Monday, March 11, 2019

Ten Year Glow Up

At the start of the year, you may have seen lots of "ten year challenge" posts all over social media, where people post photos of themselves from ten years ago alongside a photo of themselves now. I'm sure everyone has a different reason for playing along, whether it be to show how well they've aged, or how much weight they've lost, or how many kids they've had. Some celebrities went so far as to post a "20-year-challenge" instead, boasting at how little they've changed over the years (they failed to mention the thousands of dollars they've dropped on botox, plastic surgery, and other procedures we lowly non-celebs can't afford). 
Admittedly, the challenge had me looking back at lots of old photos for the first time in years, and I wasn't sure whether to feel nostalgic or mortified. I've never been one to dwell on the past; I'm always looking forward. And my first tendency is to pick apart all the things that could have used improvement--I wasn't eating healthy, I had no idea how to do my hair or makeup, I had zero muscle tone, I wasted a lot of time, etc.  I was constantly striving, especially when it came to my art (more on that in a bit), and I lived with a painful self awareness at all times (wait... I still have that). 

Here's the thing: time is not supposed to stand still. We are supposed to age. We are supposed to grow and change and gain wisdom from experience. 

Thinking about my art, I'm especially thankful for the lessons I've learned in the past ten years. Art parallels life in countless ways. It requires patience (sometimes doggedness), a willingness to learn and make mistakes, and most of all--passion. 

If you've followed my blog for a while you'll know that the Portrait Society of America has been a big part of my journey. In the last four years, I've slowly climbed up the international competition ladder first with two years of Certificates of Excellence (awarded to those who didn't quite make the cut into the top 25), followed by two years of successfully making it in as a finalist. This year, I entered knowing it wasn't my strongest work but still my best effort, given the circumstances (see the caption below, from my Instagram post, for a full recap). I just found out that I landed among the top 100 and I'm pretty darn proud of that.

In the past year, I’ve been pregnant, travelled, taught, had my baby and made the transition to becoming a mother of two. I’ve finished a number of major commissions, including a thoroughly researched and challenging portrait of Abraham Lincoln. I’ve continued with Crossfit. I’ve continued to volunteer at my church as a pianist. I’ve been the primary caretaker of my children, the one who cooks, cleans, grocery shops, does laundry, takes kids to doctor’s appointments, writes thank you notes, remembers birthdays, wipes noses, changes diapers, walks the dog. I’ve gone over eight months without a full night’s sleep. I have to live one day at a time or else I’ll become overwhelmed by it all.

And yet… I keep painting. I fit it in whenever and wherever I can. The art, and my faith in the One who gave it to me-- keep me from losing my identity in the trenches of motherhood and everyday life.

So, I am actually thrilled to be one of the “Select 50” (among the top 100) of this year’s Portrait Society International Competition, even though I’m not a finalist this time. They had almost 3000 entries. And with my aforementioned crazy past year, I didn’t expect to make the cut. I’m thankful for the art that keeps me going, the children who inspire my paintings(!), and for the competition that keeps me motivated. I paint for a lot of reasons and this is one of them. Thank you, @theportraitsociety!#portraitsocietyofamerica #select50 #annarosebain#artistmama #artandmotherhood"

My attitude in the past was always, "I know this is good, but I want more." When I was a certificate winner, I still wanted to be a finalist, and when I was a finalist I still wanted a higher award than what I got. It was never enough. This year, my attitude is entirely different and I hope it's a sign that I'm finally maturing and learning to embrace my word of the year: PATIENCE. (I'm sharing it with you so you can help me stay accountable!)

Perhaps this year is not going to be about winning awards, traveling the world, teaching lots of workshops, or even going on my beloved hiking excursions. I keep looking at the faces of my beautiful children and relishing those intimate moments that social media can't do justice (they're moments better kept to myself anyway). I want to remember everything, and I know that in the near or distant future, my experience now, away from the easel, will somehow translate into my art. I just don't know what that looks like yet and that's okay.

I was recently challenged by a great artist who suggested that if I wanted to be taken seriously by museums and the "high" art world, I would need to stop focusing on the sentimental in my work and start being more mysterious, or less obvious with my narratives. While I agreed with him to some extent, I also told him honestly, "Being in a museum has never been my goal. I've always treated my art like a diary, and I don't know how to make it any other way."     

What will my artistic diary look like over the next ten years? I'm excited to find out. We just bought a house (YAY!), and will be moving at the end of this month (so this post is a nice respite from packing). The new studio-- 2800 square feet of unfinished walkout basement - will offer much in terms of lighting and spacial potential, but most of all I look forward to seeing how its energy affects my work. When we first walked through the house I had the most amazing feeling about that space, and now it will be mine to grow in and learn from. 

I am thankful for all of the lessons I've learned in the past ten years, and for the woman I was then (imperfections and all!). I wouldn't be me without her.  So here's to ten more years of character development and the art that will inevitably accompany it!

Painting during our honeymoon in northern Wisconsin, July 2008

At an outdoor festival, September 2008 (we had just returned from our honeymoon and moved to Texas). I started picking up a commission or two here and there. I treated every project as an opportunity to get paid to learn, and boy! Did I have a lot to learn.

Fall 2018 (ten years later): in my rented home/studio (a converted sun room with southwest light... not ideal) in Westminster, CO. I outgrew this space pretty quickly but it was here that I painted both of my finalist paintings for the Portrait Society, and I am grateful for it!



  1. Well written. I really looking for these kinds of posts for a long time. Thank you for sharing with us.

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