Meet ALYSSA from RANDOM ACTS OF PASTEL, she’s been on an interesting journey that’s shaped her life as well as her view of color. She calls herself a professional dreamer, and it shows in her work. Starting off her platform: “Random Acts of Pastel (or RAOP for short) started out as a street art concept that I came up with to make the world around me a happier place. I was fresh out of Journalism school, and already feeling jaded by the click-driven, advertising-fuelled industry. I was blocked, stuck, and totally unable to move forward, and finding inspiration in Toronto felt next to impossible in search of a new creative outlet, I decided to paint everyday objects around my city pastel colours to brighten things up a bit, to do away with all the grey and gloom. After a few pink fire hydrants, I switched my Instagram name over from a personal account to RAOP, and from that moment on I was “pastel hunting”.” Her overall enthusiasm and passion for changing the world we live in is the same passion that inspires us to do what we do, we’re cheering you on ALYSSA!
Who is Alyssa? Could you introduce yourself?
Oh yes, of course! I’m the blogger behind Random Acts of Pastel. I do photography, styling, writing… Well, just about anything you can think of really, as long as there’s some sparkle and pastel colours involved!
What’s your life philosophy? How do you try to apply that to your work?
My life philosophy is and always has been to do as much as humanly possible, but only what makes me happy. I constantly say things to myself like “if a bus runs you down today, what would you regret? Is there anything you’d change?” If the answer is yes, I’ll try and find a way to make a change. Life is too short, and I don’t want old-lady Alyssa to look back with any regrets if I can help it. I’ve had the privilege of being able to build a career that lets me live that idealistic fairy-tale, and every single day I wake up thinking how lucky I am. With that in mind, I really savour every single moment, try to stay as energetic and optimistic as I can, and use my “powers” for good in whatever possible (like promoting small local companies or animal rights.) I generally only say yes to things that genuinely make me happy, no matter how much monetary profit I might miss out on, and try to inspire other people to have a little more joy in their life as well. In my mind, this is our only shot, and gosh, it should be fun!
Do you mind telling us a bit about RANDOM ACTS OF PASTEL? How has it influenced your life? What’s the history behind this project?
I get asked this constantly, but it’s still one of my favourite stories to tell. I was feeling bored and lost in Toronto. I had just finished journalism school and none of the job listings I came across really stuck with me. I wanted to do something different, something not dictated by advertiser dollars or heavily edited by six people above me. I wanted to be honest and create something new and special that reflected the way I saw the world.
One of my biggest complaints about Toronto was how much colour it lacked, so one day my (now ex) partner and I came up with the idea to start painting objects pastel around the city. I decided my street art name would be Random Acts of Pastel, a spin on random acts of kindness, because the whole concept was to bring more colour, excitement, and happiness to the world in whatever small way I could. At some point after we started buying cans of spray paint, I changed over my Instagram name and started up the blog so I had a new place to write and work on my (then nonexistent) photography skills. After a while, the street art bit died out because I’m an anxious wreck, but the online interpretation of the idea remained, and I think the purpose has stayed the same as well - to make people happy and add a bit of colour to all that grey!
But how has it influenced my life? The short answer is in every way imaginable. I’ve become less introverted and more comfortable in my skin. I get incredible packages in the mail almost every day from talented makers all over the world. I get paid to do what I love. In many ways, I turned my imaginary reality into something not only tangible, but sustainable. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m busy all the time and I never stop working, but for now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Could you tell us one change you would like to see in the world?
This is a tough one - there are almost too many answers and they all are equally pressing and important. I’ll pick one from my list so I don’t write a novel: I’d love to see a vast improvement in the way animals are viewed and treated. Animals are given so little respect in every regard! From over-breeding dogs for profit while wonderful pups die in shelters, to marine mammal captivity, to the torturous conditions in slaughter-houses and the dairy industry… I could go on and on. Essentially it all boils down to respect and more equal thinking - I don’t think we’re above animals, or that they were put here for our use. The way we treat the creatures that share this earth is absolutely devastating.
If you had to choose one song to describe your style, what would it be and why?
Probably “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry! It’s fun, exciting, overly idealistic, super romantic, and just a bit over the top. I actually have “no regrets, just love” tattooed on my ankles.
You always seem to have beaming confidence and we absolutely love it! What would you tell someone who is struggling to find the confidence to express themselves?
