Monday, December 13, 2010

Dare I ask it...What is GOOD art?

One of my good friends who happens to be an art teacher at a Christian school, recently gave a lecture to her colleagues about how to look at art and judge for yourself whether it is "good or bad" from a strictly Christian viewpoint. The lecture was given at the request of her colleagues, as many of them had little or no background in art, art history, or art criticism of any kind. The questions being raised were, "How does one define 'good art' or 'bad art?'" and, "How can I as a Christian protect myself from 'bad' art while uplifting and supporting that which is 'good'?"

Truthfully, many Christians either buy into the attitude that all art is subjective, and it's really up to the viewer to decide whether it's good or bad, OR they steer clear of art altogether, seeking shelter in self-imposed gated Christian communities of sorts, and leaving the subject of art to the world, which seems to have firm possession of the arts as a whole.

Now, I could get a lot of flack for this post, but I was very moved by my friend's exploration of this topic, and realized that without advertently saying the words, I too have been on a mission to discover ways for truth and beauty to be once again manifested in art, to be shared for the common good and benefit of all.

Even from a secular viewpoint, I'm not alone in this. A well-known group of painters in California, including Jeremy Lipking, Tony Pro, Ignat Ignatov, and Alexey Steele, have started a movement they call "Novorealism," a style of realism that is attempting to userp Modernism's power in the contemporary art world. Another of my favorite painters, Scott Burdick (who is an atheist),  recently gave a slideshow lecture for American Artist's "Weekend with the Masters", appealing for the return of beauty in the arts. You can view the video on his YouTube Channel by clicking below:

I'm not going to attempt to answer the above questions in a single blog post; instead, I will explore these questions, and more, over the next couple of months. In the mean time, I will say one thing: good art, from a Christian perspective, MUST do two things. It must (1) glorify God, and (2) manifest beauty. The interpretations of these conditions are vast and diverse. To be continued... 


Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Music and Color

Since the inception of "Twin Arts," I have realized what a powerful hold the theme of music and art, or art in music, have upon me, and how I wish to continue exploring them in my work. Actually, these themes were fascinating to me and vital to who I was, long before I became a professional painter.

I grew up playing piano, and often found musical instruments to be aesthetic wonders, not just for the sounds they produced, but for their graceful forms and shapes. To take it a step further, a human being playing an instrument is a joyous thing to watch, as though that instrument were an extension of the person's own self. Translating that connection to a painting is both a challenge and a joy.

Countless artists have been inspired by music in their work; countless musicians are often inspired by art. During my junior year of college, I wrote a paper about one such musician, Olivier Messiaen. I felt a connection to this great 20th-century composer because he was heavily influenced by color and nature in his work. You can read the paper here.

I often found that "coloring" directly onto my musical scores helped me understand the music on a much deeper level. Musical tones, like colors, can have their own "temperature", "value", or "hue." It's a little hard to explain, but perhaps if you look at these copies of my score, you'll see what I mean...

Here is a page from Debussy's prelude, "Bruyeres (Heather)." I indicated its overall feeling by using pastel colors in warm and cool.

Page from Anna's Debussy Preludes

Here is another page, this time from my old score of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G# minor - a much more intense piece. I only used two colors, but indicated how the piece "heats up" and "cools down" throughout in varying degrees.

Page from Anna's Rachmaninoff Preludes

I'm not sure my brain interprets musical chords in the form of color to the extent that Messiaen's did, but there is definitely a connection. I would love to hear from other artists out there whether or not they experience a similar sensory reaction to music. Comments are welcome!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Enter the Christmas Season

Painting most certainly isn't the only kind of art I appreciate...

I was flipping through one of my most beloved college textbooks last night, an anthology of English literature, and I happened to stumble across a favorite poem by the early 20th-century poet, T.S. Eliot. I couldn't help but think, "What a great way to welcome in the Christmas season!" I love his poetry because it's filled with flashing imagery and astounding truths. I find something new and profound to dwell upon every time I read it. The poem is thoughtful, and a little sad, but oh, so beautiful! Here it is, T.S. Eliot's, "Journey of the Magi."

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Being Grateful

Thanksgiving is tomorrow already! I'm ashamed at my lack of communication with the outside world these past several weeks. I've been so busy that the blog, social networking, and e-mails have gotten shoved to the wayside.  But, I am back, and just in time for the dawning of my favorite holiday! Why is Thanksgiving my favorite? Well, not because of the amazing food and relaxation (although those are certainly great things! A huge plateful of turkey always makes me crave a good nap...). I love Thanksgiving because it reminds me of all the blessings in my life - all the good things that make the bad seem small and incredibly insignificant. On Thanksgiving, I'm reminded that I am blessed beyond all measure to have a wonderful family, friends, and the ability to work with my own two hands doing the thing that I love.

And, perhaps the busyness and the hard work are paying off. I was recently named a finalist in Raymar Art's monthly online competition for "Twin Arts." (To see the other finalists, click here)

The same painting was also made a finalist in International Artist Magazine's "Portrait and Figure" competition, and is now featured in the December / January issue. It is wonderful to be recognized for my work, and I find myself encouraged and motivated to produce work that is equally or more exceptional than "Twin Arts." It is both an exciting and scary time for a young artist still trying to get her foot in the door!

There is so much more to mention (and SO much more to express gratitude for!), but I must save that for another time. Meanwhile, have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Clutter-Free Studio and Mind!

After a successful art show this past weekend, the question remained: "What to do with paintings that didn't sell?" Steve was gone on business on Monday and Tuesday, so I was able to spend two full days taking a break from painting, cooking, and the usual weekday activities and recuperate from the weekend. Actually, I needed to recuperate from the weekend AND the two months before it which were consumed with LONG hours in the studio preparing for the show! Instead of laying around for two days (tempting though it was...), I ended up being very productive - it really felt good to give my work space and home a "makeover."

They say that artists, by nature, are messy...but I have discovered that I always feel more at ease and able to sit down to paint when the space around me is clean and orderly. Too much clutter makes me feel distracted, uneasy, and unable to focus on my art. Now, my studio looks great - I have all my paintings hanging in new places around the house (although some will be delivered to the gallery soon), and I'm able to move on to new projects without feeling stressed. So this is my challenge to other artists: if you are creating beautiful works of art, why not apply the same care and attention to detail to other aspects of your life? You'll be a happier person for it, I promise... :-)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Autumn Joys

I've been consumed with painting projects lately (and consequently, everything else is kind of falling calls, emails, cleaning, etc., will all have to wait!). My attempts to finish nearly a dozen paintings in less than two weeks, so far, have been successful. I still have until Friday. All these paintings are in preparation for the only art festival I'm participating in this fall, Huffhines Art Trails. I'm giving you a sneak peak today...

I actually started "Autumn Joys" a year ago, when my parents drove down from Wisconsin to visit, some time around the end of October. My mother, who is known for sharing the bounties of her incredible vegetable garden every summer, of course brought a giant gift basket filled with goodies that she had preserved. She is most famous for her pickles, so she brought those, as well as some blackberry jam from berries picked fresh from the back woods, and homemade salsa, from tomatoes she had grown in her garden. I decided to commemorate her efforts in a painting, which includes the pickles and salsa, and even the basket that she brought them in. This painting, to me, represents so much of the joy in sharing God's blessings with others - something my mother excels in. :-)

"Autumn Joys" - 12" x 16" - oil on linen - Available

Soon I will be posting ALL my new paintings on my website. My website itself is in the process of getting a makeover, so keep checking back for updates!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Artist's Statement

I have been working for the past several months on re-writing my artist's statement to better explain my style and choice of subject matter. I think it still needs some tweaking, but here's what I have so far...

