The Mystery of Inspiration, Kathy Anderson
Where to begin - I guess by saying I'm not a writer, and this will be difficult for me, but I will try to speak from my heart and soul and try to convey what makes me passionate about being immersed in this life of being a painter.
To start at the end, I consider myself very fortunate to NEVER be at a loss as to what to paint at any time, only in having so many things I am excited about; there is never enough time. So why is this?
I went to college for advertising art and design, because art was the only thing I was good at when I left high school. I had no idea how to make a living in this field, and as it turned out, I was TERRIBLE at advertising, as I had absolutely no ideas for designing ads for products, got an F in airbrush as I kept drooling on my photo paper after airbrushing a stapler (younger people will have no idea what I’m talking about), got an A in lettering which I loved but – (hmmm , so what?) I managed to flunk out anyway.
So after college, after wandering around in the 60’s as anyone can imagine, I married my wonderful husband and had two sons. During this time I was always creating in some form – I spent weeks painting FLOWERS on a cardboard bureau for our first apt, and many other embarrassing projects, before I started actually painting real paintings! My first paintings were animals, birds, and flowers, working in watercolors at that time.
So here are some of the points in my progression that I remember. I took a watercolor class (painting from photos at that time) and remember HAVING to paint that one purple iris until it was so beautiful, before I could continue with the painting. My instructor criticized me for not working the whole painting from the beginning, but I couldn’t seem to work that way.
In another class, the instructor set up an arrangement of plastic (really plastic, this was a long time ago) lilacs with a coating of dust on them. I simply couldn’t paint them. He insisted that it was about the paint and what you saw and did with it that mattered, but for me, I couldn’t respond to the subject.
So what’s the point? It’s always been about the passion for the subject for me, and I don’t know where I learned this, but I really feel it’s so important to be SO excited to approach your canvas because you can’t WAIT to tell everyone how much you love what you’re about to paint!!
For me, it’s always been flowers, gardens and something nature oriented.I’d love to share a couple of examples of artist friends I know whom this so applies to- Carol Arnold, one of the Putney Painters I’ve painted with for many years. Her children - her love of her children - is in her paintings and it shines through every time. All her other work is wonderful, but when she paints her children, you are so aware of this.
Another artist friend, Johanne Mangi- I first saw her paintings and they were quite oka (do’t be mad at me Johanne, you’ve grown so much since I first met you!). As I left her house I saw a dog painting that took my breath away, and it was also one of hers. She is a passionate dog lover, has 6 dogs, and boy could you see that in her painting.
Another friend, landscape artist Pam Reese – she is very connected to the landscape and those of her paintings are the ones that shine through.
So ---- my Mom was a gardener, I am a gardener, and can’t help putting flowers in pretty much everything I paint. But my point is, I am incredibly drawn to what I love to paint and it’s why I think I’m excited all the time. Here’s another small example (I know I’m bouncing around, but remember I said I WASN’T a writer). Our son’s girlfriend wants to be an artist and is very serious, is working all her spare time- drawing, (by the way, MOST IMPORTANT). She was lucky enough to meet my dear friends Scott Burdick and Sue Lyon, who impressed on her the value of learning to draw, and that’s what she’s doing. So I gave her a drawing exercise, taking a teacup and drawing it at all different angles and perspective to train her eye. She HATED it, I could see it in her whole body, she had NO relationship to a stupid teacup!! She is an organic, nature loving person who will probably never own a tea set!! So we switched to leaves, branches, trees, flowers --- wow, I could see the change in her interest immediately. Am I putting down disciplined, grueling studying in ateliers, hundreds of hours of drawing a head for months? I guess for me, yes. (Then again my heads aren’t so good, hmm).
So back to my progression-my biggest change came from meeting Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Amazingly, Richard bought one of my watercolors at an outdoor show in Ct where he used to live, and returned to do a demo. This began a friendship, which has spanned 16 yrs with them and the Putney Painters. The first and most important thing I think I learned from these incredible mentors was it doesn’t matter what you choose to paint, it’s how you paint it. And how you paint it I think comes back to being emotionally connected to your subject.
Of course I have to add here, in the “everyone’s different” theory (I love this line about Richard and Nancy) – “Richard loves what he paints, and Nancy paints what she loves”! I guess I’ve always been stubborn about what I’m drawn to. I have many friends that I paint with who can go out into the landscape and quickly find something to paint, while I wander around and around for an hour until I find that moment when “THIS IS IT”, and I NEED to do it this way. Now everyone is different of course and I’m certainly not saying anything is right or wrong, just trying to explain how I’m thinking. But I really believe we all know this, we just don’t listen to that little voice that says “oh my God I can’t believe how much I love this ”instead of “Oh well, it’s okay, I guess I can make it work ”, or worse,“ well I don’t really respond to this, but other people paint it so it must be great ”.
So --- my philosophy --- NEVER be satisfied with where you are, ALWAYS work to the next level. I remember reading an article about my friend Everett Raymond Kinstler, where someone asked him what his favorite painting he did was and his answer was “the next one”. That is the most exciting thing about what we do as artists, the constant quest for more knowledge, for the next painting to be the best one.
So, follow your heart, and here’s one of my FAVORITE quotes from Martha Graham,dancer and choreographer. “No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”