The pastels by Anna Wainright have awed me over and over again ever since I discovered this artist a couple of years ago. I featured one of her pieces in one of my first monthly round-ups and I remember having the dickens of a time choosing between three paintings! So I’m tickled pink that she’s here to tell her story and share how her paintings evolve.
Anna Wainright Bio
A little about Anna first. First off, she’s often known as AJ 🙂
Anna Wainright is a signature member of several pastel societies, including the Pastel Society of America (PSA), and reached Master Circle status in the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS). Early this year, she had a feature article in the Pastel Journal and her work has been included in their Pastel 100 competition in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016. Her work has been included in many juried exhibitions including part of the PSA’s Exhibition at the Butler Museum of Fine Art. Find out more on her website.
If you don’t know Anna’s work, have a look at this!
And now, I’ll hand the blog over to Anna Wainwright!
I always loved drawing and coloring when I was a child. I don’t ever remember being encouraged to do it, however. When I went to college, I thought I would take courses that interested me, and that’s how I became a Graphic Design major. But this by no means gave me any true sense of what an artist truly was. The courses essentially were geared toward how you can get a job. Of course, I didn’t. When my children finally reached ages of independence, I started dabbling in acrylics, watercolor, and some oil, with very little success. I remember someone in an art supply store asking, “Are you an artist?” and I pondered that and replied “I don’t think so, my family doesn’t even like what I do.”
In or around 2006, I saw pastel paintings for the first time that I remembered. The colors were so brilliant, and I asked the artist about the process. I was in Florida quite often then, and was fortunate to meet Brooke Allison. She is an incredibly talented master artist in pastels and oils, and she was willing to give me lessons. She was a patient and kind teacher, and she encouraged me to keep painting. She would always ask when I saw her, “Are you painting?” It was around that time that I found that I couldn’t stop painting. I was also lucky a second time, in meeting the late Marge Levine in New Jersey, another master pastelist, who helped me learn more and more about having a well-rounded experience as an artist through discussions, working indoors and outdoors, and having a more critical eye by studying the Masters, contemporary and historic.
They both taught me that the only way I would get any better was to paint as often as I could. I was still working full time then, and that meant that I had to paint well into the wee hours if I was going to have the amount of time I needed to get into the zone. This also meant that I didn’t have time to do any preparation for a painting. It was usually, find a photo of something I liked, then try to paint it.
I believe that pastels made a connection to my eye and hand that I didn’t have with the other mediums. I had more control, as in drawing, and I had all colors and values at my fingertips. I could grab any color in the spectrum without stopping what I was doing. It was the immediacy of the medium, and the flexibility of the process that encouraged me. I could change things if I wanted. I could make mistakes, and I could fix them, or I could make more mistakes.
It’s About Emotion
I have been told my paintings tend to be “moody”, and many are dark. Perhaps it’s because I am drawn to artists who can bring some mystery and tension to their paintings. Artists such as Whistler, who painted dark images which required me to study and experience them in order to appreciate them. Paintings like his Nocturnes and provocative portraits fascinated me. I am not really sure what draws me more often to a darker palette in a painting. Perhaps it’s the contrast and mystery that is created by the dark. I feel an emotion when I see Whistler’s paintings.
My deepest desire as an artist, is that someone experience some feeling or emotion when they see my paintings. Whistler, Sargent, Turner, Innes, and Corot, are continuous reminders of my goal as an artist. It’s not that I want to be “like” them, I don’t. It’s important to me that I be a distinct voice, and that I not merely replicate what I see.
The Evolution Of A Painting
At some point, I heard the term “painterly.” I wanted my pastels to be painterly. I wanted them to look like paintings. I also found out that my paintings would always take a direction I hadn’t anticipated, and I started to embrace that. I stopped being concerned about them looking like the thing I started out to paint.
Taking you through the process of one of my favorite paintings might give an idea of how I work. This painting “Last Light” happened this way.
At first it was a dark 18 x 24 in painting that I was somewhat happy with, but then decided I didn’t like it anymore. So it went back on the easel and I started making changes. Most of the changes I still didn’t like.
Then I thought, What if it was 12 x 24 inches.
I often put a frame around it to see how it’s working as a composition.
Then I work on it and maybe try a smaller size.
Then back to 12 x 24 in
Using Photo References
I see those first paintings, as my under-paintings. While building those colors and that place, I become personally involved in the painting. They are built within that paper. I think this represents much of what happens in my process. They just went somewhere else. By else I mean, my mind and my hand made marks and colors and they became a place. Probably somewhere from my memory, but they came out of themselves.
That’s not to say that all of my paintings are done this way, but many are. Some-times I am happily surprised that it went the way I planned, or at least hoped, early on. Most of my paintings are started from some photo reference. Some place or some captured light. Some may just look more like the original reference than others.
Having A Purpose And Moving Beyond Fear
I think as an artist, I always ask myself a few important questions. Why do I do this? Am I any good? What style am I? What is my goal? Am I relevant? Every December I set goals for the upcoming year. What do I want to accomplish? Which shows do I want to enter? How am I doing as an artist?
Then I start painting with a purpose. I need to get something done for this, or I need to get something done for that. This is a lot of pressure, but it is also a great motivator. Don’t get me wrong, at this point in my life, I am finally doing what I want to do. But, this is an anxious time too. I wonder, I question, I fret. There is a huge amount of self-doubt, and fear. What if I can’t keep painting decent paintings? What if no one buys my work? What if they don’t like my work anymore? What if, What if? Fear.
Usually, the first few months of the year, I am painting in fear. I am afraid that I am going to disappoint. Disappoint my galleries, disappoint my clients, and worst of all disappoint myself, and stop painting.
Then, I will have a day where I have reached a goal, finished something, and I can paint without fear. Wow, how nice that is. I allow myself to fail. I allow myself to try a new subject. I allow myself to try a new technique. I allow myself to paint something “not like my usual work.” (“Not like my usual work”, something I hear sometimes. And, I think, really? Isn’t everything I do, my work?) Can’t I do something different? And then it hits me. I am not working a job I hate anymore. I don’t have to please everyone else. I just need to please me. Because, while working in fear, I stop enjoying painting, and the work often reflects that. And, in the end, those pieces are not usually my strongest work. And in the end, when I paint without fear, I love my work.
Wow, thanks Anna!!! What an extraordinary journey through the evolution of “Last Light”
We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment and tell us what surprised you, what pleased you, what was a new to you.
Until next time,