By Dr. Robi Ludwig
While In London, I had the lovely opportunity to interview Vivienne Boucherat and her husband, Zombies bassist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Chris White. I would learn more about Vivienne and her book Know Your Crazy which has turned into a global movement.
Vivienne Boucherat is a genuine renaissance woman. As a renowned London artist and musician, she, with the help of her manager, Cindy daSilva and US Entrepreneur Rene Harbison, brought to life a visually impactful concept in the form of a psychologically, relatable, and stunning art book called, Know Your Crazy.
The book was created by women for women; its intention to help ladies embrace their individualistic thoughts, neutralize their critical inner voice, and feel more emotionally connected. It is an ambitious goal Boucherat accomplishes brilliantly. Inside Know Your Crazy, the author/artist includes 61 art prints (inspired by her own “internal crazy”) which capture a personal and often humorous perspective.
She visually sends the message, we are not alone, even on our darkest days.
This interview expands on Boucherat’s inspiration for her book and goals moving into the future:
What inspired you to create ‘Know Your Crazy’ (KYC)?
The reality is that I never intended to make a book of these drawings – the book ‘Know Your Crazy’ was the brainchild of Cindy da Silva and it was actualized and developed by Rene Harbison.
I started making these drawings spontaneously in my teenage years as a way of processing my emotions and reactions – I still make them. Most of them get thrown out as soon as they are done, some develop further.
I used to call them ‘my own little mad women’ (probably an unacceptable phrase these days) and found that once I had released them onto paper, it enabled me to get a different perspective on things and perhaps gain an insight into a difficult frame of mind, or realize that I could deal with a situation, or change it, or laugh at it. Things were rarely as bad in real life as I imagined.
I found making the drawings was my own personal therapy. Up until about four years ago, I really hadn’t shown them to anyone outside family. I had no idea the drawings resonated so deeply until people actually got to see them and I started to get amazing feedback.
What encouraged you to combine the psychological with your art in such a direct way?
As I said, these drawings were an instinctive way of dealing with my emotional world. I was never encouraged or told to make drawings like this, but I would definitely encourage others to try it.
Of course, art as a therapy is not new. It has been used in clinical psychology settings since the 1940’s. Perhaps, subconsciously, even as a youngster, I knew that visualizing my feelings and externalizing them would be beneficial for me?
Pictures jump the language barrier which make them a more direct and instant way of communicating – even with ourselves, and can, like music, ‘explain’ things that words cannot.
Because these pictures are directly from my own experiences and challenges, I understand that they reveal a lot about me. Surprisingly though, now that they are in the public domain, it has not made me feel vulnerable. In fact, the opposite is true. The feelings behind these pictures get recognized across such a wide demographic, it has made me realize how ‘not alone’ I am.
How did your work singing with The Zombies and writing, arranging, and working with your husband, Chris White, influence your current art?
Performing across the UK, Europe and America with The Zombies over the years has been extraordinary. (I sing backing vocals for them only when they do their special ‘Odessey & Oracle’ shows, performing the album in its’ entirety). The tours were hard work, but brilliant.
Art and music have always been tied together for me. In brief, The Zombies tours in America inspired me to make collages which, in turn, resulted in animations that got used as backdrops for Zombies O&O gigs. That was fabulous! My artwork is also printed in the coffee table book about the band ‘The Odessey’.
I got to show my collages and my ‘glass portraits’ of the original line-up of The Zombies alongside Terry Quirk and his work in exhibitions on the Rock Cruises that sailed from Florida. So, my art has travelled!
Our company, Sunfish Music, is in the process of releasing a huge amount of Chris’ back-catalogue, and so here, I have found myself on the design side of art, creating album covers and booklets – facing a steep learning curve in digital design programs in the process.
As part of our process producing the KYC boxset, we found ourselves a signature tune in ‘Hold Your Head Up’ written by Chris White and Rod Argent. I arranged this song for an all-female A cappella choir, and we recorded it in various ‘isolated’ studios in the UK and USA during the pandemic. Our version ‘Hold ‘Hold Your Head Up Woman’ is so called as it highlights the often-misheard lyrics of the original, and the song reflects KYC’s message of encouragement to women everywhere. You can see the music video on YouTube.
So, the influences (and the stimuli) from work with The Zombies, and with Chris, are many and varied. All the while – my ‘little mad women’ continue to appear. Every life experience is a potential drawing.
Do you have a favorite piece in your book?
My favorites change daily! Today I am favoring ‘Itchy Mind’ and ‘Tidying Up!’
You Created ‘Know Your Crazy’ during the pandemic. Was this challenging?
Everyone has faced challenges and complications in their areas of work during the pandemic – and yes, it was the same for Cindy, Rene, and me.
After being introduced to Rene at Cindy’s wedding, the three of us were lucky enough to get the opportunity to meet and discuss the project twice before the pandemic hit – once at my art studio in London, and once in New York (at the Met!)
After that, plans we had envisaged – for me to fly to Texas for certain parts of the design /manufacturing process as well as creative and practical meetings for the three of us in New York – were crushed. We communicated often by phone, Zoom and email of course, but nothing can replace being in the same room to develop ideas, or to physically see designs and prints hot off the press for decision making.
The degree of difficulty affected all of us at different stages of manufacture. I have great respect for the way Rene coped in the design, print and production world and for Cindy at the publicity and organizational end – both in isolation.
Also, we had an idea to tour book shops with the book, boxset, and some original pictures – of course, this could not happen either.
What is your hope for your book / art?
I have wide ranging hopes for the book and the art.
Firstly, I hope the book will become a household staple which casually sparks meaningful conversations between family and friends.
I would also LOVE for the pictures to be of value in the clinical space – whether that is in the teaching of psychology/psychotherapy, in research, or used as an aid to communication in therapy situations.
It would be fantastic to see the boxset pictures framed and up on people’s walls at home and to see giant prints made to hang on giant walls!
People have also suggested cards and postcards. There is already an array of merchandise available from the KYC website.
Basically – I have hopes for everything!
How has the public responded to your book and art?
I have been blown away by the response of the public. Like I said earlier, I made these drawings thinking that perhaps this was just my own peculiar way of ‘feeling the world’, but everyone who has seen the book has recognized emotions and been moved by it in some way.
We have a monthly online book club. Each month we choose 3 or 4 pictures to discuss. I love listening to people’s interpretations – how the pictures relate to them personally or bring unexpected feelings up to the surface. Each month the conversations are honest, meaningful, and funny. It feels like communal therapy!
Where do you see your project going?
It is slowly developing into a bit of a movement / community, where people are interacting via the monthly KYC Book Club, Website and Facebook.
We are in the early stages of developing an online resource for the website of wide-ranging articles and connections of interest to, and in support of women.
An Exhibition of the artwork is also in the pipeline and on the musical side, well, you never know – perhaps another ‘Know Your Crazy Choir’ recording?
Where can people find you?
You can find us and everything about ‘Know Your Crazy at: https://beacons.ai/knowyourcrazy