Meet Anna Bryant, a local painter/Montessori teacher/mother/wife/friend of mine. Currently, her exhibit, “Daily Feast”, is running at New Dominion Bookstore. I advise you to stop by when you’re downtown, but try to go after a meal; aside from their visual appeal, her paintings might stir up the munchies. As the exhibit name implies, Anna’s pieces are 6″ x 6″ snapshots from the kitchen table, done in delightful colors applied with thick brush strokes. They’re part of an artistic exercise she embarked on recently–a commitment to to create one painting a day–and though my artistic genre is different from hers, I wanted to hear what she had to say about her endeavor.
1) Tell me a little bit about the project you undertook- how did the idea to paint one piece a day come to you? What was your objective with this exercise?
2) Did you give yourself any parameters, other than producing one piece each day? What challenges does that process present?
I committed to only working from life, and because I couldn’t really afford a prop budget, that meant I had to work with things that were already in my home. I find people have deep connections to the food they eat and there is an unending variety of beautiful colors and forms at the local supermarket. These elements of the family table have been the inspiration for my current show, “DAILY FEAST.”
Another self-imposed restriction was to only use colors on the outside of the color wheel, so no semi neutrals like burnt umber or yellow ochre that a lot of artists rely heavily on. I’ve found I can control the color harmonies much better if I do all the mixing myself. I have also done some experimenting with controlled color schemes, my favorite of which is split-complementary. Setting up a still life this way requires a commitment to finding props that fit within these boundaries.
3) What do you glean from this experience, both in terms of your craft and creating art in general?
I’ve learned that I’m a lot more like a sprinter than a long-distance runner. I love the intensity required to complete a painting in one sitting, and the challenge is what keeps me engaged. When I painted over weeks and even months, I used to get bored and waste a lot of time. I would lose interest before I finished. I also learned that you can’t fix a bad beginning. If the drawing is off, you’d better wipe it and begin again– you can’t improve it mid-way.
I think this creative approach, while it works well for small pieces, is relevant for large pieces as well. John Singer Sargent would practice sections of brushwork over and over before committing it to a larger canvas. Even after a day of working (from life!) if he didn’t have the sitter’s portrait just as he wanted, he’d wipe the canvas and begin again the next day. He was that committed to keeping the brushwork spontaneous, fresh and accurate.