs that now exist.
When and how did your interest in art become such an essential part of your life?
I took up my interest in creating when I was 19, right after I came home from Los Angeles. I needed to process my experiences, and I just painted what came to my head with watercolors in a very therapeutic way. I finished my high school studies and applied for a preparatory art and design school in Stockholm, which was the beginning of where I am in my life now.
How do you get in the right mood to create art?
First of all, I have to mention that I have learned to view my time in the studio as my work and that I have obligations - like in any other business. I can not skip work one day because there is no inspiration. I need to face the issue and paint even when I do not feel like it because this is the only way to make progress. If the hours spent by the easel felt like a struggle, I still needed to go through that phase to get to the other side. With that said, things that help me are a good routine with a good night's sleep and a nutritious breakfast.
Do you bring inspiration from your past experiences?
I often use memories from self-experienced situations, feelings, or observations. I like to see my work as stills from a story or a movie, with the end not being written yet. The characters in my paintings represent parts of myself or people that I have seen.
What do you want to achieve through your work?
I have so many memories from being a child looking at the paintings hanging on our living room wall. This was often when I was home from school with a fever, and I was too tired to watch TV, so instead, I appreciated every millimeter of the paintings. I discovered new details each and every minute. I want my paintings to tell stories to the viewer, get the imagination going, and stimulate the eye. This is why my paintings have so many elements to them, from narrative, figuration, abstraction, and structure.
I like to see my work as stills from a story or a movie, with the end not being written yet.
Did you ever dream when you were younger that this was what you were going to do with your life?
I always said that I dreamt of becoming an artist when I was a kid. My parents were always very supportive, so I got to go to a kids’ art course in the evenings once a week for a couple of years. When I got older, school got more challenging, so I could not focus on creating.
Where do you think you would be if you had not followed your dream to become an artist? What was your backup dream, so to speak?
Probably something very close to art, like a fashion or furniture designer. I started to take a fashion illustration course last year because I wanted to learn the different steps in creating a fashion collection, which was the course’s end goal. One of the more significant tasks was finding your own illustration and art style by copying other artists. This made me feel like an art student again, so I decided not to complete this specific course, but I might take up this project again in the future!
What are your dreams for the future, if everything keeps moving in the right direction, where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
Like I touched on earlier, I believe that if you are genuinely happy in your current situation, you will naturally work towards a future that appeals to you. I do not have many concrete goals, but I do see myself having this passion and inspiration still, and I hope that I will be introduced to exciting opportunities and people along the way! I am happy as long as I am able to live through my favorite practice!
What is your relationship to sleep?
I try to sleep 8 hours every night and never go to bed too late. I came to the conclusion a couple of years ago, and I stick by it. It is crucial for my well-being and inspiration.
What, if anything, makes you have a hard time to sleep and what do you do to try to change?
Sometimes the inspiration kicks in, and I come up with new compositions for paintings when I am supposed to sleep. I just try to remember the most important ideas, and then I have figured that actively changing thoughts to something less interesting makes me fall asleep.
Is there anything that is essential to you in order to be able to sleep?
Peace, quiet, and a nice, fluffy pillow!