Bits 'n' Pieces: ACE artist finds inspiration by pouring heart on canvas

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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Viktoriya Camp was at a low point in life when she surprised herself by pouring out her heart in art.

"I was in a bad emotional state and I felt like I was about to sink," she said. "I bought a canvas one day and started throwing paint down on it."

She's always been expressive in one way or another, Camp said. She liked writing poetry but realized it always came out depressing. She took an art class at Clark College but failed it the first time around -- because she just couldn't get inspired about "sketching skulls" and doing other exercises in accurate life drawing. She went back for a second round, developed some technique and earned an A, she said.

But it's mostly art teachers on YouTube that have helped her along — plus the crucial tunes pumping through her iPod, she said. Sometimes it's jumpy trance or techno beats; other times, "if there's a new guy I've been into lately," it's classical piano. "Something calm, something chill," Camp said.

"You can definitely tell" which kind of music she was listening to by what came out on canvas, she said. And she does mean you — because several of Camp's works are on display right now through mid-December at the WestShore Apartments building, 222 S.W. Pine St., in downtown Portland, as part of a showing of artwork by residents of REACH/ACE, a bistate affordable housing partnership. Camp, 29, lives with her young daughter in Cascadia Village, an ACE building in Orchards. Take a look at reachcdc.org/news-events/art-at-reach for a preview and directions to the art show.

Camp was 9 years old when her family emigrated here from Russia. While the transition was difficult, Camp said she appreciates Americans' openness and generally high spirits. She graduated from Fort Vancouver High School and Clark College and now works at Clark as a program assistant and GED examiner. She also is working toward a second certificate at Clark, as well as a degree in criminal justice at Washington State University Vancouver.

With all those demands on her time, it's no wonder that Camp, 29, occasionally still sinks into stress.

"About once a year I reach a near-breaking point where I feel like school and work and single parenting and finances just get to me," she said. "That's when I take off a couple days and go to the beach to paint. My mom watches my daughter and it's just me and my music and my painting and Highway 101. That's amazing to me.

"The more I paint, the better I feel," she said. Camp welcomes visitors to her artistic Facebook page.


Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com