My friends will all laugh when they see this one - I’ve become a bit notorious for my over-enthusiastic pep talks on this subject lately! I think the problem is too many people subscribe to rules and other people’s opinions. I’m really big on self love, and I honestly think it’s a waste of time to think of yourself as anything but awesome. Don’t get me wrong - I’m an awkward wreck a lot of the time, and I’m not always super sure of myself, but at the end of the day I put myself first and do everything I can to protect my magic. I create everything I create for me, and I think that honesty is part of why people connect with me and follow along. I say, don’t be afraid to draw attention and be weird and believe in whatever makes you feel alive, whether that means writing and publishing poetry or going to the grocery store in a tulle skirt.
What do the colors represent in your work? Do you mind telling us a little about your color selection and theory behind why you choose the hues you do?
Honestly I’m just so tired of all of the grey! I think colours can really represent a person and their beliefs, especially when it comes to how they dress. For example, most people will paint their home a monotone colour, because it’s safe and practical and has longevity. The same goes with winter coats - every winter the massive crowds of Toronto turn almost totally to black and grey coats. It’s practical, but it’s not really all that fun! Colours add life and warmth to the world, and the world needs more of those things so badly, especially in big urban centres.
Could you offer some advice that you’ve learned through your career that’s always been in the back of your mind?
I watched a really inspiring talk by Tiffany Pratt right when RAOP really started to take off, and she said something like “In the beginning, say yes to everything. You never know what you’ll learn”. I really took that to heart, and though I’m at a point now where I do have to say no to some projects and collaborations for the sake of having some form of personal time, it really helped me make connections and get into different pockets of knowledge when I was first getting started.
What are your thoughts on the role feminism has been playing in the art world today? Do you feel that this generation is making a change for the better?
Answering this requires a lot of words because it needs to consider intersectionality, but I’ll do my best to keep it concise. I think that we’re living in a really interesting time with a lot of big changes happening in the realm of feminism, but I think there’s still so much work to be done, especially where people of colour and trans* women are concerned. There are so many layers of privilege worked into the art world and into our system as a whole, many of which I personally benefit from as a cisgender white woman, and though some change has been made for the better, it still feels like we have a massive current to swim against when you look at the number of female POC artists or trans* artists shown in gallery spaces. Forget the art world - the world in general is still a really scary place for marginalized people - all you have to do is look at the hate crime and murder rates of trans* women just this year. I see a lot of social media based activism, I’m not sure if that will translate to actual positive change in the end unless allies get a little bit more hands on and start actively making changes such as donating, teaching, and most of all acknowledging privilege and how it can be challenged and dismantled.
Would you consider yourself a minimalist or maximalist? Why or why not?
I guess you could say I’m a very curated maximalist. I LOVE stuff, but it has to be exactly the right stuff. I call it treasure hunting, and I’m always looking for new little gems to add to my numerous collections. When guests come to my house, they often say things like “it’s like a museum” or a store, which I sort of love. Almost everything I own is beautiful, from my key chains to the contents of my fridge. And in case you were wondering, yes, it’s all very pastel!
What’s a typical day for you?
A typical day involves moving nonstop from start to finish. I am always buzzing around, rushing from job to event to hangout and back again, with dog walks and a ton of snacking in-between. Ideally my day looks a little bit like this: Wake up early, make a cup of tea, go for a dog walk, then go out adventuring on my bike in search of pastels and sugary treats. In reality, my day has all those things, plus 100 other work-related tasks and a bunch of hours in front of a computer, which isn’t ideal, but it’s necessary.
Where do you find sanctuary in the rush of the world, where do you find peace?
By the sea. The sea is like a giant thundering pulse, and it’s really the only thing that calms me down when I’m anxious or overwhelmed, especially when I can dive right in. I hope to live somewhere closer to the ocean sometime soon, but until then, bubble baths are my alternative solution.
Are there any other projects you have your heart set on for the future, that you don’t mind sharing?
I just wrapped up a couple of weeks that were filled with a ton of big photo shoot projects, and now I’m just waiting to get the photos back which is always super exciting. Beyond photo shoots and social media… I’m hoping to get back to my creative writing roots and maybe start tackling novel writing in the next few years! I’d also love to open a brick-and-mortar shop someday, but that’s more of a dream than a plan at this point.
What makes you happy?
Sunshine, driving fast on long stretches of empty road, everyday magic, the warm soapy scent of the laundromat, true love, the sea, fresh blooms, and most of all my rescue pup, Honey - she just gets me, you know?
Any closing comments?
I dare you to go paint something pastel.