Friday, August 21, 2015

Sending Gratitude to Artists during Artist Appreciation Month

August is Artist Appreciation Month. In honor of the month Patience Brewster has initiated a conversation celebrating artists and the inspiration they bring to other artists. Are you familiar with Patience Brewster? She started out as an illustrator, creating magical, whimsical characters and now also designs three dimensional ornaments, bringing her characters to life.

Patience Brewster, holly fairy, fairies, ornaments, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
a little Holly Fairy ornament by Patience Brewster on a shelf in my studio - a gift from my mom

When I learned about this project I was delighted by the idea of tracing some of my inspirations and influences and thanking those artists who have helped me to become the artist I am today.

There are different sorts of inspirations, aesthetic inspirations are one and I think much of our deeply-rooted aesthetics come from childhood. For me I see this in my love of flowers and gardens.

Anne Butera, Childhood photo, My Giant Strawberry

I grew up in a home surrounded by gardens and filled with plants. My family frequently visited the Chicago Botanic Garden (and any public garden wherever we traveled).

chicago botanic garden, english walled garden, public gardens, anne butera, my giant strawberry, container gardens, potted geraniums
the English Walled Garden is one of my favorite places in the Chicago Botanic Garden
Thinking back, I see that the gardens (which are themselves a form of art) helped to shape my aesthetics, but so, too, did the art exhibits, usually botanically-inspired, that were on display there. I clearly remember an exhibit of tapestries depicting very detailed gardens. I was enamored with the image of potted citrus trees in some of those imaginary gardens. I wish I knew who that artist was because I think my desire to paint potted plants, including this (early, now sold) painting of an orange tree can be traced, in part, back to her inspiration.

watercolors, clay pot, calamondin orange, potted plants, potted citrus, potted orange tree, houseplant portraits, Anne Butera, My Giant  Strawberry
the image of a citrus tree in a clay pot was lodged in my creative spirit from early on

Painted flowers and plants in books were another big influence to me as a child. Some of my favorite illustrations to study were in Cicely M. Barker's Flower Fairies books. Her fairies are charming and the plants and flowers are detailed and botanically accurate. I also loved looking at my mom's copy of Sara Midda's In and Out of the Garden, a treasure of tiny painted gardens, plants, gardeners and words.

Flower Faires, C.M. Barker, Sara Midda, In and Out of the Garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
childhood book inspiration -- Flower Fairies and Sara Midda

I'm sure there are other books whose beautiful, detailed illustrations inspired and influenced me, but these are particularly clear in my mind.

When I was a child my family also regularly visited The Art Institute of Chicago (and other art museums wherever we went). I learned that art could be strange or beautiful or scary (the green faced woman in this painting always intrigued and frightened me) or sometimes a combination. I learned that paintings of flowers were hung on museum walls, that such paintings were art not just for botanical gardens, but for museums as well. It's probably not surprising that I was attracted to the art of Georgia O'Keefe. She remained one of my favorite artists as I grew up. The fact that she was a fiercely independent woman, painting what she wanted to paint, was just as influential to me as her art was.

Georgia O'Keefe Museum, Santa Fe, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
one of the places I insisted on stopping during our cross-country road trip in 2013 was the Georgia O'Keefe Museum

Despite the fact that I loved art and art making when I was a child, I didn't consider becoming an artist. I had other passions that overshadowed art and I had no confidence in my art abilities. Art teachers in school squashed my confidence (and enthusiasm) for drawing and painting and I stopped doing those things for fun. I think a lot of people probably have similar experiences. If you're not encouraged to keep going, it's hard to do it on your own.

Fast forward to sometime in 2008. I had been discovering the world of blogs and blogging and was focusing more on nurturing my creativity. I was also feeling more of a pull toward my dreams of moving out of the city. I started doing a little research about lavender farming and discovered Apifera Farm and the art and blog of Katherine Dunn.* I was enchanted. And inspired. Here was a woman who was not only a farmer, but also a working artist. Some undefined, unnamed dream was beginning to awake in my unconscious.

watercolor, painting, paint palette, painting palette, color, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
dreams of color and paint

A bit later, I discovered another inspiring artist. I must have been searching for art books on Amazon because they sent me a recommendation of Kelly Rae Roberts' book Taking Flight. Something about the book caught my eye and when I delved further and discovered Kelly Rae's blog, her story and her philosophy, that undefined dream become a little bit clearer. What was most inspiring to me was that Kelly Rae had no art background or training and yet she had created an art career for herself. She was an ordinary person and she was making art. I hadn't even imagined that was possible before stumbling on her shining example of the power of believing in your dreams.

I didn't truly start learning to paint for almost two more years, but the spark had been lit. I began to seek out stories of other artists and I found so many inspirations on Etsy and elsewhere online. Once I started making an effort to find them, stories of artists -- everyday, ordinary people -- were everywhere. Magazines like Where Women Create and Artful Blogging provided example after example of inspiring artist stories and I devoured them.

nasturtiums, watercolor, paint palette, paint swatches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
flower inspiration from my garden

In the spring/summer of 2010 I took Kelly Rae's Flying Lessons e-course and started meeting some other artists online. In November of 2010 I joined Leah Piken Kolidas for the Art Everyday Month challenge. Within that encouraging atmosphere I began to lose some of my fear surrounding making art. A lot of my art for the month was done with yarn and fabric instead of paint, but I was slowly wading in to my art dreams.

The next encouraging art atmosphere I experienced was in the online painting class I took with Mati Rose McDonough and Lisa Congdon (both, also, late blooming artists, something I found very inspiring). I met more artists in that class and was encouraged and inspired by Mati and Lisa.

studio, watercolor, peonies, painting, Mati Rose print, Kelly Rae canvases, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
a Mati Rose print and two Kelly Rae canvas prints provide inspiration on a wall in my studio

Soon after that class Eva-Jane Lark and Kristin Dudish began hosting the weekly online art meetup Paint Party Friday. I jumped on the chance to participate and found so much encouragement and inspiration in that community. Instead of squashing my dreams and my early (not very good) attempts at painting, the artists I met online helped me to strive to continue painting and to continue developing my skills. If not for the support of that community it would have been so much harder for me to overcome self-doubt, fear and self-criticism. I am forever grateful.

Sometimes I get a little worried about the fact that my early painting attempts are still up here in my blog archives for anyone to see. What if someone judges my art on that? But then I realize that taking down those early posts, hiding away my early paintings, would be denying my story. I hope that my story, my journey, my stubborn determination to follow my dreams might someday inspire someone else who's just discovering a tiny spark of her own art dreams.

summer flowers, garden flowers, watercolor painting, watercolor palette, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
currently on my painting table -- summer flowers in progress

I know there are many more artists who have helped me to become an artist, both through the inspiration of their beautiful art and through the example of their passion and courage. I am forever grateful for all of that inspiration. Thank you to the artists whom I have mentioned here by name. Thank you to the artists whom I have not named for being brave enough to keep going, to follow your heart and listen to your dreams and share your stories -- your stories are an inspiration. Thank you to all the artists who make up the online communities in which I participated (some of you are still with me today! Thank you!). Your encouragement means so much. A special thanks, also, to Patience Brewster for starting this conversation.

Gratitude is so valuable. It's important that we take the time to thank those who inspire and encourage us. It's important we remember that none of us is in this alone.

watercolor, watercolor roses, roses, hearts, heart collage, rose heart collage, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
Thank you!

I would love to hear your stories, too, whether you're an artist or not. Which artists inspire you or bring you joy? Who are you grateful for during this month of appreciating artists? Take a moment to leave a comment here, or if you're inspired to write your own gratitude post for Artist Appreciation Month, come back and leave a link to your post so we can continue the conversation!



*I wrote about Katherine Dunn and Kelly Rae Roberts in more detail in this blog post, so near the beginning of my artistic journey.

28 comments:

  1. Nice to see you around again, always love your water colours. Happy PPF, Valerie

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    1. Hi, Valerie! Thanks so much for stopping by and thanks for being so kind and supporting whenever I participated in PPF! Your encouragement means so much to me!

      Have a lovely week!

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  2. This is so interesting, Anne! You have evolved into a very gifted and lovely artist whom I greatly admire! I've always drawn and painted, but had none of the artistic input you had as a child. My imagination has always always been my guide. And I do love many artists' works. I think I'm evolving into more of a whimsical illustrator than anything else!

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    1. Thank you, Judy! So glad to have met you and have had you along with me on my journey! Imaginations are such wonderful things, aren't they? I think your illustrations and fabric creations are all so lovely and I've enjoyed watching your progress, too. Can't wait to see what the next parts of our journeys hold for us!!

