There is a beautiful simplicity to a child’s drawings. The meaning is clear. This is cloud. This is water. This is sun. This is grass. I recently completed four paintings initially inspired by my remembrance of how I drew as a child, and how so many other children innately represent the world around them. Beginning with simple line drawings, I then added color, but hopefully with the maturity to add a deeper understanding for what is cloud, water, sun and grass. At the same time, I did not want to destroy the original innocence. As adults we so often make our world far more complicated than it need be.
Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, these four paintings also represent the four elements of nature: earth, air, water, and fire. These are the materials that make up our world, that also compose all of humankind. We are one with this planet, and now as never before we are coming to realize how fragile and essential these elements are to our survival.
“We Breathe” is last, but not least, a meditation. Each painting is an invitation to stop, remember, and feel gratitude for life.
Upon this earth, we breathe. Beneath this sky, we breathe. Beside this water, we breathe.
Within this light, we breathe.
At age sixty-five, I finally feel comfortable calling myself an artist. Strange perhaps, but I have always held artists in such high esteem, that I thought surely, I was not worthy.
I was mesmerized by the power and potential of art from the moment I picked up a crayon as a child, the adults instructing me to colour within the lines. I’m still in awe after years of eager exploration and experimentation, studying and learning from so many artists I admire. I’m still striving to reach farther, to take chances, to create art that makes a difference. Happily, colouring outside the lines has become my mantra.
When I am working on any given painting, I need to stop occasionally, just quietly staring at the colour, the movement, the patterns and texture, letting myself wander over the canvas exploring all that has happened throughout the creative process. I might sit and let my mind just sink into the painting for even an hour or more. There are the technical aspects to consider. Does the painting work? But I am also listening. Is there more to do? Is the painting where it wants to be? Have I managed to convey whatever needed to be said, or remembered? There is no road map in abstraction. There is only instinct and impulse and letting go and trust. I remember a quote I heard many years ago that said that a painting is never finished, the artist just decides when to stop. When it feels right, I stop. And then, I can't wait to begin again.
Happy to share the news that my artwork is featured in the latest online issue of Arabella Magazine (February 2021, page 67). I'm in fine company with many wonderful artists from across Canada.
As their website explains, Arabella plays a critical role in presenting creative talent, arts organizations, products and services to the widest possible audience while providing in-depth, visually compelling insight into the best of art, residential architecture, landscaping, interior design and luxury lifestyle products and services. In short, Arabella is "For the love of all things art."
I also enjoy writing about visual arts and coincidentally an article I wrote about a very talented artist from Alberta, Keith Dalgleish, is also featured on page 119 of the same issue.
If you're not familiar with Arabella, check it out. It's a great read from cover to cover.
As an artist, you're never quite sure how people will receive your work, which paintings will somehow resonate with people. My series entitled "Earthlings" seemed to come at just the right time in 2020 and I was overwhelmed by the response. When a body of work touches so many people, it really means a great deal to know you created something that spoke to someone's heart or mind.
I was ready to move on to a new body of work, but once I stood in front of my easel, it seems "Earthlings" had just a bit more to say. So today I delivered three final paintings to 14 Bells Fine Art Gallery as a bit of epilogue or coda to the series. There is a message here I hope you enjoy.
Now. We're getting to the point where we can count down the days until the end of this year. A year unlike any other in recent memory. It began innocently enough. Then. Suddenly our world was swept up in a global pandemic. It's been sobering at times, but it's also brought the things that matter sharply into focus. I feel so grateful that I have had my art to focus on, something I can do in isolation and still share with others. Now. What have I learned? Change is certain. Humanity comforts itself through creativity. And art very often has a mind and purpose of its own. I simply listen and follow the inspiration.
What inspires me as an artist has changed over the years. Early in my career, I was drawn to the outdoors wherever I lived. Painting has always been a comfortable language to express my thoughts. Sketching and then painting landscapes and seascapes was my way of really looking closely, and then sharing what I saw. Now, as an abstract painter, I pull those thoughts from inside - bits of memory, perceptions, ideas, reflections on all of the information that each of us consumes daily. Allowing myself to simply respond to all those things through colour and movement and shapes has a distinct meditative quality, calming and yet contemplative. At times the work is instinctual, and at other times there is a distinct purpose that often arises in an instant of recognition. As I've said before, so often I feel that the painting leads me. That conversation fascinates me.
I have very rarely created a painting for myself, specifically to hang in my own home. Making art has always been about the connection with others, the communication of an idea or a feeling inspired by my personal experience. Not sharing the painting almost seems to silence its voice in a strange way. I more often would hang the work of other artists in my own home to enjoy their voices.
But these are no usual times. Perhaps it was the months of self-isolation, the adaptation of lifestyle, of understanding more clearly what I can do without, what is truly important. I have really enjoyed the time to myself, the long walks in nature, and the simple pleasures of home.
This painting whispered to me. "This is for you," it said, "This is a time to listen to yourself. This is a good place to be."
This is a strange time for us all. Summer has arrived and much seems the same - the heat, the mowing of lawns, the blossoming of colour everywhere, the immersion in the great outdoors. And yet this is a summer unlike any other, with the persistent undercurrent of the pandemic changing the way we interact on the street, in stores, at the park. There is an uncertainty about what lies ahead. Is the threat from the virus merely catching its breath before it overwhelms us once again? Living in the moment seems essential right now, and I am grateful for all that is good. I pause and watch and wonder how my art will be influenced by this time.
Working withing the safety restrictions that have become the new normal during the ongoing pandemic, I'd like to share a personal invitation from Cheryl Bell, Manger/Owner of 14 Bells Fine Art Gallery:
"The gallery's main room currently features a beautiful and poignant collection from Anna Horsnell and so far I'm the only person who has seen it in all it's glory. Even Anna has not seen it all hung together. And that's not cool because it is really amazing. So, I am taking social distancing next level and showing it one person at a time!
If you would like to view this collection, or the gallery in general, contact me to book a time slot. 902-830-0098 or firstname.lastname@example.org It will be just you (and your quaranteamates if they are interested) and me (sitting at my desk, fighting every urge to hug you)."
Anna Horsnell SCA
Canadian painter of contemporary abstract art