It was June 2018 when I last posted an artist interview. It wasn’t for the lack of trying, they just never materialized. So, how appropriate to begin these interviews once again with Ann Kraft Walker for we haven’t seen or heard much from her for some time. She and her husband have been busy remodeling and enlarging a stone house they recently purchased. “It’s been a complicated and extended project that has been unbelievably time consuming as well as mentally overwhelming”, she says. So, to me, this interview seems to be a sort of “welcome back to the art community” Ann Kraft Walker.
I’m a definite fan of Annie’s work. There is a care, depth, and sensitivity in it that I really appreciate and love. I asked her to identify and explain the important components of her work that make it so, and also how they are manifested therein. Here’s her response:
“Technical proficiency is developed through time and layers upon layers of multifaceted lessons. It is a never ending pursuit of which I have barely scratched the surface. The intellectual component is evident in that painting is cerebral as well as intuitive (I feel my work leans heavier on the intuitive side). The emotional aspect is deeply personal to each artist. My work is a response to something that strikes a chord in my heart. Spiritual, well that’s my favorite part. I believe that our ability to create is a gift from our Creator. For me personally, the spiritual component is the deepest and most meaningful. Creating for me is an act of worship, using the gift God has given in an effort to honor Him.”
I’m very pleased Annie’s agreed to this interview and that I’m able to present it to you. You’ll appreciate this one. (Click images to enlarge)
What a privilege to be immersed in the never-ending pursuit of learning to paint. Any shred of talent I possess is a gift from God and a reflection of His grace.
Your paintings are wonderfully composed, drawn, and executed; please explain the training you received in order to produce this level of work. Sincere thanks! I have taken several workshops from various master artists. Any success in my work is a culmination of lessons gleaned from the workshops, from the act of painting, from attending Portrait Society conferences, and from observations at many museums. Many hours of trial and error, persevering through frustrations, disappointments and self doubt are good teachers too.
Do you think the classic style of painting you do reflects your personality. If so, in what way? Can style and personality be somewhat independent of one another? In the past I’ve tried to change my style. But try as I might, every single time it just comes out the same. It’s like one’s literal voice, the sound is unique to that person. I’m rarely satisfied with my work. However, I want to keep striving to paint in my voice, only better. And, yes, I do think that style and personality can be independent of one another. My paintings are tight, but I’m not.
I was born with the bent to be an artist. Everyone is born with a unique set of gifts or talents in their DNA. I am grateful to be born with the heart of an artist.
Why have you chosen still life as your favored subject; what do you hope to communicate through your work? I fell in love with Andrew Wyeth’s still life work when I was very young. Later in life at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg I was captivated by the Dutch still life paintings and decided then that one day I would try to paint a still life. In this noisy and demanding world I hope my paintings reflect a bit of quiet, simple beauty. I’d like them to offer the viewer a pause from the stresses of the uber-busy lives that most of us lead.
When selecting objects for a painting, do you have a concept in mind…something you want to communicate…or are you simply looking for pleasing relationships? Sometimes I imagine objects fitting together conceptually. Sometimes there’s a little bit of a story hinted at. Maybe it’s one object that I’m excited to feature and I build a composition around it (I just purchased an antique weathervane/lightning rod that I can’t wait to work with). Sometimes color relationships spark an idea. At times I think of a title first and then figure out a painting to go with it. Well, that’s backward…
Do you consider art and beauty synonymous? Personally, I like beautiful art. However, I realize that “pretty paintings” are often criticized as saccharine or shallow. Artists sometimes want to convey a message that may not be beautiful but has depth of meaning. So, I guess in a broad sense, art and beauty can go hand in hand or have nothing to do with each other.
Please explain your painting process. It begins with an idea. I mull over the concept in my mind and then “shop” in my house for props. I love setting up a still life. Then I struggle with lighting…a lot. It’s a challenge to have my canvas well lit without that light spilling onto the setup and compromising the shadows. (Before too long I’ll be moving into my new studio with north light windows. I’m curious to see if that difference will be evidenced in my work. I hope so). I usually do a sketch on paper (I use the comparative measurement method. I’ve never tried sight-sized) and then make a very loose oil transfer to my canvas or panel. I paint a washy block in, followed by two to three passes, a nervous breakdown, then finish with some tweaks and glazing.
Please put these words in order: color, drawing, framing, composition, values, technique, concept. Ummm, is this a test? I’ll probably get it wrong, but…I guess it all starts with an idea, so: concept, drawing, value, composition, color, technique (includes edges, which I’m not great at), and framing. If I had to choose just one to get right it’d be drawing. If that foundation is amiss, then no matter how beautiful the color or anything else is, the painting will probably not be very successful. I’ve created many unsuccessful paintings with every one of those elements awry.
Are your paintings always done from life? My still life work, yes, with only a few exceptions, such as photographing leaves while they are fresh because I have to leave town. I love to paint portraits from life and at times I’ve hired models to pose throughout the painting process, but usually I resort to photos to finish portraiture.
What colors are typically found on your palette? Lead White, yellow ochre pale, raw sienna, cad yellow lemon, cad yellow medium, cad orange, true vermillion, terra rosa, alizarin crimson, translucent red oxide, translucent brown oxide, raw umber, van dyke brown, sap green, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, ivory black, as well as lots of others to play around with.