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  3. Watercolors are my passion therefore, your work thrills me. I love loose and flowing and my favorite artist in that mode is Charles Reid.
    My passion for watercolor began with I was eight, and got my first little tin box with 6 colors and a brush.... I never wanted a crayon again. Because I chose a life of ministry instead of art... I'm self taught, and most of my life my art was on a back burner, with four children a husband who was a Pastor, so much of our life was in ministry....however..I did find time to do some along the way...now at 74 and retired...it's becoming my passion again.....but I ramble......Love your work, thanks for listening....sending hugs.

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    1. Hi, Wanda,

      Glad to have you stopping by and sharing your story. It's so inspiring to know that no matter what our ages and what turns our lives take, we can always come back to our passions and have a chance for a new start!

      Sending hugs to you!

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  4. Beautiful flowers, and like you, I really wanted to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe museum when i visited Santa Fe. It was worth the visit, and although small, they had some wonderful pieces of hers to view. Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Hi, Erika, thanks for stopping by! I was glad I went to the museum, too, though I was surprised by how small it was. I've seen other shows of her art that contained more paintings. If I had had more time I would have enjoyed visiting her home and studio, perhaps next time. Hope you have been having a wonderful weekend, too!

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  5. its nice to hear your story.....like you i have too started my journey...i dont know where its taking me but i m enjoying it.Your painting are beautiful!!!! just like your words

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    1. So glad to know you're on your own journey! It's so inspiring when someone is following their passion and creativity!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind, encouraging comment!

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  6. I've enjoyed following your art story all these years Anne. You've been a wonderful fellow artist and gardener. I have photos of myself very similar to this, pig tails included! Behind me would be Time Life books on nature, (which I devoured!), a full set of encyclopedia's, gardening books, moon sign books and astrology books of my mother's. Plus all the 70's macramé one can imagine! haha. What a great time to grow up.

    Lovely post.

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    1. Hi, Jaime! I've enjoyed our friendship, too. We're such kindred spirits and it's lovely to have connected online like this.

      Ha, you make me laugh. Those are the Time Life gardening books and I think on that same shelf there was also the Time Life art series, too. And macrame... yep, wall hangings/ planters are just out of the picture. :)

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  7. What a wonderful inspiring post!! I shall explore some of the links next too. It is lovely to appreciate those who have inspired & encouraged us. Creating can be a lonely journey full of self doubt but like you I've found the support of others online invaluable. People/sites like CED, Inspiration Avenue & the many blogging friends I've made have kept me going and encouraged me immeasurably. You are one of those people I am so glad I "met" - your inspiring posts & lovely personality are a blessing indeed!
    Hugs
    Kat xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Kat! I'm so glad to have "met" you, too, and have you following along with my journey. I was looking back through some old posts and saw all the posts i did for your Tic Toc challenges. So inspiring. I love your outlook on life and art and getting glimpses into your corner of the world. Your kindness and encouragement has meant so much to me!

      Wishing you all the best and sending hugs!

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  8. Beautifully written post! big hugs to you! Thank you for sharing your art journey and inspirations.

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    1. Thanks so much, Aga! Your encouragement and sweet words mean so much to me. And I'm always inspired when I stop by your blog. :)

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  9. I send my gratitude to you Anne for your beautiful evolving artwork. I haven't got many words at the moment but will return to this post at another time to really give it time to register with me. I love the little Holly fairy. She is so delicate.

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    1. Thank you, Simone. So glad to have connected with you. Wishing you much inspiration and many joy-filled hours creating and making.

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  10. What a nice post to send gratitude to those who have inspired you on your journey. It's comforting to know like you said that we aren't alone in this which sometimes it can feel like. Thanks for sharing Anne.

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    1. Thank you, Dana. You and your art is always an inspiration to me. It's been wonderful to connect with you and I'm so glad we're working on 2x2 together. It's been such fun and a wonderful stretch and challenge!

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  11. What a lovely post! Its so nice to get a glimpse into your past influences that have brought you to this point in your art career. Your painting style has evolved in a lovely way and it is inspiring to see that progress. I agree with Dana that it is good to be reminded that we are not alone on our artistic path, that evolving takes time and there are supportive people/sites that can help nurture the journey. I too am inspired by many artists, Katherine Dunn being one of them. I am grateful to you for sharing your world with us!

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    1. Thank you, Sharon. I'm always nurtured by your encouraging comments and by my visits to your lovely blog. It's been fun to watch your creative endeavors evolve, too!

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  12. Well hello, again! SO happy to see you thriving in your art and carry on in inspiring ways, for yourself, and for many who will read you and be inspired!

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    1. Hello, again, to you, too. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment here on my little corner of the world. Your sweet inspiration means so much to me. Wishing you all the best!

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