So wrote the great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy. What a novelist does with "forms expressed in words," an artist does with lines and colors. They both transmit a feeling that they have experienced so that others may feel it too. Today I have the privilege to cross out of my own artistic medium of writing and interview Anna Tooze, an up-and-coming artist from my area. I love Anna's paintings and am excited to feature her on my blog.
1. When did you first realize that you were interested in “doing art”?
AT: I have been "Doing Art" ever since kindergarten coloring projects. It has always been something I have loved and had an interest in since I was about six years old. The first time I realized that I actually wanted to try learning art techniques from a teacher was when I was nine, and the first time I realized I wanted to teach and sell art was just last year (2011).
2. Did you take formal art lessons or are you self-taught? What would you consider the pros and cons to each of these methods of learning art?
AT: Both. I started taking private art lessons from a lady when I was nine, who held classes at my church with a group of about ten or so kids. She retired from teaching when I was sixteen, and soon after, I heard about a local art school and started taking more formal, classroom oriented lessons from there. During that whole period of time, I had also been doing pieces on my own at home and learning how to do different things by myself. More recently I have been searching other artists work and youtube videos to learn from as well (including Bob Ross!).
I would definitely say the pros of formal art lessons are you get to learn techniques from another artist in person and gain basic skills while interacting with other students who are learning as well. You get help and advice from other artists who are experienced in teaching and answering questions. The cons of formal art lessons would be, at times, you don't have as much freedom with pieces as you might on your own. The art school I go to is more of a classical art school. They have levels of classes and certain techniques they want you to learn; therefore, they want you to do art pieces that involved those techniques. You might, with formal art lessons, have homework and receive grades on your performance. Personally, I don't mind that! However, some might not like the fact of being "graded" on art pieces.
Now, the pros of being self-taught are the fact that you get as much freedom as you want (which is very nice at times!). You get to choose exactly what you want to learn and you get to paint exactly what you want to paint. Nobody is over your shoulder watching you, making suggestions or corrections, and all you do is in your own time. No deadlines. The cons are the fact that you wouldn't get formal teaching from an already experience artist and teacher. Sometimes, it can be really helpful to have other artists telling you what they think of your pieces and helping you master troubling spots. With being self-taught, you can still master hard things, but it may take longer and you don't necessarily have support and good critique from others that are learning as well.
AT: People! People, people, people, and I am still trying to master it! The hardest thing for most artists (I believe) is trying to capture the human face and figure as accurately as possible. It is truly an amazing thing when an artist can create a portrait of someone and make it look like you are really looking at them in person.
AT: I would have to say that watercolor is my favorite medium so far. I have still not yet worked with every medium there is, but so far that's the one I like best. I love the watery, smooth look and feel it gives and how it hardly has any odor! It is also the medium I have been working with the longest.
Favorite subject matter would currently be flowers, but I also love painting city and street scenes, as well as other nature subjects. It changes often, though! I like doing so many things.
AT: Yes, I do believe that quote is very true. Whether you are a photographer, sculptor or painter, each piece conveys some sort of message to the artist or onlooker. They may be different messages (good, bad, exciting or boring), but you feel at least something. I would like my art to first and foremost display the glory of God through His beautiful creation. What do photographers and painters mostly create images of? The world. Things in this beautiful world. Whether they are abstract or not, the idea came from somewhere. Even if the piece just looks like splotches of color, we can at least appreciate the fact that we can see color and that God provides that for us!
AT: Yes, I have! Illustrating a story is different because instead of telling a story or conveying a message through only ONE painting, you are trying to tell a story through multiple paintings. You are also trying to make sure the illustrations are clear. It would be strange to see a storybook with abstract paintings as the illustrations. You want to make sure the picture makes sense to the readers in relation to the story ESPECIALLY with children's books. It's definitely a challenge that takes a lot of planning, but well worth it in the end!
7. Do you have any future book illustration projects planned?
AT: Not currently, but I would not be opposed to the idea sometime in the future! If I can come up with a good enough story that I like, I would love to do another children's book.
AT: Yes! You can learn more about my art on my own artist's website and through my Etsy shop where I have art for sale. You can also check out my book Nightingale on Amazon!
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Anna! Best wishes on all your artistic endeavors!