Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
What’s your story, Ann? What kind of journey led you to become an artist?
Well, that's kind of a long story. I'll try to summarize. I was always doing something creative while growing up, making clothes and designing houses for my dolls, doing crafts, that sort of thing. I went to the University of Cincinnati, where I got a BFA in painting. After getting my degree I worked for almost a year and then spent a summer in NYC. I took a painting class at the Art Student's League and lived in the West Side Y, which is just across from Lincoln Center. That summer in New York was one of the best things I ever did. From there I attended East Carolina University where I graduated with an MFA in 1986. I also met my husband there, another grad student in painting. There were a couple of moves and time spent working in advertising while still continuing to paint until we ended up in North Carolina. Once here, I again worked in advertising for a while and continued to work on my art. Then I began teaching part time which allowed me more time in the studio and I worked fairly consistently for a few years on my painting, including showing in a local gallery and in some regional and national shows. I pretty much stopped making art when our dream for having a family was finally realized. It wasn't until late in 2006 that I began to start creating again, after about 8 or so years of doing very very little art work. Although I did do lots of other creative things during that time. For example, I learned to needlepoint and cross stitch and created my own patterns for needlework. But by then I didn't have a studio space or long blocks of time to work on art. So when I did begin again, I started drawing with graphite. It was portable, and I could start and stop with short or long breaks in between working times without anything drying or changing the process. About this time I spotted an article about an artist that used colored pencil along with graphite and was intrigued with this concept. It seemed like a workable approach for getting color into my art work again. My husband gave me a set of colored pencils that year for Christmas and I started playing with them and researching colored pencil artists first through books that then led me to internet research. In my absence from the art world I had no idea how much it had been changed by the internet and was thrilled to find the endless variety of artists' blogs and online art communities like WetCanvas.
Tell us a little about your creative process – how do you decide which media to use, which subject to draw, and which size to work in? What are your largest sources of inspiration?
Once I began using colored pencil I was, and still am, inspired by the possibilities presented by this unique media. I don't think it has totally come into its own as a fine art media but that is slowly changing. It is a perfect media for me as I can incorporate my love for color with my fascination with drawing. I have found drawing with pencil to be a very meditative activity and totally unlike painting, which for me is very active, full of movement and quick decisions. When I am drawing I have slowed down and am completely present in the moment. I will also sometimes use pastels, but for me that is a more similar process to painting than drawing. Most recently I have been concentrating on colored pencil or graphite.
For my pencil drawings I am usually, and have been for a long time, even back to when I was painting, very intrigued with landscape as a subject. There is something about a sense of place and time that continues to fascinate me. Graphically I am interested in the edges in a landscape, where the various shapes and planes meet, like the trees at the edge of a field, and the interaction of shapes through color and light. And lately I have become more interested in the still life as subject. So more and more still life compositions have been showing up. Deciding what subject to draw next is usually a difficult decision for me in that there are so many ideas that I would like to explore I have trouble settling into just one for any period of time. This is something I have been trying to work through, as I would like to explore subjects as a series, or theme, to see how much I can get out of it. And for this reason I usually work fairly small. There are colored pencil artists that do create pieces of some considerable size, and they are amazing when you think of what was accomplished with a small pencil point. But by working smaller, I can explore so many more ideas than if I did just one large drawing.
I should probably also note that all of the imagery I use for my drawings is my own. My camera is actually an extension of my sketchbook and I am constantly taking notes with photographs. Because my drawings are such a slow process, using a photo reference is almost always necessary. And I make many descisions about my work by playing with my images in Photoshop, and many more as I translate my reference into a drawing.
I know you’re a homeschooler, like me – How do you balance the demands of educating your daughter with your own need to create?
You know that it's not easy. That is one of the reasons that I didn't really make any art for so many years. First it was just the demands of new motherhood, and I was teaching part time for a while, even after I began homeschooling my daughter. When that got too crazy to keep up with I stopped teaching and stayed home to give all of my attention to homeschooling. It wasn't an easy decision for us to give up one income but homeschooling was a priority because of our daughter's life threatening allergy to peanut. We live in the wilderness (not really) and the schools here didn't have a clue about food allergies. I wasn't about to let them figure it out with my little girl. But homeschooling has remained a priority. I consider it my first job and everything else is second. It can be very difficult to balance everything, especially when I also do free-lance graphic design work occasionally. Then it can get stressful and my art time vanishes for a bit. Finding time to create has become easier as my daughter has grown older. And I like that she sees me persuing my interests and challenging myself to learn new things. It's a good lesson for her. I also keep in mind that we waited a long time to become parents and children grow up way too fast. I want to enjoy my daughter's childhood while it lasts and not wish it away.
Your shop name is lovely – kind of nostalgic and peaceful, I think – how did you come up with it?
When my daughter was still very small, I opened an e-business selling Waldorf art supplies for children. As I was trying to come up with a name for the e-business, many of the names I wanted were already in use. There was already a website for a farm or something using Bluebird as a part of their name as well, but I was running out of ideas so out of desperation I just went with separate words, Blue Bird Hill. This was one of the things I tried to do to be able to bring in income from home. I taught myself how to set up a basic web site, and did okay with it for a few years, until gas prices went up and shipping got too expensive. So I closed up shop. But I kept the name, Blue Bird Hill, and started using it for my blog, and at Etsy. It seemed to fit there too.
Let’s end with a few favorites! (feel free to elaborate!)
Who is your favorite artist?
Just one? My first favorite was Georgia O'Keeffe. I enjoy John Constable's paintings, especially his sky studies. Jim Dine is a long time favorite of mine for his expressive drawings of common objects. And Wolf Kahn, for his use of color and shape. Of course, there is also the work of those artists who are closest to me, my husband's amazing art work (Gary Nemcosky) and my daughter's drawings and paintings that are so filled with wonder. She has the best intuitive sense of color and design that I could learn a lot just by watching her draw!
What’s your favorite thing to listen to while you create?
Usually I like the silence. Sometimes classical music. Or big band and swing.
What’s your favorite colored pencil color?
Faber Castell's Walnut Brown. It makes a wonderful grisaille. Caput Mortuum is a really nice color too. I probably go through Naples Yellow pencils than any other color though.
What is or favorite book and/or who is your favorite author?
Walden is my all-time favorite book. Right now my favorite author is Sarah-Kate Lynch.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Like many creative people, I started dabbling in art at an early age. It wasn't until I lived in the UK that I really got serious about it and started looking for training in art. Most of my training came from Tom Greenshields, who was an artist and sculptor living in Devon, in the southwest of England. Tom trained at the Slade School of Art in London and was a member of the Royal Academy. I met him through life classes at his farm and he sort of 'adopted' me. I think I spent more time at his studio or in his house than I did at home.
I lived and breathed every medium under his tutelage for about 5 years and that is where my love of drawing came from. I took in and participated in exhibitions, networked with some of the best artists and creative minds of that time and was fed a diet of art and classical technique. I was very lucky.
I took workshops with other artists to learn additioanal techniques in mediums or specializations whenever I could.
I continued off and on in portraits of people and animals, then set art aside to some degree while my children were growing. There never seemed to be a lot of time or space available to dedicate to art but when I moved back to Newfoundland, and the children were grown, I started in again in earnest.
You live in Newfoundland and Labrador, which, according to my Google Earth is not only really far north, but really remote. How long have you lived there? How has that environment shaped your artistic vision?
The world's best kept secret is Newfoundland. Its an island in the North Atlantic complete with its own time zone. Its rugged, ancient, pristine and beautiful. Its a perfect spot for artists to be inspired through all senses and with all elements.
I live on a small farm and with an affinity for animals, they provide their own inspiration. The environment has a unique edge with rocks and trees and water dominating. While I'm not a landscape artist by choice, I have explored the water
more since joining Watermarks, another blog of nine individuals around the world who draw or paint water and its many forms, including fish, animals and birds. The potential is endless in this environment.
I see that you have primarily watercolor and oil paintings in your shop. Do you prefer one over the other, and if so, why? Do you have another favorite medium?
I was locked into the grey shades of graphite for many years and it is still my comfort zone. I know how the medium performs and I can create the tiny details that I so love at times. Charcoal and coloured pencil are my staples that are in every day use in my sketchbook and for times when painting frustrates me,.
From a practical point of view, colour sells and often has more visual appeal. Watercolour and oils provide their own set of challenges and creating something beautiful with these mediums is very satisfying. Both have their own appeal and if I had to choose I don't know if I could. Each one is my favourite while I am using it.
Tell us about Gyotaku. How did you get interested in the art form? Is it smelly? ;)
Gyotaku is fish printing or rubbing. A fish is inked then covered with paper and manipulated, providing a perfect anatomical print.
It all started with my drawing of a fish eye. A friend suggested that I might be interested in gyotaku which is a Japanese fish print technique from the 1800s. I looked into the technique and experimented with some local fish then I was hooked.
I usually go one step further with my gyotaku prints and add watercolour washes to enhance them, still leaving the original print visible. And now I have taught my first gyotaku workshop with some enthusiastic beginners, so I hope to see more of it locally.
There is a 'smell of the sea' when using fish to print with, depending on their freshness. I usually get about three days out of a fish before it heads to the compost. The smell, if any, dissapates quickly from the paper that you use to print on and I have never found it to be overwhelming at any stage of the process.
I like to end the interview with a list of favorites:
Who is your favorite artist?
From the past, Lord Frederick Leighton. This Victorian painter created masterpieces of detail and story in oils. His portraits are exquisite.
What is your favorite thing to listen to while you paint?
