You all know Anna Karin from my posts about putting together our new gallery, The Anna Karin Gallery, here in Truchas, NM. Anna is, of course, my partner in that venture. While I’ve written a post about her before (The Old Adobe Church, the Wolf and Survival), I’ve never written specifically about her work—an oversight I intend to correct now.
Anna paints in a classical Renaissance style, meaning she uses translucent oils and creates her works by painting many layers on top of the other. This gives her paintings incredible depth and a sense of life and light when you are in their presence.
I asked Anna how she started in art and she says it was pretty much always with her. She recalls the time when she was going to start first grade, but the school felt she was much too active. Anna puts it this way, “I was just too wild so they said I should wait another year before starting.” She was invited to do the entry tests anyway, and when it came to the art section of the test, while other kids were drawing stick figures, Anna painted gnomes with hats on, flying down the mountain on sleds. So on the basis of that, she was allowed to start first grade. And art has been working for her ever since.
Anna’s parents owned a grocery store and her dad did his own signs, so there were markers and paper and other art supplies available to her. Plus her dad was very supportive. He was into art and he wanted Anna to be an artist. So she was always drawing, there in the store, when she was growing up.
In the sixth grade, in Sweden where Anna lived, children are allowed to choose what to focus on for the rest of their schooling and Anna, naturally, chose art. That led to her goal to, ultimately, study at the Institute. The Institute is run by the country and would be equivalent to, say, The Chicago Art Institute or The San Francisco Art Institute. Competition is fierce and it’s not easy to get in. Only 10% of applicants do, so Anna had to study for years to prepare to even apply.
One of the schools she attended was in a castle. There she did all kinds of things: lots of printing, etching, things like that, jewelry making. Then she ended up going to another school on the island where she was born. There she took woodworking and ceramic, among other studies. Finally she applied to the Institute and was accepted.
At first she studied to be an art teacher but found the system she’d be put into in the schools didn’t support learning on the level she wanted to instill. So then she concentrated, over the next 5 years, mainly on painting. She tried a little glass and she still did a lot of printing.
Anna has always been drawn to the figure. At the Institute, there would be two models every morning in the main room of the school. They would be there all day and into the evening, so Anna ended up getting “stuck” there most days. She’d set up to work from the models and would never venture into any other classes.
Then there was a guy, a poet, actually, who taught these two week classes which were called The Model In the Room. He had models move to music and climb up on huge scaffoldings. They would ride on a carousel, that kind of thing. So they weren’t stationery poses and Anna found this intriguing. Each of his classes was a two week commitment and Anna took a lot of his courses. So she ended up doing the figure extensively. It was a classical education where the figure was everything.
Anna also studied at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma for two years when she first came to the states. There she worked with watercolor, primarily, with a man who did cards for Hallmark, so he was very good.
Her paintings of clothing came about because Anna likes to paint from life. But models aren’t always available to us and she’s not drawn to pots and pans. She likes old clothes. They have a history to them, so it was natural that she looked to them as subject matter for her still life work. One guest to the gallery observed that Anna paints people without clothes and clothes without people. Clever. I think there’s something to that.
She also draws a lot because she feels it’s necessary to keep up her skills. Recently she was part of a life drawing group in Penasco with Alberto Castagna, which she found enormously fun. “To draw from the model once a week is very good practice,” she says. The group starts up again in the fall and Anna will be there.
She has also painted a series of circus-themed works, still lifes of fruits and gords, as well as paintings of figures in context that tell a story. And then there are her “floating lady” paintings which represent her childhood dreams of flying. She paints them because those dreams always felt so good. She’s just started a large one of those but beyond that she says, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next.”
And that’s really the thing about being an artist—what will be the next inspiration? I think it’s important for all of us to live full lives, but for an artist it is our life’s blood. We paint what we live so, in order to make interesting pieces, we must live interesting lives.
You can see more of Anna’s work at: http://annakaringallery.com.
Some photos in today’s post were shot by Kevin Hulett.
Love to you all,
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