The sunlight on warm terra cotta, the petals of sunflowers and the old world feeling of the plazas, churches and fountains. Can you picture yourself here?
That’s right we’re dreaming about Italy. This year we’re traveling to Siena with Anne Kullaf on May 5-11, 2018. Anne will helping you fill your sketchbooks with memories to last a lifetime on this beautiful journey. We sat down with Anne to discover a bit about her path to becoming a full time artist, her creative process and so much more!
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and your art.
A: I am an artist–I like to observe, draw and paint, not necessarily always in that order. I use whatever is in front of me as a departure point, I prefer to work from life whenever possible and avoid using photographic references, I prefer a sketch done on location to a photograph. I teach many classes and am always doing demonstrations; this affects my own work in many positive ways. In some respects, it has given me a deeper understanding of my process and why I paint in the manner that I do. I also love to travel–I like adventure and love that I can use my travel sketchbooks to capture the essence of the places I visit on a highly personal level.
Q: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
A: I’ve never wanted to do anything else! My earliest and best memories from childhood are of the times when I was drawing or painting. My parents always gave me birthday and holiday gifts that encouraged my interest in art–crayons, colored pencils, watercolor sets, rubber stamps, Spirograph, paint-by-numbers–I loved all of it! From the time I was in kindergarten, I would always tell anyone one asked that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I also have always loved to travel, so teaching workshops all over the world is the perfect job for me.
Q: Tell us about a day in the life – or a day in the studio, to be precise! What does it look like (and feel like)? What can you share about your process or routines?
A: Well, most days I am teaching–so it starts out with gathering the things I will be using in my still life set ups (if it is a studio course) or composing a painting on location for my demonstration. I start each class with a demo–and every demo has a specific concept that I am teaching. I think it’s important to demonstrate rather than just talk about the concepts and techniques that I am teaching. Artists are visual learners, they need to see the process rather than just have it explained verbally. After my demo, I typically will make sure each student has all they need to begin the exercise we are working on in class. I will give individual support as needed and an individual critique at the end of the session. One thing I never do is touch a student’s artwork to illustrate how to improve something! I have the utmost respect for other artist’s work and feel that “your painting is your painting”. I show students how to correct things on a separate piece of paper, that way they see it done and can do it themselves if they choose to on their own work. After class, I usually take a break to workout either outside or at the gym where I enjoy kick boxing classes and other high energy cardio workouts. I unwind by taking out my sketchbooks in the evening to practice, often working on examples of what I will be teaching the next day.
When I am preparing for an exhibit, it’s a different story! I am outside on location early and at work doing what I love best–sketching or painting plein air!
Q: Where does the magic happen? What does your creative space look like? We’d love to see some photos, if you’d like to share.
A: My studio is the great outdoors! Sketching on location is what I do the most these days, particularly in watercolor. I have a very busy teaching schedule, so I have a limited amount of time that I can spend on my own projects. I find that sketching on location–whether it is in my car, on bench, sitting on the ground or in a cafe–is the best way for me to create. While I do paint in oils on location when I am preparing for a gallery exhibit, I find the process of sketching to be instrumental in refining my skills and developing ideas for future paintings.
Q: What piece of equipment, tool or color could you not live without?
A: My sketchbooks and watercolor kit, and some pens! I like Moleskine, Strathmore and Fabriano sketchbooks. Winsor Newton makes some great field kits for watercolor and I like using Uniball pens for pen and ink. I also have a really cool fountain pen called a Noodler, it’s the old fashioned kind that you fill with your choice of ink color–it’s really great for fine line work and puts the ink down nicely on smooth paper.
Q: Where do you derive inspiration?
A: Everywhere! I will draw whatever is in front of me–what it is is not important to me, I simply look at the shapes and colors and use them to form dynamic compositions. I love drawing urban scenes because they are so geometric, but I also love nature and botanicals for their organic forms. Combining the two is even more fun! I could go on and on…
Q: Do you have any routines or rituals that get you into the creative zone?
A: No not really, I am almost always up for drawing or painting on the fly. If I see something that interests me, I typically will just stop and sketch it.
Q: Does your creativity ever stall? What do you do when that happens?
A: No, I can honestly say that I am never not in the mood to draw or paint! But, I will choose the medium or type of artwork I am creating based on how I am feeling at a given time. For example, if something is stressing me out, and I need some time to decompress and not think about anything, I turn to pen and ink. I will choose a complex subject, such as architecture, and sit there and cross hatch until I have a finished drawing. I work quickly, but pen and ink slows me down a bit so that I can clear my head, it’s almost meditative. When I’m done, I usually have a nice drawing and a better frame of mind.
Q: How does travel inspire your work?
