In the summer issue of Acrylic Artist, we feature color enthusiast Annie O’Brien Ganzales. In the feature, The Not So Every-Day Flower we take a close look at how the artist’s love for color and flowers evolved into a full-time painting and instructional career. Immediately identifiable as flowers, her paintings are far from realistic interpretations—they are the idea of flowers somewhat abstracted and infused with color. And within the paintings, hints and nods to the geometric and block color work that O’Brien Gonzales is also known for. Here we take a look at four completely different works by the artist.
Acrylic Artist: With the exception of Dream Plaza (acrylic on canvas, 30×40) the pieces below do not showcase the flowers you are so readily identified by. However, we can tell with a glance that this is your work. How do you create abstract, geometric pieces as well as interpreted still life paintings with flowers that are equally identifiable as your work?
Annie O’Brien Gonzales: I guess you could say I love it all—I am in love with the act of putting paint down. The threads that go through all of my work are color and pattern. When I was working full time as a college professor, I fulfilled my artistic urges with art quilting. I can see now that I’ve carried that fascination into my paintings. Working with fabric, beads and thread was more portable than painting. I may be painting now, but I absolutely love quilts, still. When I finally had time to paint more I tried all kinds of painting styles and finally decided to follow what I love, which is color and pattern. And of course color and pattern can be applied to any subject matter, which makes my work easy to identify. If you paint enough, your style will start to shine through everything you do.
AA: Aerial (acrylic on canvas, 22×30) has a wonderful duality. It is saturated with color and movement with all of the geometric forms and lines, yet it is not overly stimulating or garish. How do you put so much color and line on a canvas without overwhelming the viewer?
AOG: Aerial really is a piece that demonstrates the influence of quilting on my paintings. I can really get lost in geometric patterns in color. This patterned approach to subject matter is really one of my favorite things to paint and I find it meditative. These paintings focus on the key elements of color and value relationships that I really enjoy. I also think it relates back to the fact that there is color and structure in all of nature if you look closely. It is endlessly fascinating to me.
AA: In the Acrylic Artist feature we learn that when painting your still life pieces, you need something in front of you to incite the painting—something to serve as inspiration that it is never intended to be transposed realistically on the canvas. What incites the creation of In Town (acrylic on canvas, 24×30) and Dream Plaza (acrylic on canvas, 30×40)?
AOG: These two paintings were actually inspired by Google maps. Both of them started as aerial maps I saw on Google of the Santa Fe plaza area. I love aerial photos and I’m currently working on more of these aerial views. Just like the floral still life paintings, they start from something real and soon take on a life of their own. I never feel tied to reproducing reality.
AA: What advice can you give artists taking painting classes? How can a student get as much out of a class as possible?
AOG: I thought about these questions a lot when I wrote my book, Bold Expressive Painting Painting Techniques for Still Lifes, Florals and Landscapes in Mixed Media. When I jumped back into painting 11 years ago I took several classes with different approaches—some were positive and some not so much. I think in hindsight I would advise artists to learn the elements and principles of art and to find classes and workshops that allow you the freedom to paint in your own way while you master the basics. Looking at a lot of art in galleries, shows and museums can be useful as long as you don’t compare your art to what you are seeing, but rather just take it in. At some point I also think it’s helpful to find a mentor who can give you honest, supportive critiques to move you to the next level. Finally, as I mentioned in the article and in the book, the variable which will help you improve the most is to paint a lot just as a musician does scales each day. If you love it you need to find a way to work it into your life.