Art was once a bridge between the human and the divine. Those things which define a culture relate directly to the work of the artists living in it. When I see the art produced by our culture over the past century, I am both terrified by how close we have come to losing beauty altogether, and grateful to hear a resounding cry for its return. I believe we are in the midst of a rebirth of realism – and my response as an artist is joy and gratitude as I play my small part in this movement back towards what High Art once was.

My work covers a wide variety of subjects, but what remains consistent throughout is a deep love for beauty, especially as revealed by the human face. I am still young, and know little of human experience or tragedy… but when I paint, I feel my brightest hopes and deepest fears all at once. I feel connected to my subjects at a level that can only be obtained through the series of silent questions that take place during the creative process.

I believe that human beings are created in the image of God. When I remember this principle, I’m reminded that a portrait is not really about me, but about the subject and its inherent connection to God’s likeness. Thus, my goal for every portrait is to draw out that facet which most reflects the Divine. In some small way, each portrait then becomes a picture of Him.

My paintings are an expression of gratitude. They often depict men, women, or children in peaceful settings or places that evoke happiness. My art focuses on the enjoyment of life, and is permeated with a love for nature, music, and all things good. My style might be considered “classical realism,” which attempts to idealize the subject while preserving its true essence. I hope that whoever views my work finds their senses awakened as they respond to the use of color, light, and tangible subject matter. I am captivated by those things that go beyond the surface, and I hope to convey this deep and abiding interest to everyone who sees my work.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Upcoming Art Festival

Time really gets away from me when I'm busy painting! I'm not exactly sure where the month of September went...

It's been a while since I posted, so I thought I'd write about my latest projects (all dozen or so!). My goal is to have all of them completed in time for Huffhines Art Trails, an upcoming art festival in which I'll be participating. Look for my booth! Times, location, and other information can be found at their official website, .

I did finish my little portrait of Laura; it ended up becoming more of a finished painting than a sketch, but I am happy with the final result. She has a peace about her that is calm and almost whimsical. The word that came to my mind was "poise," so naturally, that became the title of this painting.

I've recently completed a couple of small landscapes for my art show (view them on my website). Additionally, I've been working on two wine-themed still lives, one featuring chocolate and an old vintage magazine ad, and another reminiscent of my memories of Tuscany. I have several new portraits, still lives, and a couple surprises to throw in. My booth will be filled almost entirely with new work!

In other news...I recently found out that my large-scale work, "Twin Arts," is a finalist in International Artist Magazine's "Portrait and Figures" competition, to be featured in their December / January issue! This is very exciting - I feel incredibly priviledged to be able to share the story of this painting with the rest of the world.

More updates on the way... :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Burton Silverman Retrospective

Last month on our way back from Wisconsin, Steve and I included Tulsa, Oklahoma, on our route south, so that I could see Burton Silverman's retrospective show at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art. I first heard about Burt Silverman when I was a freshman in college. At that time, I was searching for purpose and direction in my work, and I felt greatly inspired by Silverman's artist's statement, which describes his work as a love affair with "the landscape of the human face, where it seemed all the emotional states of life could be found." Silverman says he is "particuarly affected by the faces...of the ordinary and the unheralded, of those people who have been left out of the loop, who exist below the radar of celebrity." I absolutely love this statement, as it expresses a love for capturing something deeper that perhaps would have gone unnoticed forever had it not been for his depiction on canvas.

I'm sharing a few pictures here - they don't do the originals justice, of course, but I hope you enjoy them.

Look at those hands! Such perfection in the modeling of the lights; such simplicity in the shadows.

Every one of his pieces makes me wonder what the model is thinking.

More images in my facebook photo album.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Memories from Hillsdale College

It's that time of year again...when September arrives, I become aware once more that many students are going back to school, and I'm not. This will be the fourth year now that I've been out of college, and I always miss it right around this time. I even have dreams that I'm going back to school and starting up classes, rooming with new people and seeing both new and familiar faces around campus. If I'm anything like my mother, I will probably end up having dreams about college for the rest of my life. Of course, being the teacher's pet that she was...her dreams were usually nightmares involving getting a C in a math class, so hopefully mine will be better...

