Thursday, March 18, 2021

DPW Spotlight Interview: Anna Shikany

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Anna's painting "Pink Flower" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Anna's DPW Gallery Page:

Hello. I'm Anna. I live in Minnesota with my husband and two kids (and soon a chameleon I plan on naming Georgie). If it weren't for my kids, I'm not sure I would be a painter. One day I bought my daughter a set of watercolors and it was love at first brush stroke. In 2019 I started taking my learning seriously. I told myself I wouldn't pick up a paint brush again until I taught myself to draw. So for one year, all I did was draw. I also put myself through a DIY art school. I studied the greats, went to museums, and I even wrote my own art history reports. Lots of plagiarism but who cares when I'm the only one reading them. :) I opened my first set of oil paints in January 2020 and the rest is history.

What did you want to be growing up?

This is a tough one because I honesty can’t remember. I was so behind in grade school that I spent all my time trying to catch up let alone grow up. I do know that I deeply wanted to be the Olsen twins' long lost triplet, but that didn’t pan out. I also wanted to be a Spice Girl. If only there was an Arty Spice to look up to, maybe I would have found my artistic path sooner.

When did your artistic journey begin?

I believe that everyone is on an artistic journey. The real question is ‘when do we realize that we’re on an artistic journey?’ When do we find that special something that makes us feel a little more alive and life is a little more clear? That awareness came to me when I applied to Perpich Center for Arts Education. It’s an arts high school in Golden Valley, Minnesota for Juniors and Seniors. Basically Hogwarts, but for artists. We lived and breathed art. Every single teacher was an artistic mentor. It was an incredible experience and it taught me that art is in everything, even math.

Pink Flower
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Anna's interview.

Did you have any long periods without creative expression? How did you "get back on the horse"?

Sometimes fear can prevent us from starting something new or picking up where we left off. One trick I have for conquering that fear is creating something abstract. Paint for the sake of mixing colors and making brush strokes. Tell yourself that this isn’t for anyone else but you. Don’t post it, don’t sell it. Use it to break the fear and get back on that horse.

What mediums and genres do you gravitate to? Which ones don't appeal?

Oils have my heart. The texture, the vibrant color, the smell. When I first started painting four years ago, it was with a cheap watercolor set I bought for my four year-old-daughter. It was crappy paint, but it was love at first brush stroke. Eventually I ventured into acrylic territory and I fell deeper in love. Oils were next on my radar, but I was afraid of the toxic fumes and smells (chronic migraine sufferer here). I gave water-soluble oils a chance, but they didn’t feel right. I wanted the real thing. So, I did some research and found non-toxic alternatives for oil painting. By Christmas 2019 I had my first set of oils and the rest is history.

As far as genres go, they say artists often admire the opposite style of art that they create, and that’s true for me. When I’m at art museums, you’ll find me in the Expressionists section. When I’m at my easel, you’ll find me painting realism.

Paper Bag No. 6
(click to view)

What was the process like of pinpointing your personal style or finding your voice?

Up until recently, I was so jealous of artists that had perfected their personal style. That beautiful relationship they built with their art that allows people to recognize their works just by looking at it. Personal style isn’t something you can force out of yourself. There isn’t a book that you can buy that will teach you your personal style. I can remember feeling frustrated, like my artistic goals were out of my control. I knew I had it in me, but I didn’t know where to look. 

I believe that we all have a built-in unique artistic style that just needs to be nurtured. It takes a desire to unleash it and patience to build it. Like any relationship, it’s important not to rush it, to give your bad work a lot of slack and most importantly, paint true to yourself.  
One thing I did to help build my relationship with art was to create my own DIY art school. A little over a year ago I decided to start from scratch. I dedicated eight months to strictly drawing. I didn’t touch a paint brush until I could sketch a decent picture. I studied art history, wrote my own research papers and visited the art museum whenever I could. Not to brag, but I was a straight A student. :)

Name an artist, well-known or not, who you admire. Why?

My great grandmother, Mary James Stark. She was an amazing oil painter. I never got to meet her but she left behind a plethora of her paintings that hang in my home.

I love her work the same way I love Van Gogh and Cezanne. I wish there were history books written about her to study. I wish her inspirational quotes were written down. To me, she’s the most famous artist in my life. As a kid I would spend hours starring at her paintings. I would tell my friends that if they stand close it just looks like a blur, but if they take a few steps back it looks like a landscape. Little did I know, I was discovering impressionism.

(click to view)

If you could offer one piece of advice to your younger, creative self — what would that be?

I wouldn’t! I wouldn’t tell tiny Anna anything. We’ve all seen what happens in Back to the Future. Stay away from the past and instead share that advice with your current self. So, what would I tell my current self? Just keep painting. Just keep painting.

Do you utilize any habits or tricks for winning the distraction and procrastination battle? 

My painting practice is quite simple. I paint when I want to and I take breaks when I’m burnt out. Distraction and procrastination luckily haven’t found their way into my practice. However, I’m terrified that a day will come when I wake up and have no more interest in painting. What if I never want to paint again? Just the thought makes me anxious. I have to remind myself that that fear is coming from a place of love. So, I refocus my thoughts on my love for painting instead of my fear of losing it.

Five Paint Brushes
(click to view)

In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you push forward?

My self-doubt shows itself when I have low energy. It took me a while to realize this correlation, but if I physically don’t feel like doing something, I tell myself I can’t do it. The truth is that I can do it, just not right now. Timing is everything. I don’t force myself to push forward, I allow myself the time I need to build up energy and eventually the motivation always comes back. 

What are some of your long and short term goals for yourself or your art?

1. Get into the Minnesota Uptown Art Fair
2. Get into the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibit
3. Learn how to paint en plein air and paint in every Minnesota State Park
4. Come up with an amazing inspirational quote that everyone knows

Pink Passion Bouquet in a Ball Jar
(click to view)

What does success mean to you personally?

Let’s be real. That quick fix successful feeling you get when a painting sells is an amazing high. Sales and money equals happiness and happiness equals success right? But you can be an award-winning, wealthy, famous artist and still be very unhappy right? The key is finding and nurturing our inner peace.  If I can remain grounded when bad things happen and setbacks occur, then I feel victory is made.

What is one of your proudest moments in your creative life?

I used to look at paintings and say, “I wish I could do that.” Somehow, I had it in my head that if you weren’t born with talent, you were just out of luck. But the more I continued to learn, the more I practiced, the better I got. It’s always nice to be called talented, but the truth is that for so many of us, it’s not natural talent. It’s desire + dedication + determination. I’ve never been prouder of myself for making my own talent. Now I look at my own paintings and I say, “I did that!”

Thanks, Anna!

© 2021 Sophie Marine

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