It’s my pleasure to introduce painter Anne Ward! Please enjoy the interview and leave a comment at the end to let us know your thoughts. I encourage you to check out her website and subscribe to her email list.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art?
I’d always dreamed of being a painter. I remember hours spent sitting and looking at Time Life books with paintings by Impressionists. When I was about 11 years old I had a paper route so that I could earn money to buy the items needed for sketching that I read about in books I checked out from the library. I filled the walls of the room I shared with my sister with my endeavors. I was so lucky to have family and friends who championed my work. My Aunt Peg gave me my first set of oil paints when I was 15. I was beside myself with glee. To this day she still has my earliest paintings up in her home. I have 5 brothers and sisters and when we were growing up we didn’t have a lot of spare income, but my father worked at an airline which allowed us all to fly for free. My parents really valued travel and exposure to museums so I was incredibly fortunate to have seen so much of the world at a young age. I studied art in high school and continued on to UCLA where I chose to get a degree in history…but I was always drawing and painting whenever I had spare time.
After college I was so lucky to get a job working for a movie writer/director named Lawrence Kasdan. I was responsible for running his office, reading scripts, being on the set and being a gatekeeper to the busy demands on his creative time. I worked on a few movies in my time there and lived for nearly a year in Santa Fe working on a movie called Wyatt Earp and a year in Paris working on a movie called French Kiss. It was an incredible opportunity to deeply understand what goes into the creative process on a large scale. I taught my boss to learn to use a computer (this was indeed a LONG time ago!) so that he no longer wrote his scripts in longhand form on legal pads. I learned so much about focus and creative dedication and fun from him. All the while I worked there, I was saving money to support my dream of taking time off to finally learn to paint. I was still reading art instruction books and after 6 day work weeks on location, I would spend my Sundays studying art and painting. I sold my very first painting to a film coworker in Santa Fe and I was so thrilled.
After being in Paris for over a year I left my film production job to begin my dream of taking time off to paint. My parents had given me an outdoor easel and my boyfriend at the time urged me to bring it along on a weekend trip. We were in a small village in France. I must have worked easily 15 hours on that tiny attempt to capture light! By the end of the weekend it was pouring raining and a man with one arm held an umbrella for me to finish, people had brought me food and welcomed me into their homes, children had helped me with my clumsy attempts at speaking in French. I was hooked. The way an easel connects you to people and nature and the environment is such a special privilege! I realized that if I could do this I would live the happiest life ever. I quit my job in Paris, I returned to LA and within two weeks I had magically met a group of painters who had dedicated their lives to this ‘plein air’ thing. It was a somewhat unusual pursuit at the time to find people devoted specifically to plein air and I spent hundreds of hours outdoors learning from these generous artists.
So while I’m mostly self taught, I was so lucky to have been exposed to incredible painters who taught me exacting ways of seeing light. I began showing paintings and was fortunate to gain a following of collectors who supported me. I went through a divorce and painting was my anchor. With two children I realized that I had to figure out how to squeeze in painting. One of my mentors and a painter I greatly admire is Dan McCaw. He suggested that I should ‘always paint in my head’ when there wasn’t time to actually paint. Such good advice. I could be mentally prepping for the moment when I actually had time to paint. I read an article by another art hero of mine who eventually became a dear friend, Peggi Kroll Roberts. She described raising her kids and painting and setting up still lifes and painting small between loads of laundry. I began setting up my easel in the kitchen at night after the kids were asleep. While I didn’t have time to chase the light outdoors in true plein air fashion, I could grab whatever was in the fridge and set up ‘problems’…impossible color combinations or green on green, pink on pink etc. It forced me to see/question assumptions about colors and figure out where the actual chroma belonged. I was obsessed with taking the same objects and painting them indoors and then outdoors at various times of day to understand how light can transform even ordinary objects. Doing this allowed me to better understand color.
Now I am happily remarried to painter and author Ian Roberts. We share a studio and I am always inspired by his approach and patient allowing of a painting to progress. He is an amazing painter. Before anything heads out the door we discuss what might be popping out or distracting from the whole of the picture plane. I am dyslexic…so when I see a painting I see an abstract pattern of shape and color…Ian sees the ‘underneath’ of painting in the form of composition so I really am blessed to have that influence.
My children are older but I still set up still life on the back porch so that I can paint from life while also preparing meals. I am SUPER inspired by our beautiful garden and the vegetables and flowers we grow. My second love is pattern. So I have been making patterns to accompany my paintings and experimenting with putting them on bags, totes and fabric to use in my still life paintings. I love the idea of art being useful in the world so that even if someone can’t afford an original painting they could have something beautiful like a coffee mug that makes their day happy. I also have a few images that are reproduced and available online at Pottery Barn. Also, as a means of using my art to be of service in the world, I made an app that pairs my paintings which an intention for the day. It is free and has a simple meditation included to create more calm in a topsy turvy world. Its called i-intend on iTunes and has been downloaded by thousands of people around the world.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m SO inspired by pattern, light and color. I’m obsessed with infusing my work with the the joy and wonder I feel in our garden. I think that beauty is such a stabilizing force and I am always in pursuit of it. I find there is truth, integrity and absolute joy to witness things growing. It is humbling and powerful to feel connected to the growing cycle of things in the yard. A tiny seed becomes a carrot in 120 days. Amazing! A grasshopper that perfectly matches the color of a leaf on a lemon tree. That’s magical! Things that could easily be missed given the ‘important’ distractions of my phone. I’m inspired by bringing that experience of how I feel in nature to the walls of someone’s home. I’m using our daughters and the arrangement of light in our dining room as the backdrop for a painting I’m working on now. I think its important to use the truth of the things I love in my life as elements in paintings. I’m going to be incorporating more of my patterns into my paintings. I’m also inspired by painting on the Ipad and using it as a tool on days that I don’t have time to be in the studio. A daily practice of creating is so critical to my work.
What have been some of your favorite exhibitions that you’ve been featured in and why?
I once had a solo show based on a line in a book by Eckhardt Tolle about ‘spacious stillness’. That really is how painting feels to me. Its a wordless expansive feeling. The show was a series of outdoor still life paintings and some landscapes and moments where I had felt spacious stillness. An elderly neighbor who was no longer able to travel remarked ‘Thank you for taking me on that journey’. I was so moved by that. I’m always honored to show work at Marcia Burtt Gallery in Santa Barbara. Marcia has been one of my art heroes and part of me still can’t believe that I get to show my work alongside hers there! It’s also an honor when I have shown work with the California Art Club at their juried show. So many amazing painters.
What has been your experience with art associations? How can they be helpful for artists and their businesses?
I have been involved with the California Art Club which was founded in 1909. There are wonderful opportunities to go on paint outs and gain exposure to new ways of thinking and approaching work. When I was very new to painting, the club offered so many opportunities for exposure and submitting to shows. I think clubs and art associations are so valuable because making art can be a solitary endeavor. Its so important to find the people who inspire you along the way. I used to keep a binder of paintings I’d seen in magazines as ‘reminders’ of what made me really excited about painting. It helped me to figure out what and how I wanted to paint.
One of my favorite experiences was getting to help chef and restauranteur Suzanne Goin choose some of my paintings for her house. I love having the opportunity to do that and find images that resonate for people in their homes! I really admire Suzanne and all that she has created so that was a special experience. I also did a commission for my friend Laurie David of some of my kitchen counter/garden paintings. A lemon, an avocado and a radish…it was so fun to paint things I love for her beautiful home. Recently a dear friend and collector bought a large number of paintings of mine and Ian’s for her home. That made me so happy to imagine all those little snapshots of my life together in one environment.
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