3DValley Featured 2D Artist for August 2008 – Anna Greaves. Anna is an artist from the UK but currently lives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Besides a very talented painter she is also a toymaker, card maker, improviser, musician, cook, & housewife She loves all things creative. She uses canvas and oils for her paintings. Felt, ribbon and beads for her toys. The only software she use is Adobe Photoshop and that is only for editing the levels on the photographs of her finished work. Please read our interview with Anna below to get to know her and her work a bit better.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who you are and what you do in your daily life?
Anna: My name is Anna Greaves, I am a painter, toymaker, card maker, improviser, musician, cook, housewife, and I love all things creative. My daily life is a combination of running a business, time spent creating, and enjoying married life.
Christa: Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
Anna: I have been an artist from the moment I got hold of building blocks! I have always loved and enjoyed art over everything else. When it came time to discuss career choices with my family I know I made mention of going on to study art at university. However, my father knew how difficult being a full time artist is – as my grandfather had been a painter too. So my dad encouraged me to head in a more conventional direction with my education. I went to university to study psychology, but I am dyslexic and although I tried very hard in my studies I was simply unable to keep up with the workload. After 3 months in my attempt as a conventional degree I did a lot of soul searching and decided that being an artist really was the only thing I enjoyed enough or was good enough at to pursue as a career – my parents where very supportive when they saw how determined I was.
Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
Anna: I studied my first 3 years of Fine Art at the University of Plymouth in Devon, England. In the summer before my final year my husband was offered a very good job in Holland so we moved here and I studied my last year at the Willem De Koning Academie in Rotterdam. I wish I could say my university experience was good, but to tell the truth “traditional” painters were looked down upon as outdated and old fashioned in the educational systems I encountered. I found I spent a lot of time arguing with my teachers about concept and skill. I learned most of my oils technique by myself. There was no preparation for running a business or any of the other things you need to be a successful artist, I learned none of that in any of my classes or interactions with my tutors. I am learning all of that as I go along. It is something that is seriously lacking in the art education system. Sometimes I think I would have been better off taking a business studies course than a fine art degree. I made a lot of good friends at university and I enjoyed working alongside the other students that where in the studios on a regular basis, that part of the experience was positive for me.
Christa: Which software packages and/or traditional materials do you use for your artwork?
Anna: Oils and canvas for my paintings, felt, ribbon and beads for my toys. The only software I use is Adobe Photoshop and that is for editing the levels on the photographs of my finished work so they look the best they can.
The Big day I
Oil on canvas 2007
Self Portrait with Candle IV
Oil on Canvas 100x70cm 2004
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Anna: Like most artists I am sure, I start with an idea, I write it down and then try not to think too much about it for at least a week. When I come back to it I often find my mind has come up with a few new ideas to go along with it. From there I normally have an image in mind and so then time is spent working through photos and lighting. I almost always work from photographs. The process of painting them is done with the traditional oils method of lean to fat, layers upon layers of oils. I keep working until the morning when I come into my studio and can see that the painting is complete.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so why?
Anna: My favorite collections are the self portraits with blue and red light and self portrait with candle IV and V. I created these after my tutors at university told me they thought I should stay an extra year before completing my degree. I was so angry. I had come from a university in the UK that gave me good grades even if I did argue with the teachers a lot, to an academy in Holland that didn’t even think I should even be entered into the final exam that year. I fought back. Those 5 paintings where produced in the space of 6 weeks and I admit I that I barely had time eat and sleep during that time – when the paintings were completed my tutors ate their words and allowed me to complete my degree in the year I wanted to. Not only did my anger produce some of my best work, but I love those paintings because they remind me never to give up even when a fight seems lost.
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work?
Anna: I adore the work of the Dutch masters, Rembrandt and Vermeer in particular. I am lucky enough to live in a city that has large collections of their work that I might stand in front of for many hours at a time – drinking in every detail.
Self Portrait with Red Light
Oil on Canvas 100x70cm 2004
Self Portrait with Blue Light I
Oil on Canvas 100x70cm 2004
Christa: Is there a painting you wish you created?
Anna: There are a few I wish I hadn’t created! But I have learned from those disasters so perhaps they were worth doing after all. I write all my ideas down so that on the days when I have no inspiration I can go back to my list and make something from there.
Christa: What is your favorite place and time to create art?
Anna: I have a cozy studio at the top of my house where I enjoy painting in the early morning. I find it much easier to paint while others are still sleeping, and there is something very fresh about working in the beginning of a new day.
Christa: What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?