A: I love travel and adventure–the colors, architecture, local fashion and food is something I never tire of experiencing when visiting a place for the first time. I love learning about other cultures and sharing what I learn through my sketchbooks and journals. It’s also a great way to relive my travels and share experiences with friends and family in a way that is more personal than just sharing photos.
Q: What do you love most about teaching?
A: I love helping other artists (or anyone who is new to the creative process) discover the joy that comes from drawing and painting. The idea that art is a “struggle” is a foreign concept to me–my time spent drawing and painting is pure joy. I never get frustrated while I’m working, I feel relaxed and happy to be doing something that I love to do. That does not mean that I don’t strive to do my best work, but I don’t put pressure on myself to make every single painting a masterpiece, because that simply will never happen–no matter how talented you are. I encourage students practice often and without pressure. To set goals that are challenging, but attainable–and to practice with intent. By that I mean, focus on a concept as you practice–choose something that you are challenged by and practice getting it right until you have a firm grasp on the concept. This is the best way to move forward with your work and to ensure that you never become creatively stagnant.
I also love seeing the way each artist approaches their work. One of the best examples of this is when everyone is painting in the same location and then when we look at the paintings, we see how everyone saw things differently. That’s what art is all about–showing the world your unique view of what is around you!
Q: What are you most looking forward to during this workshop?
A: Experiencing the culture, food, art and landscape of Tuscany! I have never been to Italy so I am very excited. I am particularly interested in sketching the ancient architecture and rolling landscape of the Tuscan hills. I am really excited that this is a watercolor journaling workshop–we will be able to cover so much in terms of concepts such as perspective, architectural detail and the landscape in such an expressive way.
Q: Do you journal or sketch?
A: YES!!!! It is my absolute favorite way to be creative. I sketch everyday, usually in watercolor and sometimes in pen and ink. It’s a fabulous way for me to unwind, practice, get to know places and things and to just have fun in a creative way.
Q: If you could take only five items to create with while on vacation (not necessarily a workshop – any vacation), what would they be?
A: A watercolor sketchbook, travel watercolor set, fountain pen and ink (or a Uniball pen), a #6 pointed-round sable brush and a set of graphite drawing pencils.
Q: So many of us believe our art can only ever be a hobby. How did you make the leap from passion to profession?
A: I was interested in art as a child, so I majored in Graphic Design and fine art when I went to college. I wanted to have a creative career but still be able to support myself. I was an art director for awhile, then began a career in corporate marketing which I enjoyed very much–I got to travel a lot, which I loved. I managed all of the advertising and communications activities for several Fortune 500 companies, this even included event planning and trade shows, as well as corporate sales training. After having my daughter, I chose to freelance so that I could have more flexibility and be on the road less. As a result, my schedule was more fluid and I started painting again in oils. I was invited to exhibit my work by a couple of galleries in NY and Philadelphia, and began teaching at a few of the museum studio schools here in New Jersey. I found that my public speaking experience from my corporate job came in handy when teaching. The management and negotiation skills I had from my business career are helpful to me today when working out arrangements with galleries and teaching venues. And the event planning experience is priceless when it comes to organizing and planning trips!
Q: What mediums would you like to pursue but haven’t yet?
A: Encaustics! But, they would be almost impossible to use on location so I’ve held off.
Q: Any tips for balancing creative time and administrative duties?
A: Be organized, don’t procrastinate, multitask whenever you can! I find that many of the course offerings and lesson plans I offer have a lot of overlap, so I try to make a generic framework for each medium I teach and then adjust it accordingly for specific workshops depending on experience level, location and length of class. I use social media extensively to promote my classes, workshops and exhibitions, but I am strict about keeping it all business and not getting side-tracked online.
Q: If you could an afternoon with any artist, dead or alive, who would that be?
A: Edward Hopper, I have always loved his work and I remember as a child thinking that his paintings looked the way things looked to me in the town where I grew up. I later learned that he painted and sketched in Northern New Jersey and would often sketch or paint in his car–something that I have been known to do frequently when it’s cold out.
Q: Favorite books that help keep the creative juices flowing?
A: I don’t have any specific books that I can think of, but I do recommend visiting museums and seeing works in person whenever you can. Take a sketchbook along and study the masters! One of my favorite museum sketching locations is the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. They even have sketchbooks and chairs that you can use to sketch in the galleries, and the gardens are stunning. You feel like you are in the middle of Paris rather than in the middle of Philadelphia!
Q: Where can we find you and your work?
A: I exhibit my work regularly at the Salmagundi Club of NY (47 Fifth Avenue, NYC), and at Urban Gallery in Philadelphia (22nd and Pine Streets). I also exhibit at The Philadelphia Sketch Club (Camac Street) and can often be found sketching or painting in Rittenhouse Square or West Philly when the weather is warm. My web site is www.kullaf.com and I post all of my daily sketches and demos online at Anne Kullaf Original Paintings on Facebook.