Monday, April 28, 2014

a traveling interview

Recently my friend, Katina Wright, asked if I'd be willing to take part in a traveling interview that she was participating in. I first met Kat back when my blog was new and I joined the Art Every Day Month challenge. Kat was always so sweet and encouraging, but even more than that, she seemed to be a true kindred spirit. One of the things about blogging that brings me so much joy is being able to "meet" people from all over the world and make connections that wouldn't have been possible any other way (Kat, for example, lives in Cornwall). We both have March birthdays. We both are artists and writers. We both focus on looking for and creating beauty and joy. Kat has such a wonderful outlook on life and is so very encouraging to other creatives as well as being passionate about creating herself. She always has many projects going on at once (yep, another way we're similar). She's a very inspiring person! Stop by her blog when you get a chance and say "hi".

On to the interview...

What am I working on?

I always seem to be working on multiple projects at once, but my main focus lately has been my watercolor paintings. Most of my recent paintings have been houseplant portraits -- I have a nearly endless supply of models!




I recently opened a new Etsy shop just for my paintings and am working on building that up. I've been trying to design a website for myself, something that has long been on my to-do list. I'm also taking Creativebug's online class, Building a Creative Brand, because I thought I could use some help with the business side of things. So far it's been great.

Another kindred spirit and dear friend recently surprised me with Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit and I have just started to slowly work my way through that. One of the things that this book and the Creativebug class have both stressed is the need to focus on one thing and not spread yourself too thin. For someone who has a LOT of interests and abilities, I balk a bit at that advice. I want to do so many things. But if I think about it, it does make sense.

Soon my focus will be shifting more outside as the weather gets warmer (and drier). I've been starting to create some raised beds in our new backyard for a kitchen garden.




I'm also trying to figure out how to transition the boring established landscaping of the front yard into a garden that is more in my cottage style. I hate pulling out (killing) any plant, even if it's something I don't like, but I think I may have to be ruthless with some of the things in the front of the house (evergreen shrubs that are less than a foot high have no place in the middle of a border!). Plus I will be spending a lot of time at my parents' farm helping to tend the gardens there and later harvesting and putting up our bounty. My mom and I have lots of seedlings growing under lights just waiting for the season to be ready. Quite a few of those seedlings are flowers, so I hope to be able to fill the house with bouquets and have a different set of models to choose from for my paintings. Good thing I now have a good work light for my painting table because I think I'll be doing most of my painting at night once the gardening season is in full swing.


How does my work differ from others in its genre?

This is such a hard question for me. I am overly critical of my work while at the same time being (secretly) very fond of it. Tangled up with that is the fact that I am a self-taught artist. It's my passion and my joy and in the case of painting, something I never thought I'd be able to do. Because I have no art training I can sometimes worry that I am not a legitimate artist, that I don't have a style or a voice (or a "brand"). I have to remind myself that an artist is someone who creates art and I create a lot of art! It's hard for me to look at my painting objectively, but if I try to, I do think I've developed a style that is my own. For the most part I paint from real-life models, either plants that I have grown or bits of nature that I've collected while out on rambles. Botanical illustration is probably my biggest influence. I like to keep white backgrounds in my paintings so that the plant is the main focus and backgrounds and shadows don't distract from it. I'm captivated by tiny details and my most used paintbrushes are the teeny-tiny ones. I also have a fondness for clay pots and paint many of my plants in them (even if the real plant isn't growing in one! To help with that I keep a pile of empty clay pots in my studio to use as models when I need them).


Why do I create what I do?

I think that's pretty easy to answer. I grew up surrounded by plants and flowers and have always loved living with plants and flowers.




It's natural for artists to paint "what they know" and what they love.




For me, yep, it's plants and flowers. You can see this in my other creative endeavors, too. I crochet flowers, sew with flowery fabric, photograph flowers. When I took a metalsmithing class (yet another thing I'd like to get back to), I even made flowers out of metal. And then, of course, there are the real flowers that I grow, too.


How does my creative process work?

The first part of the process doesn't really have anything to do with creating. It's about seeing. It's about surrounding myself with beauty and going out into the world looking for beauty. I fill my home and garden with plants and flowers. I take long walks almost every day. Those things give me ample inspiration.

When it comes to creating a painting, the first part of the process for me is when a certain plant (or natural object) catches my eye. I'll see that plant sitting in its place on a windowsill and it's almost as if the plant is calling to me, "paint me, paint me". I look at it critically and start thinking "how would I paint this?" Next I'll bring the plant into my studio and put it on my painting table. Before I even begin my sketch I sit and study the plant. I look at the leaves and the stems and the flowers. I think about color and shape and texture. This beginning step, communing with the plant and thinking about its essence and how I want to capture it is so important for me.