Anna: Creating is like an instinct to me, something I am drawn do in any form that grabs my imagination. Often it feels like something I was born to do. I rarely experience times when I cannot create. I do find certain mediums harder to motivate myself to do at times, but when this happens I move on to something else and sooner or later I want to go back to that unfinished painting or that half completed knitted hat. In the past the hardest times for me have been when had to complete commissioned paintings for people, often portraits of people I hardly knew or have never met. Working to a deadline in those circumstances were the worst times for me as an artist. This is the reason I am very selective about the commissioned pieces I take on now. I only work on pieces that grab my imagination or my heart in some way. It was a hard decision to make, to give up commissioned portraiture – the area where I made most money – but it was the right thing to do for the sake of my creative sanity.
Oil on canvas 2007
Self Portrait with Apple II
Oil on canvas 2007
Christa: Which areas of creating art do you enjoy the most?
Anna: I love the variety in what I do and the freedom to express myself. I enjoy hearing viewers’ interpretations of my work, their personal stories and how my paintings reveal facets about the people that look at them. Like most artists I am also a selfish creature, I enjoy hearing the positive comments people make when seeing my work. The artist’s life can be one of such plenty and abundance of ideas and creativity, I am glad I am experiencing and appreciating that.
Christa: Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
Anna: Right now I am working on a large collection of new portraits, some of them self portraits. The focus of the collection is extreme emotion and self image distortion. The work is heading in a new direction for me as I am branching away, in part from the clear reality of my earlier works, whilst still retaining a lot of the realism and detail that I have developed in my painting technique over the last few years. Sorry if that sounds a bit cryptic, but I don’t want to give too much away at the moment – the collection is still in the early stages.
Christa: Your personal website is called Illuminations and your website also shows a lot of work in which you explore light and dark. Is there any particular inspiration for this?
Anna: I find the use of light, shadow and color pulls gently at the viewers own experience in an ambiguous way. The combination of the 3 produces paintings that often create strong meaning to the person viewing the works, this meaning is personal to each viewer and I continue to be amazed and delighted by the things people tell me they see in my work. Of course each painting has a specific meaning to me, but I love that they speak with a different voice to other people.
Oil on canvas 2007
Christa: In many of your paintings you use yourself as a subject, do you usually take pictures of yourself or does the process involve a lot of watching in the mirror?
Anna: As I am sure you can tell, many of my works would be almost impossible to paint using a mirror, especially with the colored lights I use in some, it would be very difficult to mix paint correctly in those conditions. I use photographs for almost all my paintings. This started when I was a poor student, unable to afford a model and with ideas that made it difficult to paint with a mirror. I used to feel – like many traditional artists still do – that using a photograph is “cheating”. But after many years I have come to discard a lot of what the purists believe in the understanding that I paint for myself in any way I choose, if others like it too then that is a bonus.
Christa: You also create adorable little mouse characters, can you tell us some more about them?
Anna: My little mice started as cute little gifts for my family and friends last Christmas. I got such wonderful responses about them that I decided to start selling them. I make them in little costumes to represent everything from occupations and hobbies to film characters and monsters, they are such fun to make and I can hardly believe how well they are selling! If you would like to see them, my website is The house of Mouse.
Christa: How do you handle the business side of being an artist?
Anna: That is one area I am learning a great deal about at the moment. I have never been any good at walking into galleries and showing my work. I don’t enjoy that part of the job at all. Like most artists I find self-promotion a chore and would much rather do something else. What I need is an agent!
Christa: Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?
Anna: I used to go to Renderosity a lot but I visit it very little now. The main site for me is DeviantART, you can find me at www.annagreaves.deviantart.com and www.the-house-of-mouse.deviantart.com.
Oil on Canvas 100x70cm 2005
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Anna: At the moment I work with audio books playing on my ipod. It helps to get me through the boring bits and keeps my head from getting in the way through the difficult patches when things aren’t going right. When I lived in the UK I used to listen to BBC Radio One all the time, when we moved to Holland I found it difficult to paint without my favorite radio station. Now I get my favorite shows on podcast.
Christa: What do you do when you are not working or creating something?
Anna: I am a big fan of improvised comedy (think “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” or “Saturday Night Live”) and I am an actor in a local improv group. We perform on Friday nights in the city center and I get a real kick out of being up on stage and making it up as I go along. I also enjoy long walks with my husband and black Labrador Shadow. I love to go to galleries and museums, and cycling around Amsterdam enjoying the cities buildings and many canals.
Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview Anna!