fbpx vie magazine subscribe button

The Beauty of Imperfection

Art Is the Healer

By Tori Phelps | Art by Vin Servillon

Becoming a successful artist requires equal parts talent, perseverance, and luck. Vin Servillon knows that better than most. His meteoric rise to fashion industry art darling came about despite active discouragement from his family, no formal art education, and, at times, a crippling battle with anxiety and depression.

Talent, perseverance, and luck were all he had. But they were enough.

Born to a Japanese mother and Filipino father, Servillon learned early to hide his burgeoning interest in art from parents who saw no value in it. He still vividly recalls the first picture he created—a giraffe—using yellow and brown markers for the animal and lime green for the grass. He proudly presented it to his mother, thinking she would display it in the house; instead, he later found it in the garbage. Decades later he still remembers that day because it taught him two lessons: to keep his art hidden and that his parents wouldn’t support any aspirations he had outside their traditionalist plans.

From then on, Servillon stashed his work under his bed inside an old Monopoly game box. Making art was an instant escape from his difficult childhood, as worlds of his own creation opened up before his eyes. “Painting made me feel like those worlds weren’t so far away after all,” he says.

His father, a hard-charging businessman who lives in Asia, tried to mold his son into a younger version of himself. Trying to please him, Servillon attended business school and ended up working in advertising. He summoned the courage to turn down a job working for his father, but still spent years chasing approval in careers that didn’t fulfill him.

Then, one winter day, Servillon found himself staring out the window at bare trees casting shadows in the dim December light. Inspired, he picked up a pencil and started to sketch again. Exhilaration and peace washed over him like rain in the desert, and he knew immediately that he badly needed a course correction for his life. He finally chose art. “It felt natural to me,” he says of the decision to launch a full-time painting career. “I was that kid again—the one who made the giraffe on his bedroom floor.”

Knowing it was the right thing to do, however, didn’t quiet his old demons. Plagued with doubts about whether he was any good and fairly sure no one would appreciate his aesthetic, Servillon fell back into a pattern of keeping his art hidden. It might have gone on that way indefinitely had he not attended a fall fashion show by powerhouse Marc Jacobs. His imagination stirred to life, Servillon went home and painted one of the looks he had seen on the runway. In a remarkable act of bravery, he posted it on Instagram. Looking back, he doesn’t know which was scarier: letting his fifty-three Instagram followers see his art or daring to tag Marc Jacobs in the post.

Looking back, he doesn’t know which was scarier: letting his fifty-three Instagram followers see his art or daring to tag Marc Jacobs in the post.

When he checked the post several days later, he found that he had not only gained a lot of new followers but that both Marc Jacobs the designer and Marc Jacobs the brand had left heartening comments. The company also reposted his art to its Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter accounts and, later, sent Servillon a little memento. He returned the favor by gifting the painting to the Marc Jacobs offices.

Just like that, Servillon was in vogue with the tastemakers.

Fashion and brand influencers started following him in droves, including makeup icon Pat McGrath, who pushed him to paint more and to believe in his aesthetic. It was a surreal experience for someone who had never received positive reinforcement from the people closest to him, and he thrived on the responses.

The more feedback Servillon received, the more he painted. And the more he painted, the more he posted. Social media followers, art collectors, labels—they all wanted to be part of what he was building. To his amazement, the public seemed to “get” his unconventional take on people and objects, which highlights the beauty that lies outside of perfection. “I can paint in the more realistic realm, and I have done so, but it just wasn’t me,” he says. “I’ve never really been attracted to the idea of perfection.”

The idea of perfection is such an anathema to him that Servillon even leaves accidental imperfections in his work, such as a shaky line or an ink bleed. And he intentionally adds “flaws” as symbols of characteristics he admires, like elongated necks on women to represent strength.

Women, painted with both power and delicacy, are frequent subjects for Servillon. It’s an expression of his love, respect, and admiration for them—not to mention it’s a subject he knows well. Growing up, he was surrounded by women, and today his best friends are women. He also says that the strongest human beings he knows are his grandmother and mother, with whom he now shares a mutually supportive relationship. “Painting women has saved me from my own demons,” he says. “I’ve learned to be a better man by painting women.”

