Interview by Jana Letonja

Highly acclaimed artist Vinnie Hager is known for his distinctive use of bold lines, shapes, symbols and patterns. With a focus on consistency repetition, and prolific creativity, his artwork has garnered widespread recognition and captivated audiences worldwide. Vinnie Hager’s upcoming art project ‘Diary’ represents a significant departure from his previous works, delving into his personal journey of healing and self-discovery. For this project, the artist is releasing an open edition digital artwork with 100 lucky owners set to receive an original Hager drawing to match.

You are revealing an intimately personal art project titled ‘Diary’ on 7th September. This pioneering venture blends the realms of physical and digital art, aspiring to be one of the year’s most inclusive art projects. Tell us more about this project. What inspired it? How did it come together?

This project is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It’s taken a few different forms as it’s evolved and I’m extremely happy with where I ended up landing. This collection of artworks has always been about telling an extremely personal story, one I’ve kept quite close up until this point in my career. My hope is that letting go of more of my story and in turn being more vulnerable helps connect my art, its style and practice with my collectors and viewers alike. 

‘Diary’ is centred on a collection of open edition digital artworks that will be available via OpenSea. Owners of these digital art works will also be able to claim a physical print of their purchase at a later date. What prompted the decision to have the collection primarily available digitally, and per request also physically?

Currently most of my collectors have collected my artwork digitally in the form of NFTs. Through this I have always wanted to give back in some way to my NFT holders and to allow them to see the breadth of my artwork in various mediums and materials. A lot of my NFT holders weren’t aware that I have a traditional art background, which comes with public art, murals, clothing and accessories, furniture, paintings and, of course, lots of physical drawings. I love to blend the worlds of both digital and physical art and I thought allowing my digital art/NFT holders the ability to get their minted artworks printed was a great way of creating a full offering, something the collector could both hold in their hands and wallets.

You will also distribute 100 significant drawings, created between 2016 and 2023, to the respective digital artwork holders. How do these 100 unique pieces chronicle the different eras in your transformative seven-year journey?

These 100 drawings act as the baseline of this body of artwork and are the 1/1s of the collection. These physical artworks acted as a diary for me, freely allowing me to scribble down and express my feelings over the course of sudden personal loss and subsequent grief. I broke down these 100 drawings into 12 categories or ‘entries’ of the Diary. These 12 entries represent visual eras of mine. These eras came naturally over the course of experimenting with different papers, materials, mediums and sizes, paired with what was going on in my personal life at that time. 

Like you said, each artwork from the collection is drawing from 12 diverse aesthetic categories and multiple colourways, tracking the evolution of your stylistic artistry over the course of your career. How would you describe your development as an artist?

From what I can discern, my development as an artist has always been pushed by my desire for constant exploration. Exploring as many mediums as possible, but sticking to a baseline of recognizable shapes, symbols and patterns. These patterns are my ‘blueprint’, providing a place to grow and experiment from, but also delivering unique emotions when regarded closer. At the end of the day, I am still developing, I always will and I hope to continue to do so.

What inspired you to become an artist in the first place?

I was naturally surrounded by creativity and art-centric things as a child. My childhood home was adorned with art, sculptures and books. My mother worked as a visual merchandiser, doing display work for businesses while my father worked as a machinery mechanic. Having parents that worked with their hands and thought creatively must have worn off on me. Becoming an artist was natural in that sense and I always had the urge to create in as many different mediums as I could. 

Your artwork is based on drawing. Can you walk us through your creative process, from start to when a piece is finished.

This process varies constantly. Most days I simply have the urge to create and draw, so I do so. 

This question has truly stumped me since I rarely think of my process and more so just doing the act of creating or in this case, drawing. Thanks for helping me appreciate the ‘why’ in what I do slightly better.

What does art and drawing represent to you? Do you see it as a way of expressing your feelings and dealing with things?

For me, my artwork and the act of drawing represents a pure therapeutic outlet. It took me up until now to realize what role drawing actually played in my life. It allows me to let my emotions and thoughts flow freely from my head and onto paper in a way that can’t be explained verbally. It’s an escapist act. A constant urge.

Which artwork you have made has the deepest and most personal meaning for you?

Most of the drawings that are in the select 100 physical drawings all have deeper meanings than what are presented visually. From words, phrases, imagery and gestural forms, these drawings were me depicting what was going on in my life from 2016 to 2023. Personal loss and grief paired with humor and cartoons are all integral parts of these works. Trying to find a balance between the negatives and positives in my life came out in this way. These drawings are really a diary for me. Everything that I was consuming or surrounded by is in these ‘pages’. Sampling from music, movies, social media, conversations, thoughts, feelings, dates and times.

You have partnered and worked with brands such as Instagram, Tommy Hilfiger, TIME Magazine, Cameo and more. How do such partnerships differ from your usual art process and work?

Brand and partnership work allows me to create via a prompt or a theme. This allows my creativity to act in a way that I wouldn’t have solely working for myself. I like working with a team and having feedback, which pushes my artwork into places it wouldn’t normally go. I’ve been lucky to work with such legendary brands, all of which have such storied histories. Many of the artists I admire have collaborated in their own way with them. This gives me the chance to put my stamp on something that is ever evolving. 

After the release of ‘Diary’, what are you working on next?

This latest body of work has taken me a long time to create and curate. I’m excited to see what comes next. My team and I always have short, medium and long term goals. I have no doubt we’ll be pursuing and pushing the boundaries across all mediums. Public art, traditional painting shows, brand partnerships and of course, personal art.

photography EDWARD COOKE