Nevertheless, I still miss my dear old Hillsdale College, and think with great fondness and pride of my four years there. I was self-taught until entering college, so I owe a great deal of my artistic nurturing to Hillsdale and the great teachers I had there. As an artist who is constantly moving forward and looking ahead towards the next project, I'm not the type to dwell on the past. However, I thought I'd share a few memories for old time's sake. These are mostly art-related, but trust me, there's a whole lot more I could share!

The art studio - I can still smell the oil paint, and hear my professor's classical music playing (his favorite was Copland's "Appalacian Spring").
This was the beginning of my first still life painting.

I really miss the music hall - I would practice anything besides what I was supposed to, because that was my time to unwind and decompress. If I was getting worn down by my other projects or assignments, I could always play a little Haydn or Joseph Martin to refresh my spirit.

Did you know that once upon a time, I could play Rachmaninoff, Debussy, or Beethoven really well? (Wow, this is an old picture)

...or that freshman year, my sister and I, along with the help of some friends, made a giant snow squirrel?

...or that I carved a killer pumpkin one year (yes, that's Escher!), but it got stolen?

...or that my favorite non-studio classes were music history and art history? Here's a colored pencil repoduction I did of Caravaggio's "The Taking of the Christ." (On a side note, there's a great book about this painting, called "The Lost Painting.") I absolutely loved doing art reproductions and writing papers on art or music. Good times...

Did you know that sophomore year, I assisted the Hillsdale art department in installing and hosting a high-profile exhibition called "America Seen?" Featured artists included Harvey Dinnerstein, Carl Samson, Scott Burdick, Burton Silverman, Richard Whitney, Allen Banks, Daniel Greene, and Henry Wingate. Below is the Burdick painting we were lucky to display (this painting sold at the show):

...or did you know that senior year, I dyed my hair red for an SAI concert?

It was still red at my senior art show, which, I'm proud to say, was the first solo studio art exhibit in the college's history! This picture shows me in front of my poster (which I designed), and the "parental advisory" warning parents that the show contains nudes. *Gasp!*

One major milestone for me in college was my first official unveiling of a commissioned portrait. Here's "Father Tom Butler," unveiled at the priest's 25th jubilee celebration.

I don't have a shot from graduation of me with the art faculty, but since I've left Hillsdale, the art department is stronger than ever, with students continuing to produce top-notch work, while the faculty continues to thrive and challenge not only the students, but themselves. Currently, my painting professor and chairman of the art department, Sam Knecht, is preparing to unveil a grand-scale oil painting of the signing of the Constitution at Hillsdale College's brand new Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies in Washington, D.C. He was also just featured in American Artist's Studios publication. You can watch a video about it here.

I'm so proud of my school's legacy and happy to have been a small part of it. But now that I've had my moment to my painting prof would say, ONWARD. :-)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Completed Works!

I wrote about the success of the Nicaragua Art Show in my August Newsletter, so if you would like to read it, click here.

In other news, I'm very happy to announce that my Sorolla-inspired family portrait is finished and on display in its rightful home. I drove to Houston yesterday to drop it off, and it was very well received by the family. There's no better feeling than knowing you've just created an heirloom that is going to be treasured for generations. David and Evelyn are wonderful people who decided to take action and have a portrait done while their son was still little. Here are the results (detail shots are on my website.):

Anna Rose with family portrait=

Evelyn and Franklin with their family portrait by Anna Rose Bain

I also created an 8x10 head study of their two-year-old son for them, complete with his bright smile and rosy cheeks:


More projects are in the works...keep checking back!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Accidental Note of Encouragement

This morning before starting work, I happened to be flipping through one of my "idea sketchbooks." I was looking for a free page to add a new sketch for one of my *brilliant* ideas...when at the very back of the book I happened to see a sentence written in my husband's handwriting. I had never noticed the little note before, nor could I remember a time where he saw my sketchbook (much less knew I had it!), but there it was. The note read, "It's a wonderful day to wake up in the morning and know your calling."

Thank you, my love! What encouraging thoughts for today (and for the rest of my life!). :-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Updates from my August trip to Wisconsin

There's always hope that I'll have a chance to see my family in the Midwest at least once or twice a year, but I had no idea I'd be making the drive twice in one summer! Steve and I had two-week long vacation up there, beginning the first weekend of August, to attend a wedding, visit family and friends, and spend some time at his family cabin (a place that is very dear to both of us, because that's where we got engaged). We drove because we wanted to take our puppy with us to experience some unleashed fun up north.

I don't have a lot of time to write (too much painting to do!), but I thought that I'd at least mention some of the highlights of our trip before my next post, which will no doubt be about the upcoming Nicaragua Art Show at my church.

Here are some pictures from our week at the cabin. We saw some amazing sunrises...

Sunrise over Pine Island

...Sunsets... (this sunset was so incredible, I look like a cutout! I was there - honest!)

Sunset at the cabin

...and even a bald eagle flying so close that you could hear his wings beating.

Eagle snatching a fish

I got some painting time in, while Bella kept me company.

Painting plein air 1

Painting plein air 2

And of course it wouldn't be a true cabin experience if we didn't go fishing.

I wasted a worm on this??

A peaceful canoe ride

Bella usually rode in the canoe with me, but occasionally she'd decide to jump ship for Steve.

Bella rides with Steve

Steve even modeled for me, sitting in the beautiful natural light that always comes in through the cabin windows. Hopefully I'll be able to finish this little head study some time next week...

Beginning of Steve head study, 8x10

After our time at the cabin, I had the opportunity to visit one of my closest friends from college, Laura Nehlsen. Laura was one of the best art models I ever drew or painted during my time at Hillsdale College. She was the *famous* model for my charcoal portrait that was featured for a long time on my website and business cards:

Laura - 5x7 - charcoal and chalk on toned paper - 2004

Now a proud mother of two, Laura is as beautiful as ever, and still a great model. We didn't have much time, but she sat for about 45 minutes for me, enough to start a portrait, which I will eventually finish from photos. She's one of those models who never has to try hard - she naturally exudes a subtle sensuality and grace. I only wish she lived closer so she could model for me all the time!

Here are the results of my hurried first efforts:

Beginning of Laura portrait, 8x10

...and here I am with the beautiful model.

Laura and Anna

I've come back feeling refreshed and excited about my many ongoing projects. I'll post more pictures soon!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Completed Twin Portrait

Okay, so by now I've had "Twin Arts" finished for a couple of weeks, yet failed to post it on my blog. Like most other painters, I tend to move ahead to the next project once I've finished a painting, no matter how invested I've been in it. My apologies! You can view detail shots on my official website.

Twin Arts - 48x40 - oil on linen


Drawing from the Past - Sorolla's Beach Paintings

One can't be a classical artist without looking frequently to the past for inspiration. We all have our favorites, and most any portrait artist will tell you they worship the likes of J.W. Waterhouse, William Bouguereau, Anders Zorn, and of course J.S. Sargent... if you want me to talk about my favorites and which ones have shaped my painting style, that's a subject for another post. But I do want to mention one particular artist whose work has helped me with some of the challenges in my current portrait commission.

Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) is perhaps best known for his renditions of fishermen, sailors, and bathers on the beaches of Valencia. His sunlit whites are usually drenched in color so bright and convincing that you squint as though you are right there on the beach. Sorolla's renditions of naked young children playing in the water look so slippery and wet you can almost feel the salt water on your skin, and you find yourself thinking about moments from your own childhood when you played so long at the beach that you had sand covering every inch of you. This is the convincing and powerful nature of Sorolla's work. I've been studying his beach paintings to help understand the qualities of light and water which I've just mentioned, for a family portrait I've been working on. First, here are a few samples of Sorolla's work:

Finally, here are a couple detail shots of what I'm working on, a portrait of a family of three. They wanted a bright, happy portrait on the beach - it was their 2-year-old son's first time seeing the ocean. You can see I wasn't quite as bold in my highlights as Sorolla, but the family wasn't immersed in the water, either. :-) Still, I had a wonderful time capturing all the color in the lights of their clothing and the glow of their skin.

I will post a picture of the finished painting once it's been delivered to the client.

Family Beach Portrait Detail

Family Beach Portrait Detail 2


Monday, July 26, 2010

Paintings for Nicaragua

I'm very, very excited to announce that my church, Woodcreek Church, is putting together its very first art show, coming up on August 29. The show is going to feature the amazing photography of Clint Brewer, who spent two weeks this summer in Nicaragua, documenting the everyday lives of people living in Managua as well as the missionary work that is going on there and being supported by our church. Clint has asked me to create a couple of paintings for this art show, and I'm greatly honored to be a part of this. You can read more about our church's involvement in Nicaragua here:

In the mean time, I have some painting to do! I'll keep you posted... :-)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Domestic Goddess?

I was sick with a nasty cold over the weekend, which made it difficult for me to work on painting; however, I find that "busy work" helps distract me from how crappy I'm feeling, so I decided to be a good steward of our small rented space and take up...(drum roll, please)...canning!

We may have the dinkiest back yard in the whole neighborhood, but in that yard are two trees: a fig tree and a peach tree. This year they were both in their prime, their fruit-laden branches drooping from the weight. I can barely keep up with harvesting them, although thankfully, some neighbors are relieving my burden somewhat by coming over and helping themselves to some of the fruit per my request.

So, assuming I did everything right, I now have a humble collection of pints and half-pints of: canned peaches, peach jam, fig preserves, strawberry-peach jam, and strawberry jam just for kicks. :-)

Yummy canned delights


Friday, July 9, 2010

Dog vs. Oil Paint!

I've already posted these pictures on facebook, but for those of you who read my blog, I just had to share!

My dog of almost two weeks had her first major run-in with oil paint yesterday morning.

My sister came over to paint with me, and had her box of oil paints sitting on the floor. We try to keep Bella supervised in the studio, but for one reason or another, she was able to steal a tube of paint from Emily's box while nobody was looking. The next thing we knew, Emily and I were both screaming, "Bella! What is on your mouth?!" We realized that besides having a giant green mustache, the dog had giant globs of paint all over her neck, her two front legs, and paws. She had also destroyed the oriental rug in my studio with what we discovered to be a tube of Thalo Green, arguably the oil color with THE MOST intense tinting strength - a color which, when I use it (and that's rarely), I only dab a tiny dot onto my palette because it can spread among your other colors like a disease.

Yep, Bella chose to rip open a tube of Thalo Green all over our floor, and though I was thankful we don't have carpeting, and the paint wiped off the wood floors just fine, she still destroyed my rug, and when I gave her a bath, I realized that bright green paint was on her for good.

Thankfully, Thalo Green is non-toxic. Bella will have green droppings for a while, and a heck of dye-job, but other than that, she's fine, and Emily and I have one fantastic memory to laugh about!

Bella, you've been initiated now: you're officially the dog of an artist!

Bella covered in Thalo Green

This picture makes me laugh every time I look at it...

Bella covered in Thalo Green 2

Bella covered in Thalo Green 3

Here's what she looked like today, after yesterday's bath and some time to dry off, shed a little, and go for several walks outside...much improved, but I think I'm going to have a green dog for quite a while.

Bella covered in Thalo Green 4

Various nicknames now include, "Witch of the West," "Elpheba," and "Shrek," although personally, I think she looks like a poorly dipped Easter egg, but I'll let you judge for yourself. :-)

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