He’s learned to be a better painter, too. Servillon never went to art school and admits that most of the time he doesn’t know if he’s using what experts would call the “right” brush for his work. He navigates strictly by emotion, mixing paint colors and choosing art tools instinctively. His technique, just like his style, isn’t for everyone, but he tries not to get caught up in the expectations of others anymore. When he needs a shot of resolve, he glances at a Rembrandt quote that’s hanging near his painting table: “Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and ought to try and paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I will tell you a secret. I have tried, and I have tried very hard, but I can’t do it. I just can’t do it! And that is why I am just a little crazy.”

The quote not only confirms that following his muse on canvas is okay, but it also reminds him that sometimes great artists and not-so-great mental health go hand in hand.

Vin Servillon Art
Women in Scarves

Servillon is open about his struggle with severe panic attacks and depression. The panic attacks, which he describes as “drowning in an ocean of fear,” started years ago, very unexpectedly, and just kept coming. After one scary attack while he was driving the 405 in California, he knew he needed to get help. It was a particularly daunting idea for him because mental health issues are taboo in Asian culture, and he worried about disappointing his parents. But he asked for help anyway.

Today, he has far more good days than bad, and he’s using that experience to encourage others to take action for their mental health. He knows it’s not as easy as telling someone to “get help,” though. Running into dismissive attitudes is common (he was told once to “snap out of it”), and the continued stigma surrounding mental health issues prevents many people from receiving the life-changing assistance they need. He believes that driving societal change starts with dismantling the idea that people affected by mental health issues are weak or innately flawed and replacing that fable with the truth. One of those truths, Servillon has learned, is that naming the disorder can be liberating—and the first step to regaining power over it.

Part of going public with his story involves describing what it feels like to live with anxiety and depression as a way to help those who aren’t familiar with the conditions better understand their impact. Servillon says depression, for example, is about much more than being sad. For him, it’s an exhausting battle between the light and the dark. And perhaps worst of all for the vibrant CrossFit enthusiast, depression drains every last bit of energy from his body. Fortunately, art is always there for him. “I’ve found the everyday process of painting and creating to be very therapeutic,” he says. “The determination to keep creating has gotten me through a lot of really bad days.”

“I’ve found the everyday process of painting and creating to be very therapeutic,” he says. “The determination to keep creating has gotten me through a lot of really bad days.”

It’s no coincidence that rediscovering art dovetailed with Servillon becoming emotionally healthier. He even credits it with saving his life. He was admittedly in a dark place when he started painting again several years ago, and art provides him with a purpose for both his life and his career. One of his greatest joys is connecting with people from around the globe, many of whom comment that his work inspires them. The always-humble artist insists it’s hard to believe that he inspires anyone, and yet he values those messages deeply, confessing that they’re worth more than any amount of money to him.

He’d love to reach an even wider audience by forging new partnerships with fashion houses, a burgeoning trend that pairs an artist’s creativity with a brand’s vision. There’s plenty of time for the right collaboration to come along because Servillon plans to paint until he can no longer pick up a brush. His lifestyle might bring many others to their knees if they lived it—he forgets to eat when absorbed in his work and rarely gets a full night’s sleep thanks to the images floating through his mind—but it doesn’t bother him. “I don’t want it to change,” he insists. “I start my day with a cup of strong coffee and a big smile on my face as I sit in my New York City apartment to paint. I couldn’t ask for more.”

— V —

Visit VinServillon.com and follow Servillon on Instagram (@findvin) to learn more and see more of his work.

Tori Phelps has been a writer and editor for nearly twenty years. A publishing industry veteran and longtime VIE collaborator, Phelps lives with three kids, two cats, and one husband in Charleston, South Carolina.

