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Artist Ann Rea
It is all an Illusion
photo43What is an oil painting?  It's simply layers of paint of different colors, lines, and shapes on canvas.  Maybe some other mediums mixed in.  But basically that’s it.  For the most part the canvas is a rectangular shape.  This is the conventional format that we agree upon and anything else would only serve as a distraction. Often there are some charcoal lines underneath the paint, a drawing.  Then layers of colors, lines, and shapes on canvas.  The artist’s skill is maneuvering and forming these colors, lines, and shapes in such a way that they project an illusion to the viewer. The illusion that can move you from where you are in that moment to another place that you imagine while looking at the painting.  It can draw you in.  If I'm doing it right you are "savoring the colors of a moment." Obvious? Maybe.  But how conscious are we of the illusion? For centuries we took the illusion for granted and then the abstract art movement blew the illusion to pieces. They began to simply celebrate the essence of the expression, the shapes, the colors, and lines for their own sake. The uninitiated argument is that this is somehow demonstrating less artistic still or even creative ability.  Not so.  It’s just not demonstrating the illusion. What you see above is my first layer of lines, charcoal lines.  Blocks of colors in different shapes will follow; they are the colors that I see underneath colors.  How do I see this?  I just use experience that I’ve learned to trust over time.  The illusion resides in my head and I build it layer by layer. People will ask me "Do you enjoy painting vineyards?"  They are not my subject, color is my subject.  Color that's inspired by natural ambient light and the illusion that it forms in my head.
What is my creative process?
diff6aWhen I get this question it feels like I’m being asked, “Ann, how do you walk or how do you breathe?”  I really don’t think about it.  It just comes naturally.  My creativity is shaped by my own particular curiosities and values.  But I can appreciate that people are curious about this. Clearly my subject is color.  What is color?  It’s light vibrating on different frequencies.  Each substance vibrates differently and light bounces around and reflects within an environment, particularly moister or particles in the air.  Natural light is most inspiring and challenging, so this is my primary focus. I focus on color inspired by natural light, as it exists in time.  I want to open up and explore simple beauty and interest contained in a moment in nature. All types of light, even city light at night, fascinate me.  In fact, I’m currently developing a new series of pastels on black paper of San Francisco at night.  Check back later to view and collect these original works on paper inspired by my adopted city at night. Vineyards, Wine Country, those are ideas, that’s not what I’m looking at.  But let’s go back to the idea of “existing in time”.  A painting gives off an illusion of a moment in time.  If you’re fully engaged in the moment it’s the life optimal experience.  The more time spent in the moment, the more peaceful and joyful our life.  The Buddha taught us this, and I learned this eventually from practical life experience.  It’s a way out of suffering from worry about the future or regret of the past.  A deep desire to be present, this is why I decided to paint again after over a seven-year absence from the easel.  It's remembering to be present that's the trick.  Painting forces me to remember.
Must Artists Suffer for their Art? (optional)
rheadg-sufferingOh please.  Those who know me know that’s not my plan.  Now does suffering inform an artist’s work?  Maybe. Art is not literal; it is emotive.  So feelings inform an artist’s work and they are central to the artist’s unique voice. And life experiences and a certain depth of emotion develop an emotional register that I think is necessary if an artist is going to have anything interesting to say or to express. The artist has to feel it if their audience is going to feel it. I’m not actually a fan of most contemporary art because it expresses a very narrow band of emotions: irony, angst, and shock.  I’m bored with it.  And I don’t relate to these emotions.  Although I do believe that they reflect the broader contemporary culture. I can only express my voice, deepened by my life experiences. Why is my tag line “Savor the colors of a moment?”  It’s catchy, but it actually goers deeper than that.  Because for most of my life, before I started painting for a living, I suffered from chronic anxiety and deep depression.  I was actually advised that I would suffer from these conditions for the rest of my life.  Thankfully, I told the doctor to stick it and I took charge. And it’s been many years and I no longer suffer.  If I had to sum up the experience of anxiety I would say that it’s a preoccupation with the future.  And depression is a regret or a continuous review of the past.  I have a friend who had chronic anxiety and then developed stage four breast cancer.  She said the anxiety was harder to cope with than the cancer.  That's suffering. When I paint I am the most present that I can be.  So my subject is light expressed as color.  And this single focus gives me peace.  So my suffering did inform my work but I certainly don’t feel obligated to suffer.
Ultimately Art is about Communicating Emotion
[caption id="attachment_302" align="alignleft" width="287" caption="Artist Ann Rea"]Artist Ann Rea[/caption] My friend Jo Diaz, a publicist for the wine trade, once called me a “constant communicator.” For some reason this observation has rung in my head several times.  When I think about it, she’s right.  I’m either communicating intermittently and temporarily electronically, via my emails or blog, or I’m communicating through a permanent medium of collectible fine art. So that begs the question, what am I trying to communicate and why? What am I expressing?  My tag line gives my audience a big hint, “savor the colors of a moment.”  This speaks to my direct experience when I’m painting.  And it also hints at my personal and artistic journey that eventually carried me out of a long-term condition of chronic anxiety and into a fulfilling and purposeful life of self-expression as a professional artist. I’m always thrilled when collectors express that my work makes them feel happy and calm because this is what I’m attempting to communicate, my state of being when I’m painting through the vehicle of color. My experience of much of contemporary art is that it is expression within very narrow band of emotions.  Those emotions are generally angst, irony, or shock, simply reflecting the emotional landscape of our culture.  I've chosen not contribute to the negativity because I’ve taken my own negativity and transformed it to a peaceful expression.  Rather than distance myself from an audience, I’d rather connect with them and hold the intention of making a greater contribution to the viewer’s mood.
Painting with a Purpose
[caption id="attachment_135" align="alignnone" width="500" caption=""Vacant" Ann Rea, oil on canvas (sold)"]oil on canvas[/caption] When a collector acquires my work I always like to ask them how my paintings make them feel.  Because that’s why we acquire art, because of the way it makes us feel. It’s the same reason that we listen to music, because of the way it makes us feel, makes us move. The universal response that I receive from my collectors is that my work makes them feel happy, yet calm.   It’s really rewarding for me to know that my work is having a positive effect on another person.  I used to feel very differently but suffering can inspire beauty and creativity. I actually didn’t paint or draw anything for over seven years.  I was fighting my own artistic self. I believed that it wasn’t practical to pursue a creative career and I longed for stability and comfort that I didn’t believe I could have as a creative.  I swallowed negative ideas and stereotypes that stifled my creativity.  Those years were filled with lots of sadness and anxiety. In fact, I developed severe anxiety that included immobilizing panic attacks. In it’s simplest definition, I characterize depression as a preoccupation with the past and anxiety as chronic concern about the future. What does this have to do with my paintings?  Everything.  No amount of pharmaceutical or therapeutic intervention was curing my condition.  So when I decided to paint again it was with whole new purpose, I decided to use my painting as art therapy, it was a last ditch therapeutic measure. With no intention of selling or even showing my work, I began to paint again as an active meditation to calm my mind, a means to alleviate my anxiety.  My artistic focus was light as it is expressed as color, my goal to capture the still beauty of color. The objects of my focus were contemporary still life and then plein air landscapes.  Hence my tag line “savor the colors of a moment.”