It is with pleasure I bring you this short interview with Ann Hardy, a lady of grace, beauty, and talent. At 80 years of age, her bright eyes, smile and demeanor testify to a sincere joy and enthusiasm for life, for new challenges..and for all things beautiful. Having recentlywon the top painting award at the American Women Artists National Show, she was cheered by many and is certainly an inspiration to many more.
Often, she will conclude written correspondence with the moniker, “Annabanana”. I wonder whether she adopted that name from Canadian artist, Anna Banana, who changed her name to “Banana” after being required to fall backwards into a box of bananas during a drama class performance exercise. Somehow, I can see Ann Hardy willingly doing that same exercise. It does not seem too dissimilar to her adventurous spirit, after all, she has a treehouse for her studio. Yes, a treehouse. It’s 12 x 12 feet with a small porch attached; completely enclosed with eight windows, a door that can be locked, and a beautiful roof of Williamsburg tile that is also used on her house and gallery/office. Her only air conditioning is an overhead fan and a small heater. “There’s good lighting. I tell people that you must have good upper body strength to pull yourself up, hand over hand, and you get down by jumping to a fireman’s poll and sliding down. The truth is, there are steps leading up to the house. I do not have water to the tree house, but do have electricity and phone…which is rarely answered when up there. And, it is my favorite place in the entire world, overlooking a beautiful body of water and 65 gorgeous large native Oaks, housing a nest of Yellow Tailed Hawks.”
So, from high atop a 90-foot native Oak, I give you Annabanana. Well, OK, maybe it isn’t really 90-feet.
When did you first proclaim you were a professional artist? How did that come about? My initial reason for doing “Starving Artist” shows and festivals was for one purpose: to purchase and own an Arabian horse, and some acres to house that animal. I started painting and making money almost from the beginning. I was doing decorative and gimmicky works, and many have come back to haunt me. Almost every week I receive something in email form wanting to know history of a painting, the title, the value. A few I actually like. Some I don’t recognize, except the signature. And, then I quit painting for many years as I was raising children and dealing with a severely brain damaged child. When I finally made the decision to paint for my livelihood, some 19 years ago, I built my house, gallery/office, and treehouse studio. That treehouse is my favorite spot in the entire world. I can completely lose myself as I work away looking out on the creek, pond, and beautiful trees. There is a Yellow-tailed Hawk’s nest that I can look into. The hawks return year after year to the same nest. A den of foxes are relatively close and they visit almost every night, as I am guilty of putting food out for them. Raccoons, possums, skunks, and a bobcat are all visitors on a nightly basis.
Your style is confident and full of emotion. How does that happen… and does it reflect your personality? Because I was painting 20 paintings in four days between week ends, slapping them in frames while still wet, and letting the frames act as “wet painting carriers”. I was painting fast and intuitively. If that represents confidence and full of emotion, good! This definitely was an appropriate style of painting for my spontaneous personality. I am a risk taker. And, whether I want to admit it or not, the level of patience plays a part.
Do you have a concept in mind before you start to paint or does it evolve as you paint? Yes, dear sir, I do have a concept in mind when I start the painting. I even go so far as to write it down on the back of the support, or at least state it out loud. Often I find that the process is altered to something entirely different from the place I started (concept), becoming an “evolving painting” as I make corrections or go in new directions.
Do you consider the process of painting more important than the result? I’ve always tried to make myself believe that the journey is more important than the destination: process more important than end product. However, it is interesting how elated I can be at the end of a painting day when I feel my product is good.
Do you primarily work from life? What part does photography play in your work? In my still life and portraits paintings, I ALWAYS work from life. Nothing compares with what you can see when viewing life up close. Photos are used with children, animals and the occasional landscapes that is not plein aire. Photos will lie to you about darkness of shadows and perspective.
Describe your typical painting procedure and palette? I start in several different ways. Squint. Sometimes I do one large dark shape of transparent colors, usually transparent Red Oxide and Veridian or Ultra Marine Blue, and wipe out the lighter parts, working for 3 to 5 large values. Sometimes I take a rag and do the above. Occasionally, I’ll put some marks on the paper to define shapes. I see in shapes. Rarely do I draw it out, or I have too much time invested in it to make big changes, like moving a figure or completely changing a composition. By starting in a very large manner it is much easier to make adjustments and corrections. I usually start with the easiest color or value that I’m sure to get right. I work the average colors and model the forms using the brush in different ways-push and pull. Finish is achieved by softening the edges, defining the drawing, and pulling up detail with brush and knife, preferring to leave some detail out. I’m always working for variety of shapes, values, color temperatures, edges, line.
Colors on my palette are: Ultra Marine Blue, thalo blue, veridian, cedar, alizarin crimson, cadmium red, cadmium red light, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium yellow light, Naples yellow, transparent oxide red, yellow ocher, and titanium white or Permalba white.
How would you define “success” as an artist? I would say that success is determined by being and doing the following: The vocation of being an artist means you are in business for yourself. You have got to be an ENTREPRENEUR as much as an artist. I know, I know, you don’t like hearing this! That means you focus on both the business side and the creative side. Confidence definitely plays a part. Set goals, yearly, 5 years, career. Work at meeting those goals. Document your work and career with photos of all work and have clean copies of all articles written about you. Find role models and mentors. Network. Make efforts to be a part of exhibitions, join art organizations, consider advertising locally or nationally by yourself or with gallery. Art is personal and rejection can sting, so you must have good emotional intelligence. Get up, show up and produce even when you don’t feel like it.
Where does creativity come from and how is it nurtured? I truly believe creativity, the ability to generate new ideas, is not an either/or state of being, but a personal characteristic on a scale. We can move up the scale by nurturing our creativity and training our minds to be more creative. Develop diverse skill sets, as these people have unique perspectives. Write down what wakes you up in the middle of the night (paper and pen by bed). Make new acquaintances, journal and read. Learn something new. You know that you are experimenting and trying something new when you fail. So it’s OK to fail. Continue to show up and do your job. Keep working even when you feel you will never find a solution. And, of course, develop your skills to a high level. Feed your skills with museum visits, gallery openings, workshops, books, videos. We are more creative when we associate with attributes of joy, love and curiosity.
Thanks, Annabanana, for the joy and inspiration you bring to others. May you enjoy many more great years of painting from that lofty perch, high up there in the trees where your dreams are conceived and finally realized…away from the din below.
To view more of Ann Hardy’s work:
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his work and bio, please click HERE