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Interview with:

Carol Allen Anfinsen [anfinsenart] 

What do you do? How do you define yourself as an artist?
Thanks to my grandfather, a former biologist and teacher; my uncle, a former professor of entomology at Berkely; and my father, a fly fisherman of great reknown; I was born an environmentalist, a lover of nature, and a lover of God’s remarkable handiwork. I believe there is spirit, voice and emotion even in inanimate objects, but especially in living things. I have a wild imagination, and I envision each object, each life speaking out – no, shouting out to me. I try to portray nature as honestly and beautifully as I see it. Sometimes I exaggerate color and movement so others may share what my inner life sees and feels. Portraits are a favorite of mine. The slightest crinkle in a nose or the twinkle in an eye can tell volumes about a person’s personality. Faces are as varied as the flowers in springtime; as deep as the roots of a tree or the depths of an ocean. I hope viewers will experience awe and joy when they look at my paintings.
What is your message?
Inspiration comes from two sources: good and evil. I try to capture what is positive and beautiful in the world. Although reality is sometimes harsh and negative, I want to show it in the best light possible. I want my paintings to witness that there is a God in Heaven who loves us and wants what is best for us.
Your biography in four lines.
Many people influenced my life, but especially my grandfather. He was not only a school teacher, he was my school teacher. Through his eyes, and through his remarkable gift for teaching the subjects he loved, I developed a keen appreciation for nature. It was not unusual for grandpa to gather his students around him to show us firsthand what it felt like to touch the hairy legs of his pet tarantula, or to observe a leggy garden spider inch its way over his hand and up his arm as the sunlight sparkled on its shiny patterned back. His lack of fear made us eager and unafraid to explore the world around us. All grandpa’s stories were “hands-on” and part of a grander scheme, as he explained how important each harmless creature was in the cycle of life and to the success of his own garden. A garden which his granddaughters loved well and explored often. After watching a bright green snake twist in his hands, grandpa turned us loose in the garden to pick fresh peas. Afterward, he showed us how to run our thumbs up the shell's ropey spine to unzip the juicy morsels inside. We savored the flavor and the crunch that couldn’t compare with the cooked, mushy peas we left uneaten on our dinner plates. Grandpa fed us an endless supply of memories and enough visual pictures to keep me painting and drawing for a lifetime. Formal art classes and my own experimentation provided the backdrop, along with a free-lance writing career that merged in this web site. During my writing career, I created children's stories, scripts, educational and training materials for schools, physician organizations and corporations. I also designed, wrote and published newsletters, brochures, stationery and varied marketing materials, using elements of graphic design.
Do you upload your work to the web? If so, where could we see it?
I have a blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com I update it twice a week. I have an online gallery at http://carol-allen-anfinsen.artistwebsites.com
How is an idea born? For you, what is inspiration?
I see a face or a bird or animal, and I know I have to paint it. After that choice is made, I try to define what it is I want to say about that person or object. I try to develop a story or theme that will drive my imagination. I use several photo references and research my ideas for accuracy and development. A good example is my painting "The Lost." I saw this boy from India (photo taken by a friend there); a street urchin. I fell in love with his face and the emotion. I researched and discovered that crows (house crows) in India are considered harbingers of death. They are everywhere. The painting came to life in my mind after that.
What role does technology play in your creative process?
If I don't have a photo of my own, I research online to see what the characteristics are of a certain species or plant. I want my paintings to reflect a semblance of reality. I use reference photos and online photo programs to enhance light and shadow. I use online programs, blogs, web sites to advertise my art and make contacts and sales.
What is art?
Simply: art is life...it represents life, or my interpretation of life. It is beauty. It sometimes shocks, awakens, disturbs, and enlightens us. It is expression at its best.
When do you get your best ideas?
They can some at anytime, but especially when I'm not trying to find them. Usually at times when I am busy. When my body is active and the blood is flowing, the ideas come fast and frantic. If you sit and wait for them to come, they never do. Stay active. Live your life, and ideas will come.
How do you evaluate whether an idea is good or not?
If I become passionate about an idea, I know it's a good one. If it excites me and occupies my mind even when I'm not painting, it's a good idea. I know I have a winner when it consumes me and drives me until I've captured it on canvas.
Three creative ideas that you would have liked to have created?
I have an equally strong passion for writing and worked as a free-lance writer for many years before turning to art. I would like to have written and illustrated children's books. I completed one, but it hasn't taken off yet. I have another on the backburner, but have nothing but an outline thus far. I want to create something that will change people's lives: a painting, a book, a creative work of art that will knock people's socks off. I guess all creative people want that. I'd like to create a masterpiece. A thing of beauty that when it is finished, I will know that this is the best thing I've ever done. I keep challenging myself to keep on keeping on.
