In psychology, identity refers to the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and expressions that define a person or a group of people. It is both what makes an individual unique and what connects that individual to others who share similar traits. In essence, identity brings about a sense of self as well as a sense of belonging.
It is no secret, based on years of sociological and psychological research, that having a firm sense of who we are and how we fit into the world positively correlates with a greater sense of self-regard, self-esteem and a higher level of physical, mental and emotional well-being. One of the most remarkable things about art is that it can serve not only as a means of expression, but also as a journey for exploration. Art allows us to question concepts and ideas related to identity, oftentimes giving rise to a clearer, stronger understanding of ourselves, our histories and our bonds with the people and elements that surround us.
In this edition of Art Motif Magazine, we feature visual artist Ann Clyde who exemplifies that courageous quest for self through the arts. More extraordinary yet, Ann’s work illustrates people and lives not often reflected in the arts, thus, serving as a touchstone by which they too can recognize and find themselves and their identity on paper and canvas. Take a look at Ann’s interview below to learn more about her artistic journey and her deeply evocative artwork.
What is essential to your work as an artist? Time. I have a day job that is pretty draining, so on most days I find myself doing artwork at night (my bed is one of my favorite places to create) or during my lunch break. I usually pass by active work on my tables every day, so it is in those moments that I may see something that needs to be tweaked. Blocks of time are hard to come by, so I have to be okay with doing a minute here and a minute there. The moments all add up to progress.
I also gain so much inspiration from being a part of the online art community. Seeing the work of others and listening to their process has helped me tremendously in my growth as an artist.
What works, events, or moments in your life have influenced your art? The most influential event to happen in my life that moved my desire to create with passion was the death of my mother over three years ago. After her passing, I completely immersed myself in doing art. Now I believe it was a way to move through the devastating grief, but I also believe it was because I had a genuine desire to explore and learn. I signed up for a year-long e-course that began a few months after her death, so following the lessons each week was very comforting and really propelled me into the world of online art. My desire to create everyday was quite overwhelming and wonderful at the same time. I developed important relationships online with other artists and I became obsessed with learning about all aspects of the creative process.
How do your background, cultural roots and/or sense of identity manifest in your art? As a Black woman, much of my work has grown and developed over seeing myself in the work I create. You will also find spirituality in my work as I am deeply influenced by many traditions of spiritual thought. Unfortunately, it is not lost on me how little attention is given to artists of color in this culture. My journey over these last few years has not only involved increasing my technical ability and developing my own style, but also understanding my position as a woman and as a Black woman within the creative community. My work primarily centers on portraits that represent women of color who convey a sense of strength and vulnerability. I have learned some hard truths in my art journey about the lack of representation of Black artistic voices, not only in commercial art galleries, but in online communities as well. My goal as an artist is to continue to refine what truths I want to convey about life through the eyes of the women that come through me onto the paper or canvas. This artistic view will always be through my own lens as a Black woman and what I want and need to say to the larger community. If my work moves the viewers, no matter their personal lens, then my hope is that it speaks to some universal truths within them. Ultimately, I would hope that the viewers feel something as they are witnessing my art.
How has your artistic practice changed over time? I would love to say that I feel more focused and intentional in my work, but that is not the reality. I am in a phase of growth right now that is asking the question, what do I want from all of this? I have gone from not expecting to sell my work to having sold work so, in that sense, I have moved into the realm of creation/marketing/selling which is an ongoing learning experience for me.
With regard to my work, I now “see” my own style more clearly, as opposed to following and practicing step by step what other artists have done. That approach was so vital to me as I was growing and shaping my voice, and I think it’s one of the best ways to learn. At some point, I grew impatient with following step by step. I suppose that’s when you truly know that your artistic voice is becoming more insistent than the voices of others. I still derive great inspiration from the work of many artists, but now I am interested in experimenting more with my own edges of color and abstract expression. Even within portraiture, I want to have more fun with how much I can bend color to express what I want to convey.
Do you have a preferred genre/style/medium? My style is still evolving. I am invested in experimenting with color at the moment as well as wanting to incorporate more background and storytelling in my art. I love working with acrylics, especially Golden Acrylics which I deem the Mercedes Benz of acrylic paints. The smoothness of application and saturation of color is beyond sexy to me. I’ve recently added gelatos and oil pastels to accentuate color along with the acrylics. This allows me to push pigment in with my fingers in ways that are very satisfying.
What inspires you? Everything. Simply everything.
What is your creative process? My process is fairly open. There are times when I am seized with a concept that I have to create in that moment. At other times, I will pick up my art journal next to my bed or by the couch just to lay down color or sketch. Most projects usually begin with either a collage base, which is quickly covered by color, or I will start with using a Stabilo All pencil to draw the beginnings of a face. I love working with the Stabilo All because it creates amazing shadows once activated with water, and that informs the story of the faces that emerge and the color choices I will use to bring them into existence. On occasion, I will channel something that shows itself in my work that I cannot explain. Its appearance oftentimes surprises me and is very different from the body of my art. I believe that is validation that there is something beyond me at work. The alchemy and holiness of that moment for me is stunning. It’s as though I am just following instructions. There is rarely a day that I am not working on something.
Different people perceive and respond differently to art. Do you recall any memorable responses by others to your work? Oh God, yes. I am always blown away by some of the responses I receive. If I had to summarize the majority of them, they speak to the emotionality and strength that comes through the expressions of the women I paint, usually through the eyes. Many are drawn into the faces I create and some have said that they keep coming back to the same face over and over again. I am so humbled and moved by the kind comments and it continues to validate the ability of art to reach into the hearts and minds of the viewer.
What piece of advice would you give other aspiring artists? Do not fear those moments when you feel completely uninspired and cannot create anything. Instead, understand that those times are crucial to your creative process. Those are times of seeding for the next level. Allow it. Do something else other than art. Read. Rest. Cut up magazine images. Journal. Go for walks. Clean a closet. Whatever you do, don’t worry that the ability to do art has abandoned you. It has not. Eventually you will find your way back to your art renewed and with fresh perspectives and ideas that will inevitably show up in your work.
Who are your favorite writers and/or poets? Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Anne Lamott, Nikki Giovanni, Mary Oliver, James Baldwin, David Whyte and John O’Donohue to name a few.
Who are your favorite painters? A’Driane Nieves, Jennifer Davis, Romare Bearden, Georgia O’Keefe, Sharon Harkness-Dobler, Mystele Kirkeeng, Frida Kahlo, Amanda Trought, Jacob Lawrence, and Jean Michel Basquiat along with so many more that would take a whole page to acknowledge. I am drawn to works by artists of color and actively seek out their voices as my primary source of inspiration.
What is your favorite motto? Relax. The “thing” that you are meant to do in this life will find you.
What is your idea of happiness? The ability to “be” happy begins and ends with me. However, if I had to define it as something outside of myself, it would look like my children, sunny and rainy days, messages in the clouds, an aromatic cup of tea, art, journaling, books and lipstick. Red lipstick. Bright.
To learn more about Ann and purchase or see more of her evocative work, click on the following links: