Thursday, November 19, 2009

Etsy Excavations

Still digging up the goodies over at Etsy...

I've been a fan and follower of Ann Thompson Nemcosky for a while now, and I never get tired of looking at her beautiful work. She may be the first artist that helped me to understand how colored pencils create paintings instead of drawings - the way she layers color is really magical. Go check out her shop - you won't be disappointed, I assure you!

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.

Thanks Ann!

By the way - as next Thursday is Thanksgiving, Etsy Excavations will be taking the day off the dig into turkey and dressing instead. It will return the following Thursday!