Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crayons and the National Gallery: An Interview with Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Next spring, I'm going to say goodbye to my favorite nurseries and hello to Annie O'Brien Gonzales's beautiful flowers.  My garden will be the envy of the neighborhood, populated with Annie's floral images.

Let's chat.

Might as Well be Spring
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

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Q1.  What is your earliest memory of art?

A1.  My earliest memory of coloring is that I never had enough crayons and would try to mix them to get the color I needed. [Editor's Note: As opposed to chewing on Burnt Sienna because it was so pretty.] I really never saw any actual art until I went to the National Gallery in Washington DC. It was thrilling.

Hothouse #1
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q2.  What is the first work of art you created?

A2. I remember completing drawings for a contest which was in the back of a comic book for an art school that I think was called "The Famous Artists School" -- it said "if you can draw this, you could be a famous artist." I'm pretty sure they were trying to get you to enroll in their correspondence courses.

Deux Poire
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q3.  Was there a point in your life when you decided to try art, or were you always an artist?

A3. I was always drawing as a kid, I illustrated my biology reports extensively [Editor's Note: Ooooh, one of those kids.] and at one point I wanted to be a medical illustrator. Because I grew up during the "Space Race" with the Soviets, I was guided towards nursing school in college instead of an art major. I was literally asked by my high school guidance counselor if I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. I ended up going back to art school after several years as a nurse practitioner.

Valdez Valley - Blue & Green
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q4.  Are there specific triggers that cause you to race to a blank canvas/paper or do you impose a certain discipline on yourself?

A4. I collect ideas in my Inspiration Sketchbook -- swatches of color, visuals from magazines or just notes on names for paintings. I've learned to write it all down and make notes or I will forget all those great ideas. I enjoy painting so much that I go to my studio every week day if I am in town. I have never run out of ideas for paintings, my real challenge is to rein in the ideas to focus on a concept or series. I generally keep to a "work day" schedule: 9-5 in the studio. I spent so many years working that my body says "I'm done" at 5pm. I take the weekends off to spend time with my husband and superdog Rico.

Christmas Cactus
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q5.  When you are working on a piece, is there a point at which you realize you have a masterpiece taking shape on the canvas/paper?

A5. Hmm, I don't think that's ever happened. Paintings do take on a life of their own, though. Some end up being more pleasing to me than others. After 8 years of full-time painting (and hundreds of paintings) I am just now to the point where I can see what's wrong or what's needed. I usually let a painting "rest" overnight and come back to it to see what it needs.

Moonglow
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q6.  When did you realize you are the world’s best painter of flowers? 

A6. Say what? I don't think so! [Editor's Note: Exactly what the world's best painter of flowers would say.]

For Sentimental Reasons
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q7.  Are there any artists you find particularly inspiring?

A7. OK, my absolute inspirational painters that just make me swoon include: Vincent Van Gogh--(oh, the brushstrokes!), Henri Matisse--(his joyous color and loose brushstrokes), David Hockney--(his use of color & daring to just not give a darn and do everything artistic that he wants without being put in a box), Mary Fedden--(she makes common objects intriguing), Georgia O'Keeffe--(her unusual compositions and boldness to break every barrier for women artists).

Stargazers
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q8.  Are there any non-artists you find particularly inspiring?

A8. Margaret Sanger has always inspired me. She was a nurse who advocated for women's rights in the early 1900's.

Tropicale
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q9.  Please answer a question I didn’t ask.

A9.  People sometimes ask me how they can improve as a painter. When I first came back to painting full-time someone told me to paint 100 paintings before I evaluated them too closely. I believe improvement is totally based on "hours at the easel," there are no shortcuts. Just paint and paint and paint and you will improve.

Bowl-o-Matic
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Q10. Where can we see (and purchase) your work?

A10. Currently, my work is represented by the following galleries/dealers:
Santa Fe, NM - The Matthews Gallery
Charleston, SC - Atelier Gallery
Oklahoma City, OK- Kristine Bates Design

And there are a couple of more in the works--just check my Web site for more information. I teach classes, too, and have a book coming out with Northlight Books tentatively called "Bold, Expressive Painting" in the Spring of 2015.

Someone Like You
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales

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Thanks for stopping by, Annie.  There’s always a beagle to pet and a cup of hot tea at the ready in Lakewood.  Don’t be a stranger.



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