When I draw I can't listen to anything, it becomes too distracting. While I paint, especially larger impressionistic works, I listen to a variety of music. Currently its Emile Benoit, a Newfoundland fiddler, now dead; but with a unique voice and 'joie de vivre'. Nigel Kennedy's version of The Four Seasons by Vivaldi is a constant.
What is your favorite fish?
Capelin. They are perfect little fish that come to spawn on the beaches of Newfoundland each summer. Silvery with lovely irridescence, they make good eating, printing and painting. And tourists love them as a souvenir of the province.
What is your favorite book and/or author?
Very difficult to say as I have such a broad range that I dip into for both pleasure and for art reference. Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore is memorable, about the colonization of Australia. Mike Sibley, From Line to Life, is well thumbed in my studio for inspiration and reference.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
It's likely because two hours after we had make that awful decision, we got on a plane and left town, so we haven't had to live in our house without him. I have a feeling it will hit us hard on Friday.
My parents are with the boys, which has been just the medicine they needed. Papa Ray is full of surprises and silliness and distractions, while Nana has lots of hugs and encouragement to give out. Plus...she's an awesome substitute teacher. (thanks mom)
If we were at home, we'd probably all be crying our eyes out and eating ice cream right out of the carton...Instead, Dr. SmartyPants and I are on the second leg of our journey, in Orlando. The big black-tie event is tomorrow night.
I'll be sure to post photos of us all in our finery as soon as we get all prettied up...
Monday, November 09, 2009
This, my boy, is how I'll always remember you.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
i started painting (like most) when i was a very little girl. i like to dream that i've been a painter in former lives, for me this is a good explanation of why i have always found the smell of the art rooms so intoxicating. i was very fortunate to have had an incredible art teacher in high school. he was a professional watercolorist and an inspiration. my life has taken many twists and turns as an adult, and none of them have involved art school, so the instruction i received from him is just that much more valuable to me.
What's the story behind your shop name?
"shanti" is a sanskrit word meaning peace. i am an enthusiastic yogini and i chose this word as a focus for my shop to remind myself of what i am seeking through my art. i believe these small creations, filled with love and color and dreams and wonder, are a piece of my own puzzle to come to a place of peace in my life.
i have a sketchbook that goes everywhere with me. i try to scribble in it at least once a day even if it is only for a few minutes during a fresh air break at work. my watercolors are always set up at the dining room table for easy access. when i have the time to paint with oils, i turn up the music on the record player as loud as i think the neighbors will tolerate, and dance around my workspace palette knife in hand. somehow some of the paint makes it to the canvas. the whole ritual of it, getting my whole body into it, helps me relax and nudge the perfectionist in me to the side.
Where do you get your inspiration?
places i've been, in real life or in dreams. i am always seeking to bring the lands in my dreams to life on canvas. i also have a fascination with trees. i admire their strength and stillness. their quiet lives. i have favorites, best tree friends, that i paint and draw and meditate on often. my family is also a well of inspiration for me in so many ways.
You have oils and watercolors in your Etsy shop - do you prefer one over the other, and if so, why?
i go through phases...the watercolors offer me instant gratification. since my studio space is also the guest bedroom (and also the storage room for all of my partner's music equipment) it requires more preparation to set up the space for my oil paints, so i will paint furiously with oils for several weeks and then put everything up to dry for a couple months and so on. oil paints are very special for me. and there is no substitute.
Have you dabbled in other media?
oh YES! one of my favorite mediums is clay. especially wheel throwing. i love everything about it and hope to soon be able to afford to rent some space in a pottery studio. i also am in the middle of about a hundred craft projects ranging from knit socks to origami lanterns.
I love your painting, Landlines, for its simplicity and quiet energy - which of your own paintings is your favorite, and what do you think it says about you?
hmm...i think right now it is dreamscape: the color palette is just right for me at the moment and it is one that just flowed out of me it seems. i am constantly struggling against my desire for everything i make to be "perfect" and every moment i am creating without that looming over me is a small victory. i paint to free myself.
I like to end the interview with a list of your favorites:
Who is your favorite artist?
there are so many...but at the top is vincent van gogh. my dream is to go to his museum in amsterdam one day. there is a short film by the director akira kurosawa called "crows" in which he meets vincent van gogh in the fields and then proceeds to walk through some of his paintings. i turn it on when i need some inspiration. it's a brilliant film.
What is your favorite thing to listen to while you paint?
always something dreamy and psychedelic. usually cocorosie, os mutantes, portishead, joanna newsom, radiohead...or the classics: the kinks, beatles, queen, david bowie, willie nelson. i have a broad taste in music and always need something energetic. otherwise i tend to just sit back and watch my paintings rather than actually paint them. my partner is a musician, and when he and his guitar keep me company i am happiest.
What is your favorite paint color...the one you seem to grab every time?
i love all shades of blue and green. there is always one of each on my palette.
What is your favorite book and/or author?
if i pick one it has to be poet rainer maria rilke. he's rescued me in some hard times and always inspires me. but also anaïs nin, raymond carver, rumi...