Thoughts on Canvas: the Artwork of Heather Berg

Heather Berg is an incredibly talented artist from Indiana. I happened to see her work on a random post in a Facebook art group which we are both members. Her art is hyper-colorful and expressive. Incredibly striking and real. As an artist myself who uses painting to overcome emotions I saw something similar in her work to my own. I wanted to see what exactly is behind these emotional paintings. Chip the paint and discover who is Heather Berg. – Selena Hautamaki

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a self-taught artist and I have always been creative. I am originally from Illinois and over the years I have lived in Hawaii, California, and Virginia and now reside in Indiana. I started focusing on painting last year (2015) as a form of therapy. Toward the end of 2014, I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder. I started seeing a therapist and we worked on meditation. I had to learn to trust my body over my mind. My mind had been lying to me my whole life. Will I really die at the grocery store if I can’t find a parking spot? Of course not, but it was things like this, my brain was constantly telling me. I have been learning how to communicate with myself in other ways.

I feel that exploring nonverbal ways to communicate, such as painting, has helped me ignore those thoughts. It has helped me put my thoughts onto canvas, and learn to understand myself in a different way.

What type of medium do you work in? Can you describe your process?

My medium is acrylic and I tend to learn through self-exploration. Most of my paintings have a clear concept before I paint. I think of what I want to say, think about expressing that through objects or colors, and then I go to Photoshop and create a digital image. I do not use live models, and I have a terrible memory, so most of my paintings come from a reference photo.

How important is “being creative”?

Being creative is very important for artists but for everyone else as well. I wish more of us would take the time to be kids again. Time went by so much slower when we were younger because we just lived in each moment. Everything we encountered was a new adventure and had many possible outcomes. I recommend everyone start taking a day to just be a kid. Play with Play-doh all day, color from a child’s coloring book, lie on your back and see what you see in the clouds. You will notice those days will last forever. Be curious. Ask yourself “Why?” and answer the questions with your mind, not with Google. Then explore how those answers make you feel, close your eyes and think of other things that make you feel that way. Soon you will have a clear image. Grab some paint brushes and go for it! Everyone has a creative side; you just need to find what works for you. Painting, sculpting, writing, even cooking are forms of self-expression.

The cover of "Pretty Things" by Liz Goldwyn

A majority of your work is reminiscent of early 1900’s cubism with a modern spin. Breaking the typical “cubism” form with paint splatters is seen in some of your newer posts. How did this technique manifest? Was it perhaps by accident? Spilling paint on the canvas? It creates an emotional element to your work.

My cubism style sort of happened by accident. I was flipping through Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens by Liz Goldwyn and I loved how some of the images had color added to them.

Pink cheeks, blonde hair, over the black and white images really made them come to life. I thought it would be fun to create a self-portrait like that (Kaleidoscope-Self). As I started painting the colors took over. It wasn’t until then that I really understand the power of color. I was scared to

share it since it was something completely different from my usual pop culture or horror pieces. I shared it within a few Facebook art groups and after getting a lot of positive feedback, I gained the confidence to explore. I decided to use color to confuse the viewer. I started my Expressions series with the idea that those bright colors could hide something sad or painful. That idea also inspired Regrowth and The Beginning.

Like the bright colors, I use females as the main subject for my paintings like a magician would use pretty women to attract the audience or to distract from what is really going on. Since I am female I can relate and I am able to communicate my thoughts better with the female form. Women are often held to different standards and are encouraged to be perfect and beautiful.

My Spilled Paint pieces are about releasing negativity and I want the viewer to see this beautiful

pristine woman and then be turned off by the spilled paint. Sort of like “Oh I wish that paint wasn’t there, it would be such a pretty painting without it.” We all have our imperfections and it’s more than our appearances that make us who we are. My Mannequin series is also inspired by those thoughts. When it comes to our physical appearance, we strive for perfection. “Waiting” is my favorite piece and it is from the Mannequin series. She wants acceptance. She is waiting to be the person she really is. She is resting her arm on knowledge that many believe to be the truth. When will the world change and ignorance stop? She will wait until then. She is incomplete, but would rather wait. This world will not accept her.

In a statement on your facebook page “my resolution is to paint every week this year” back in 2015. Are you committing to such an endeavor in 2016?

Last year (2015) my goal was to paint every week. Some weeks were easier than others. Sometimes I never wanted to paint again. I needed to keep pushing myself to keep my therapy going. Will I paint every week this year? Probably not, but I will continue to paint because I love it and mental health is an ongoing thing. Every new week was a learning opportunity.

What are some of the challenges you have faced on that project?

I think one of the paintings I struggled with the most was “Welcoming Affection”. Not only was it a large canvas, which can be intimidating, but it was something different than my usual pieces at the time. Up until then, most of my pieces went pretty smoothly. After that, I noticed I struggled a lot more with each piece. Coming up with a new concept each week, creating the concept and then executing what was in my mind was very challenging. After the piece was complete, I hoped it would translate. This piece doesn’t translate very well to many people in the way that I intended. Some of my works may not communicate with you the way I intend, but as long as I can take you away from your own nagging thoughts and make you feel something, I am grateful. So in a way, my pain and fears have turned into something beautiful. I am enjoying my journey and I am grateful for those who view my work.

You have exhibited your work in a couple venues. What are some of the challenges showing your work in a gallery space?

Showing my work in galleries is also a challenge for me. I have high expectations. Just because you have fans on Facebook and you have been praised for your talents, you have to find that one person who your piece speaks to so strongly that they want to have it in their home and become a part of their daily life. Over time I have learned to just enjoy the experience of having my work shown and not get discouraged if I don’t make a sale.

Where can others find your art?

I do have art for sale at a local store Halsema Custom Crafts

A few of my pieces on display at Star City Coffee and Ale House (Star City Coffee and Ale House Facebook).

Both are located on Main Street in Lafayette, Indiana.

I also sell through my Facebook page Heather Berg’s Facebook. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. And do not be shy to critique my work. I am always looking to improve and love hearing what people see in my work.

Originally published on

Jan. 11, 2016

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