When and how did you begin to see yourself as an artist?
I painted for many years, but I never got any encouragement. In the culture I grew up in art was considered a waste of time. I persevered anyway, because I found I could lose myself in it. When I was drawing or painting, the world around me disappeared. When I won my first contest, I began to feel that I had something. Art is a part of me and a thirst that can never be quenched.
Why do so many artists and creators have such volatile personalities?
Because our emotions run deep. We see and feel things that many other people do not. Beauty, life, pain, suffering effects us in a different way. It's like having a sixth sense that's always turned on.
Do you consider yourself postmodern?
I do not have a broad academic background. People say they recognize my style, but I'm not certain that I do. I paint what I see and what I love, and try to put it in the context that other people will enjoy it, too. I love expressionism. I love traditional and realism. I fall somewhere inbetween.
How should a work of art be evaluated?
I don't agree with the concept that you pick a painting apart to decipher if the rules of composition, color, and technique are up to par before you give a work of art a passing grade. By doing this, a beautiful or unique painting may be missed. I think this is "old school." A work of art should be evaluated for its impact on the viewer. Instead of dissecting the painting, does it have the "wow" factor. Does it impact your emotions and way ot thinking. Does it move you?
Must an artist reinvent him/herself everyday?
Yes. There is a danger in becoming stagnant if we don't jar our own complacency. We must think in new ways, be willing to try new things, to take risks, and to be experimental. Only in this environment can magic happen!
Which artists do you admire and how do they influence your work?
Dega, Rembrandt, Monet, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Hart Benton, Norman Rockwell, and countless others. I like the energy and emotion in their work. They didn't just paint portraits or landscapes, they painted and drew life in motion; expressions of life undulating across the canvas and in muscle and flesh.
What do you think about public funding for the arts?
I think it is important. I'm a conservative, but I draw the line when I hear they want to cut funding for the arts.
Is art necessary?
It is vital to the lifeblood of any civilization. Art is what gives us hope, offers us respite from suffering, and uplifts us in difficult times.
Does it pain you to let go of a piece you have sold?
No. Once a piece has been finished, my passion moves on to something else. I have many other paintings inside of me and I don't feel possessive about the past.
Is a work of art purchased, or is it better said, that it is the artist who is bought?
If a collector buys a piece, he or she is attaching importance to the artist. If the artist is successful, the collector's purchase goes up in value. There are also buyers who purchase the art because they enjoy its intrinsic value. I'm happy with both.
In art, there is no guide. How do you know what the next step is?
I listen to my gut instincts. I read everything I can get my hands on about marketing and potential. I study the marketplace. Regardless, I paint what I love and have a passion for. Anything less is a waste of time.
How do you feel about the fact that the pieces exhibited in contemporary art museums are often of artists already deceased?
Sad but true. An artist's worth is never fully recognized until he or she can no longer paint. Thank goodness for local markets and opportunities.
What role have the figures of art dealer, gallery owners, representatives, and intermediaries in general played in your career?
Not a whole lot. I have some paintings on display in the downtown art district, and I've joined a few leagues. A dealer has his eye on one of my paintings, and keeps coming back, but still hasn't made the purchase.
What types of jobs do you usually do?
Most of my commissioned work has been upon request: A favorite garden, flower, place, etc. I've also done portraits and dog portraits.
Which of your jobs or tasks do you most enjoy?
I love doing "up close and personal" of almost anything. I'm not a great landscape painter. I like to focus: a giant flower, a part of a flower or animal, etc. I enjoy doing people so much that I'm incoorporating them into my paintings. People, birds and flowers are my specialty.
Do you personally collect any items?
For many years I collected Popeye items, thinking they would go up in value. But there are so many reproductions now, the market is low. It was fun for awhile. I'm a saver, but not necessarily a collector.
Which websites do you frequently visit?
I visit the blogs I follow on a regular basis. I also go to social networking sites like facebook, twitter, stumbleupon, blogcatalog, etc. I research topics using Google. I try to keep up with the arts and the news.
What advice would you give to those just beginning?
Don't compare your work to anyone elses. Sure there are people better than you are, but you have to start somewhere. Don't give up. Practice, practice, practice! You have your own unique personality and style to offer.

1050 visits

Carol Allen Anfinsen
Fort Myers, MN USA

[anfinsenart] Carol Allen Anfinsen
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© Carol Allen Anfinsen
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