Read Responsibly

VIE Magazine - The Art & Design Issue November 2021
VIE Magazine January 2021 Special Commemorative Edition
VIE Magazine September 2020 Wanderlust Issue, Fancy Camps, The Idea Boutique
VIE Magazine August 2020 Art & Culture Issue, Nathan Alan Yoakum Art
VIE Magazine - Architecture & Design Issue - July 2020
VIE Magazine - Decor and Home Issue - June 2020
VIE Magazine May 2020 Entertainment Issue, Leslie Odom Jr
VIE Magazine - April 2020 Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine March 2020 The Fashion Edit, VONDOM, Alys Beach Fl, Digital Graffiti, Tres Chic, isidro dunbar Modern Interiors, Digital Graffiti Festival
VIE Magazine February 2020 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Travel Issue - January 2020 - Tanzania Safari Cover
VIE Magazine - Women's Issue - December 2019 - Tina Brown Cover
VIE NOV19 Goodness Issue
VIE Magazine, September 2019 Art & Culture Issue, Paul Hanninen
VIE Magazine - August 2019 - The Architecture and Design Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2019 - The Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - June 2019 - Fashion Edit
VIE Magazine - May 2019 - Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine - April 2019 - The Health & Wellness Issue
VIE Magazine - Special Entertainment Edition - March 2019
VIE Magazine February 2019 Luxury Homes & Technology Issue with Robbie Antonio of Revolution Precrafted
VIE Magazine - January 2019 - Southern Sophisticate Issue Cover
VIE Magazine - Special Anniversary Travel Edition - December 2018
VIE Magazine - The Goodness Issue - November 2018
VIE Magazine - The Art & Culture Issue - October 2018
VIE Magazine - Home & Garden Issue - September 2018
VIE Magazine - August 2018 Animal Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2018 Architecture & Design Issue - Subscribe to the magazine!
VIE Magazine - June 2018 Travel & Tech Issue
VIE Magazine - May 2018 Couture Issue
VIE Magazine - The Culinary Issue - April 2018 Cover - Chef James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst
VIE Magazine - The Entertainers Issue - March 2018
VIE Magazine - February 2018 Destination Travel Issue
VIE Magazine - January 2018 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine, The Sophisticate Issue, December 2017
VIE Magazine - November 2017 Art & Culture Issue
VIE Magazine - October 2017 Home & Garden Issue
VIE Magazine | September 2017 | The Stories and Storytellers Issue
VIE Magazine - The Adventure Issue - August 2017
VIE Magazine - July 2017 - Art & Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - The Voyager Issue - June 2017
VIE magazine 2017 March-April Cover South Walton Fashion Week
VIE Magazine - January/February 2017 - The Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Nov/Dec 2016 The Sophisticate Issue
christian siriano vie magazine september october 2016 vie magazine
the modern minimalist issue
the culinary and couture issue march april 2016 vie magazine
the voyager issue alys beach vie magazine january february 2016
cultural issue vie magazine november december 2015
home and garden issue vie magazine september october 2015
the art and style issue vie magazine july august 2015
the wedding issue 2015 May June vie magazine
the food and fashion issue vie magazine march april 2015
the travel issue vie magazine january february 2015
the music issue vie magazine 2014 november december
The Animal Issue vie magazine september october 2014
the home and garden issue vie magazine july august 2014
the wedding issue vie magazine may june 2014
emeril lagasse food and fashion vie magazine
the men's issue january february 2014
the music issue november december 2013 vie magazine
the home and garden issue 2013 october september
the wedding issue vie magazine july august 2013
the artist issue may june 2013 vie magazine
the food and fashion issue march april 2013
the men's issue january february 2013 vie magazine
The Holiday Issue
the love issue july august 2012
the all american summer may june 2012
the entertainment issue march april 2012
the fashion issue vie magazine winter 2011
the home and garden issue vie magazine fall 2011
the anniversary edition vie magazine summer 2011
the wedding issue vie magazine spring 2011
vie magazine the holiday issue 2010 Dec
vintage swimsuits vie magazine 2010 Fall
judith march designer vie magazine summer 2010
wedding giveaway vie magazine spring 2010
holiday gift guide vie magazine winter 2009
emarketing explosion vie magazine fall 2009
tribute to mother's day vie magazine summer 2009
james and robert redford vie magazine spring 2009
zz top vie magazine fall winter 2008
project dreams vie magazine new york fashion week
Sign-up for VIEmail

Sign up for VIEmail