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  • Joel Sartorelli (Blog Editor)

Interview with Artist Annette Gaffney

How did you get into the world of creating and making? (For example what is your

background/ interest in the arts and the arts community)?

From childhood, I was never without a crayon or pencil in my hand. I believe

that most artists are visual learners, born with the propensity to explore and re-

create what they see to help them put things in context and find their own

sense of order in the world. I was always looking for patterns. If I couldn’t find

a pattern in something, I would make a drawing to help me process it. But, it

wasn’t until my 20s that I started to formally study art. I was 30 by the time I

worked up the courage to exhibit my art to the public. To be able to do that,

especially in the 90’s, you had to immerse yourself in the arts community to

figure out how it all worked. We didn’t have internet resources back then and

so you had to rely on various groups, publications and galleries to find

opportunities. That was when I started to connect with other artists and it made

all the difference. The creation of art is a very insular experience, so it was nice

to connect with like-minded others on the same path.

Who or what are your biggest influences and inspirations when it comes to your

work? (For example: family, friends, other artists or environment).

I am inspired still to this day by animation. I paint using a very primary pallet

and I’m convinced it’s because of all of the Warner Bros. cartoons I used to

watch as a kid. I was never interested in the action, because I was too busy

looking at the scene art. Those hand-painted backgrounds by Friz Freleng were

works of art in themselves. They still influence my work today. I also love the

work of artists such as Beryl Cook, Diego Rivera, Georgia O’Keeffe, Botero,

Romero Britto, Lawren Harris, Andy Warhol, and Vintage travel posters. Some

modern day illustrators also influence me, such as Loren Long, Pierre Pratt.

That’s probably why I also love children’s picture books, because of the

colours and whimsical, cartoonish nature of the artwork.

Describe your creative process. What gets you motivated to create?

It’s never anything monolithic, it’s usually some every day simple thing that

grabs my attention. Maybe an elderly lady walking down the street, or a certain

pattern that I see in a tree, or the way some buildings juxtapose each other. I

never really know until it hits me. But when it does, I’ll grab a sketchbook and

scribble a loose drawing to see if it’s worth turning into a painting. Once I start

a painting, I use the sketch as a guideline, but often the finished piece ends up

looking quite different than the original idea. I am no Alex Colville, who

apparently created technical drawings before he even thought of applying

paint brush to canvas. Mine is a pretty relaxed, meditative process and just

kind of unfolds.

What are your goals and aspirations with your work or as a small business owner?

(For example: building a brand for yourself, feeling supported by other like minded

and passionate people, expanding your audience as a maker).

I am training to become an art therapist, and toward that end I am working on

my psychology degree. But other than that, I don’t really have any goals or

aspirations for my work. In my early 20s I felt quite ambitious about making it

big as a painter, but now as a wife and mother my values have changed. Any

big ambitions I have are more likely to be for my son. I feel content in the

creative process itself with no strings attached. I just let the it happen and

hope that people like it as much as I enjoy creating it. I feel very fortunate to

have a passion in life that brings me emotional fulfilment, whether or not I am

financially successful. I have always had other means to support myself while I

was studying art and beginning to exhibit. I did that because I didn’t trust that I

could survive on that income alone, and to ensure my art would not turn into a

chore. I don’t ever want the creative process to feel like a means to an end.

That is actually why I have only done a handful of commissions in my life. It

keeps my work authentic.

What makes you feel most supported as a maker? ( For example: coverage on social

media, participating in events, chatting about your creative process, feeling

connected to a supportive and welcoming environment).

I feel supported when businesses, such as Maker’s Market, create visibility for

artisans and a professional space for creative people to display and sell their

work locally. The social media aspect of promotion is something about which I

have a lot to learn. For me it’s not a deal breaker, although I do make a point of

trying to post regularly in order to feel a little more “au courant”.

Is there any particular message you are trying to send with art work or product? (For

example: someone who is passionate about the environment might use recycled

materials, or all natural ingredients). Your subject matter and materials you use can

say a lot about your work.

Yes, two years ago I began “art cycling” which basically means incorporating

single-use packaging into my acrylic paintings. I used to work in the

sustainability department of a company where I learned a lot about recycling

and post-consumer waste. I began to look at my own personal household

waste in a different light and started to think of ways I could reduce my

footprint. The best idea I came up with was incorporating it into my art to

repurpose it instead of sending it to landfill. This is something I now do in all of

my current work, to varying degrees. Now instead of just acrylic on canvas, it’s

mixed media and acrylic on canvas.

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