Anne Chamberlain

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m a bit of a scattered worker when it comes to inspiration.  At the moment I have several pieces in the works for my November show ‘Heirloom,’ as well as a large piece I’ve just started for my own enjoyment.  I find great inspiration in the subconscious, so I’ve decided to put some of my more vivid dreams onto canvas.  I’ve decided to work exclusively from life this June and have already completed several smaller pieces just to keep limber and bright.  

What are the primary materials that you use?

Oil on a wooden panel or scrap is my favorite combination.  I love the heaviness of the piece when I’m finished and the stand-alone capability for thicker slabs.  The paint looks more sumptuous on a block than a canvas, and repurposing the wood factors into the philosophy behind my work.    

What’s your earliest memory of art?

Of personal art? I remember being told by a kindergarten teacher not to embellish my work on the edges - I was a doodler- telling me that such behavior would not prepare me for the reality of the school work to come.  Needless to say I doodled in textbooks and handouts for the duration of my education right on into adulthood.  
As for the greater world of art, I remember my father taking me to his then job at The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.  We went behind the scenes into the conservation studio and I found myself standing right in front of one of the Degas little dancer sculptures.  I remember these studious people in white coats and gloves treating her with delicate little brushes while taking copious notes.  I knew at that moment that I wanted to work closely with the museum collections of this world.  

What work of art do you most wish you’d made?

Any John Singer Sargent watercolor.  I can replicate a space on paper or canvas, but he had a way of making light and color surreally effortless.  His innate ability takes my breath away.

How do you know when a work is finished?

When I still like it.  I have a tendency to work in hyper detail, and I’m trying to break away from this.  The pieces I’ve loved the most are looser with true and vivid color.  I’ve put pieces away for years before attempting to touch them again because I’ve painted myself into a corner.  Detail is a tricky mistress. 

How has your time as an AIR been?  Was it how you expected?

Lovely so far.  I’m about a third of the way into my 3 year term, and what I’ve loved most about it is the collective atmosphere of such varying styles all in one place.  I’ve reached out for input on many pieces and received some much-needed criticism.  I’ve also found inspiration in others whose styles could not be further from my own.   The space and the light is inspiring every time I walk into my studio.  Before I moved into this space I had been painting out of my home, which isn’t conducive to an open and creative mind.  There’s also something inspiring about being around so many rooms filled with people creating, learning, singing, and dancing.  Though the hallways may be loud at times there’s something wonderful about knowing this artistic hub is thriving and inspiring people in this city.

When you work, do you love the process or the result?

The process.  I love taking out my paints and surveying the space, and seeing the work take shape.  I love that satisfying moment when the brush applies one stroke and the color is perfection.  I tend to feel excited but a bit sad when I finish a piece I adore.  Almost like finishing a good book.  You feel satisfied and inspired at the close, and yet there’s melancholy for having to set it aside and find the next great read.  

What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?

I always coat my boards and canvas in a red/orange layer.  Pieces without it lack warmth, and I find that I like a peek of brilliant color when I leave it untouched at the edges. I listen to nothing but soundtracks when I paint.  I prefer wordless music to talk radio in the studio.  News, books, a chat on NPR- all of these keep me rooted and I prefer to drift when I work.    

What is your ideal creative activity?

A run or hike somewhere beautiful in nature to find a good sketching spot.  I keep a trusy moleskine notebook in my purse for such times.  Nothing trumps sun and open air.  

Which artists do you most admire?

John Singer Sargent and John William Waterhouse are and have always been two of my favorite painters.  Both painted with such authority.  Sargent handled watercolors like no other artist before or since- I have always envied his ability to convey a space, especially those covered in dappled light.  There’s a looseness about his work that continues to inspire and frustrate me.  Waterhouse caters more to my 10 year old self who retreated into trees with a good book to dream of knights and dragons.  His work more controlled but lovely.  Alan Lee began inspiring me around the same time frame- there’s an eerie beauty to his work.  There’s something to be said for someone with his illustrative capability who still works on paper and not a computer. 

Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?

Too many to enumerate here, but oh lord yes.  I’ve somehow lucked into knowing and being related to some true gems.  A writer, who inspires me to keep my mind open to new materials and the lives around me.  A painter, who keeps a meticulous record of her life and travels in some unbelievably illustrated notebooks.  A gardening enthusiast who keeps my eyes open to the possible uses of forgotten things.  A traveler who keeps my spirit open to the vastness of the world I have yet to experience and be inspired by.  

What is your creative ambition?

I want to create work without pausing to contemplate a pieces usefulness or reception by others.  I crave a truly inspired method of creation that I can feel with every piece.  

What are the obstacles to this ambition?

My own tempestuous nature.   Keeping to a plan is a mechanism that allows me to create without becoming to frustrated with mediocre work.  I think most artists suffer with that internal knowledge that not everything we create is going to be a success, whether by outside standards or our own.  Letting go of that innate worry is I hope something that will grow with time.

How do you begin your day?

Coffee.  An open window.   If I’ve been reading a new book, a few chapters.  

Is a creative dialog important to you and if so how do you find it and with whom?

Absolutely.  We all need feedback and a sounding board.  I don’t consult any one person, but have found great input in the other AIR’s since moving into my space.  I have many friends abroad and it can be helpful to suss out ideas with those who have been trained using completely different methods.  I’ll never be so convinced of my own work that I can’t still grow and learn from those around me.    

 

For more information about Anne, visit her Artist-in-Residence profile

This is part of an ongoing monthly series featuring a Maryland Hall Artist-in-Residence (AIR). Check Maryland Hall's website every week for a new post. Each month we will feature a different AIR. Click here to visit the Maryland Hall AIR page.

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