Style & Substance: Animal Instinct 

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If Erica Vess' stick-figure animal illustrations seem full of light and joy, there's a reason. Long removed from her angst-filled years as an art student at Virginia Commonwealth University, Vess, a member of the Richmond Craft Mafia, now creates art that makes her happy.

"I like everything that is happening around me right now, and that is a big part of making happy art," says the recently engaged Vess, who works by day as an artist for Old World Prints. "Back in college, I was trying so hard to be something I wasn't. … I have long since come to terms with not being cool and am perfectly happy to get on with just having fun."

Her paintings of stick-leg barnyard and safari animals, first conceived as a baby shower gift for one of her best friends, are simple but irresistibly cute -- with the important distinction of not being cutesy. Look for her original tiny paintings at River City Cellars and reproduction prints of her paintings — including more grown-up fare at www.beeskneesstudio.com.



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