Next I'll start to sketch out my painting. When I'm composing my sketch I study my model carefully but I do not create a design that matches my model exactly. I usually rearrange leaves and flowers for a pleasing composition

The next step is to mix up my paints, preparing all the colors I think I'll need. Recently I have started to create a reference for myself by meticulously mixing colors and making swatches in my painting sketchbook.




It began as a fun exercise and experiment to see how many different shades and tones I could create with different mixtures of the same few colors. I was specifically interested in creating pleasing greens but discovered some gorgeous browns and rusts in the process. Eventually I hope to work my way through all of the colors in my palette in this way. To start my color mixing process I can consult the swatches in my sketchbook to see which colors I want to use. Before I had this reference I simply mixed my colors in an organic way without much of a plan; I still do this for colors for which I have not yet created swatches.

Once I've mixed my colors I use scraps of watercolor paper to test them.




(You can also spot my swatches, and watch my painting process, in this post).

Next I start painting. I usually start with the flowers first and paint them one petal at a time. After the first layer of paint in an area is dry enough, I carefully erase any pencil lines that are still visible before layering the next wash of paint. Even the palest flowers require multiple washes to build up the color that I want. I do the same with the leaves, the stems, the pot and finally the soil. It's a slow process for me, but one that I've come to love. I render my paintings carefully and the process is a bit meditative. Despite the constraints of this process, I find it freeing. And maybe that seems strange, but it is true. At any given point the unfinished painting may look "bad" or "ugly". When I was first starting out this was frustrating to me and would sometimes cause me to either give up or to put the painting away until I was brave enough to pick it up again. What I've learned over time is to simply KEEP GOING. Those parts that look "bad" or "ugly" just need a bit more attention. Another layer of paint. A few more brushstrokes. I can let go of the control and responsibility in that middle stage of my painting and know that everything will come together in the end. It's really amazing to me what patience and slow, continual work can accomplish! And, really, that is true in all of life, too.

Thanks for reading this epic blog post and thank you, Kat, for inviting me to join you!

The last part of this post is supposed to be where I tag three other people to play along. I'm not so good at following rules and so I'm not going to do that. I hate to impose on anyone's busy schedules and I certainly don't want to make anyone feel left out, so instead I'm opening my invitation to everyone who is reading this. If you want to share your creative inspiration and process, please do! You can leave your thoughts in the comments or write a post on your blog (the next round of blog posts for this blog hop is supposed to be next week, but you can post whenever you'd like) and link to your post in the comments. I really enjoy reading about other people's inspiration and process (and I think other creative people do, too) so please don't be shy!

12 comments:

  1. Thanks Anne - interesting to read your thoughts and LoVe the childhood photos ;) Keep on, keeping on x

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  2. Your beautiful watercolor paintings inspire me to do something arty today. I hope I will stick with that idea and not get side tracked.

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  3. What a wonderful interview - I loved reading your process for producing your realistic watercolors! You have far more patience than me :) Its true that when you love to make something time disappears and you become free in a dreamy zone where nothing exists but you and your art. Thank you for sharing your world (and those adorable pics of little you).

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  4. I'm going to accept your open invitation and blog my self interview. I'll let you know when it's ready - thanks.

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    1. Well, I conducted my travelling interview & it's viewable at madknews.blogspot.com. Thanks again!

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  5. I really enjoyed reading this Anne and seeing your inspiration for plants and roses as a little girl! I seem to be lacking creative inspiration recently although generally I am inspired by nature.

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  6. This post is so much fun, Anne! I especially love the pictures of you as a little girl. xo

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  7. A lovely interview Anne. Thanks for sharing with us. xoxo

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  8. Anne - this was a delightful interview and I especially liked learning about your painting process. The pages of colour swatches look so pretty that they would look great framed on your art room/space wall I think.....would also provide an easy to access reference....just an idea :-) I had to smile when you mention just keeping going and it will turn out well in the end because I remember us both trying to encourage ourselves to do this a while back.
    Thank you so much for joining in with this interview blog hop at such short notice. And thank you for your kind words of introduction to me & my blog.
    I have linked this post to my Wrightstory facebook page too.
    Hugs
    Kat Xx

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  9. Hi Anne!!
    ...at least I found the time to read it!!!
    I enjoyed it! I can see your passion through your words...it's so good to hear it!!
    I'm sure you'll find satisfaction in what you do...that's the really best part of creating!!!

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  10. Thank you, everyone for your kind, supportive, encouraging comments! I enjoy reading them and appreciate hearing from each of you!

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  11. Fantastic interview, Anne! It is a story about beautiful, wise and talented woman. Thank you for sharing

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