Do you consider the process of painting more important than the result? They are so tightly intertwined, I’m not sure which weighs heavier in importance. If there were no such thing as deadlines and gallery obligations, then the process would get my vote as most important. It’s wonderful to be able to deliver a nice product to a gallery. But the best part, the very best, is being alone in the studio, painting from my heart and soul. The essence of that comes from the core of my being and is undefinable with my clumsy words. It’s like the expression “loving someone so much it hurts.” It’s a painful beauty. So yes, I vote for process.
I know a painting is done when I am at my wits’ end or I can’t for the life of me figure out a way to improve it. I often wish I could get paintings back and make them better. I’m rarely satisfied. I’m always hopeful that I’ll do better on the next one.
What do you do when you’re not motivated to paint? I probably should say I go to museums and pour through art books, but usually I just bake cookies or immerse myself in nature on our little hill. Sometimes I just need to walk away, clear my mind and do something not art related. Don’t get me wrong, I love museums and art books; they have inspired me countless times, but when my inner fire is dull and lifeless, I find a break from even thinking about art gives me space to recharge, to quiet my mind, refresh my soul.
What is the value of still life painting for the “beginner”? I think it’s a wonderful place to start. There’s always a subject within reach. To begin by painting fruit or flowers is a lot less daunting than starting with a portrait. But I’d recommend staying away from ellipses at first…they still give me fits.
If you could spend the day with any three artists, past or present, whom would they be and why? May I be a rebel and not answer this one? I have thought about it so much, I even dreamed about it. I just can’t narrow it down. What a privilege to have a plethora of artists and their work available to us with a click, how could I chose three? The act of painting is often a solitary process but when I come out of the cave to attend art events, the camaraderie is fabulous. Again, how could I choose three?
What advice do you have for those desiring to become professional artists? Be prepared to commit considerable time to hard work. Persevere when discouragement and frustration weigh heavier on the scales than elation and satisfaction. Take in as much art as possible through workshops, museums, conferences, etc. Paint from life…a lot. Resist the clamor of the world and be true to your own voice. Don’t judge your work by the frowns or approval of social media. Cultivate observation, the love of art, the awe of life. Treasure the excitement of a new idea, the possibilities for a blank canvas and have fun. Accept dissatisfaction and disappointment as blessings in disguise. They break open complacency and make room for growth. Those difficulties keep you on the path of learning, striving to improve. It’s a never ending endeavor.
You also paint a significant number of portraits; other than the obvious things, describe the difference between painting a still life and a portrait. Well, I don’t paint nearly as many portraits as I’d like. I’ve had a hard time fulfilling my still life commitments the last couple of years with traveling and house building. There’s a depth of soul that can be more present in portrait painting. There’s potential to bond with another human during the process. When painting loved ones who are more precious than words, I can’t help but think that the vastness of those emotions show up in the painting.
We haven’t seen you on social media in a while, but I understand that you and your husband are building a house in the Texas Hill Country; how has that affected your painting production? After spending more than two years looking for a retirement spot, we purchased a sweet little place on a hill three years ago. We make the three and a half hour drive to the property every other week. That has created quite a divided lifestyle that has severely cut into my easel time. We’ve gutted a stone house to remodel, added on to it and built a Sunday House. It’s been a complicated and extended project that has been unbelievably time consuming as well as mentally overwhelming.
If you haven’t been painting as much, does that affect you emotionally; will it be difficult to get going again? Not being able to paint much pulls at my heart. The longing is always present leaving me feeling a bit off kilter. Not only is my time divided, but my brain has been cluttered with bazillions of decisions that go into building a house. It’s an exciting privilege, an immense blessing, a lot of fun, a lot of stress. I don’t expect it to be difficult to dive back into painting. I’m chomping at the bit.
Tell us about your new studio. It’s about 670 square feet in the new addition that is connected to the older house. About one third of the space is designated for storage. The ceiling slopes up to 16 feet, with high north windows on the 30 ft wall. I’ll have black out shades on the west and and east windows which overlook the beautiful hill country and the river at the bottom of the hill.
Why is a nice studio space important to you; what changes have you made from your current studio? The main change is having a real studio. I’ve never had one, just a spare bedroom and a game room. It’s still in the construction stage, but when I walk in that room bathed in north light my heart beats fast. I’m looking forward to having adequate storage space so the bulk of clutter can be behind doors allowing my painting area to feel more peaceful. I’m so excited about my studio space I can hardly stand it.
What are your goals for 2019? I’m honored to be part of the Portrait Society of America’s Mentoring Program for 2019. I’ve been matched with an emerging artist who is interested in defining and pursuing goals as well as developing personal and professional skills as an artist. I’m sincerely humbled with this task and hope that I can offer encouragement and share any bits of knowledge and inspiration I have. So a top goal is to give this my best.
This year I am craving a simpler life. I want to paint less for deadlines and more for the love of painting. I want to paint more portraits. Lots of new people entered our lives in the past year, through the construction and getting to know neighboring ranchers. I’ve fallen in love with many of these new faces and am excited that some are willing to model. I also hope to paint landscapes on our property. I want to spend more time just “being” not always “doing.” Life is too short to race through with a to-do list dictating how I spend my days.
If you were stranded on an island, what three books would you want with you? The Bible, A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables.
Thank you Ann Kraft Walker for this interview. I know our readers will appreciate seeing your work again and learning more about you. To view more of her work:
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- I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest teaching video and book. The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, “Limited Palette Landscape”, include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE