Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series - Pattie Brooks Anderson

The ability to depict the natural world with clarity, fluidity, balance and sparkle - that's what initially drew me to the beautiful art of Patty Brooks Anderson.  Once I had to opportunity to interview her for the Mind Body Spirit Artist Series, I was surprised - or was I - to learn why these qualities are reflected so vibrantly throughout her wonderful work.  Thank you Pattie... enjoy!

                                                                                                                 ~ diane fergurson 

Holding the Moon

MBS: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you get started in art?

Pattie:  When I was very young I always loved books and book illustrations, and I often spent hours looking at the illustrations of my favorites. I wanted to do illustrations like some of the ones in these books and I also wanted to write stories. I enjoyed doing little cartoon illustrations for my stories. In grammar school I tried to draw every cartoon or line drawing I saw.  In high school, I decided to drop chemistry and chose art as my replacement. I completely blew my chance to go to a University, but I didn't care because I found something I loved. After graduation I enrolled as an art major at San Diego State College and found the classes satisfying and challenging, but also discovered a lot of other classes that interested me, including biology. I toyed with the idea of being a scientific illustrator, but life came along and I got married and spent the next twenty years raising my two children. I still managed to take a required class or an art class every semester. I began to take painting seriously. I also loved drawing and creating etchings. Through the years, line was always a major element in my art work.  One teacher said I was linear and I should never lose that aspect.  I began to show my art in various art festivals and the college shows with modest success. During that time, I had received my certificate in commercial art at Palomar Community College. I was required to take two very intensive classes in color which changed my fine art in amazing ways. During the same time I spent nine years doing all types of free lance commercial art. It began to dominate my time and I missed painting. My children were grown and I needed to move on to another phase in my life. It seems life is full of little reinventions.

I returned to San Diego State University to finish all the requirements for a degree in painting and printmaking. I found the formerly vibrant art department gutted, with only a skeleton of course offerings. There were no water media classes being offered at all, so I adopted oil as my new medium.  When I returned to school, I had an urban-type studio in Escondido, California, overlooking the main street of Grand Ave. I needed the space because my apartment, two blocks away, was so small. I paid $100 for an 18x18 room. I loved it and felt I was finally a practicing artist. I helped to create an artist co-op made up of the group that had working studios in the building.  We built a gallery in the building along with a few non-residents who joined us as part of the co-op. The artists in the building were professionals, and I learned a lot from them about how they ran their businesses. They were a constant resource of inspiration. The building still exists today and some of the original artists have studios there, but the co-op has moved elsewhere. It was here that I met and married my second husband and life partner.

At SDSU I graduated in 1993 with honors, thirty years after starting college. In my drawing classes, I had experimented with watercolor and ink and it was a major part of my senior show, but I put it aside when my professors said it was too radical for watercolor societies and not important enough for gallery submission.   I spent the following ten years painting landscapes in oil in Southern California and in our new home in the Eastern Sierras.  There in the small Sierra town of Bishop, I became a high school teacher, teaching fine art and commercial art. This went on for seven years.  I planned retire from the high School and teach art in my wonderful barn shaped studio.  I did that for a couple of years. Fate stepped in again, and when our friends moved to the Northwest, we visited them and fell in love with the Oregon Coast.

In 2003, we moved to the cooler climate of the coastal northwest and we built a new studio in the trees. I discovered watercolor again and began experimenting with the watercolor and ink that I had done in college once again.  I have found the ink and watercolor combination, along with gouache and acrylic, allows me to make paintings that radiate with color. It satisfies my need for line and my life long love of color, and the expression they bring.  Also here in the Northwest I have become a part of an artist co-operative.  I have been a member for six years and I find it truly rewarding.



MBS: When I first saw your artwork, I was really struck by the way you depicted the natural world with such a fluid clarity and sparkle.  Then I read your artist statement and it all came together -  "The word alchemy has two meanings, the first: to change metal to gold and the second meaning: a seemingly magical power or process of changing one thing to another. The work you will see here is of the second meaning. Each work began with an idea, but, in the process of creation, it was transformed into something more magical. Ultimately, the work comes from a source that exists outside of myself. Hopefully, the work will inspire a sense of mystery and wonder."  - Could you explain more about the connection between art, alchemy and the spiritual/natural world that you portray in your work?

Pattie:  Oh, that is a big question!
When I get ideas for paintings they sometimes come to me as complete images, usually during meditation or when I am walking in the trees or on the beach. Or they might be inspired by the colorful language in the practice of qigong, one of my favorite pastimes. I usually look for reference to paint these images that have appeared.
Other times the image may materialize as I am painting with no subject in mind.  In both cases I feel that the painting is imparting knowledge to me. I often don't know why I am painting the image until I get close to completion and then the message, what ever it is, seems to become clear.  It is often deeper and more complex than the simple image that I see at first. I have believed for a long time that these images and the subsequent messages are transmitted through a source greater than myself, or perhaps, from a part of myself that is connected to this source.
I suppose this is the "alchemy" that I believe happens with just about every painting that I do. I am often surprised at the end of this process. It always leaves me with a sense of wonder about the mysteries of our earthly experience and the sense of connection to something beyond our human existence. I love using animals, nature and whimsy to make this connection. Animals seem to impart a sense of spirit.

Fairy Landing
MBS:  It sounds like your process is pretty spontaneous and intuitive.  I've also studied and practiced qigong for many years, and I understand what you are referring to about the energy, internal symbolism and alchemical process that can emerge and be transmuted into the artwork that one is creating.  What is it about using watercolors that you find lends itself to this process so well?  Also, what format do you use?  Materials..etc

Pattie:  I am glad you can relate to the energy I receive from qigong and meditation. 
Watercolor is so amazing, with its surprising twists and turns.  These little surprises fire my imagination,  and sometimes suggest a subject for a painting. I like to play with color, so I often start this way. When I have a subject in mind it starts with very free flowing watercolors. I prefer to use large sheets, full size watercolor arches 140# rough paper, 22x30.  Sometimes I begin with a sketch in watercolor pencil on the arches paper, if I am sure of the subject.  If I need reference I go on the internet to find multiple images that reflect my idea. I never copy the images, but use them to draw from. 

I might draw a pencil sketch from the references, and then I use the computer to enlarge it to the size I want.  Once I have the drawing in watercolor pencil I wash in the general colors I want to have in the painting, I use almost all watercolor that is free of sediment because I glaze color over color to mute them. 

I really enjoy the next process of using permanent India ink, usually with a brush at first. Then I add the line drawing with, India ink filled, Faber Castell pens or dip pens and sometimes sticks. I find this drawing process extremely satisfying, but I try to wait as long as possible to begin this.  There is a point where I step back and become my own critic. At this time I eliminate areas (sometimes parts I love) just for the sake of composition or color balance. I will sometimes crop the picture if it helps or I will mute or darken the areas that compete for attention. I usually try to keep a focal point and a light source. I sometimes experiment with multiple light sources which can add a sense of mystery.

MBS:  You've mentioned to me several times your involvement with an artist's co-op.  Can you tell us about the co-op?  What it is, where it is - how it works.

Pattie: Yes, I love my co-op Gallery.  I have been a member since 2006. We have been an Artists Co-operative since 2005.  The group has always had the mission to cooperatively come together for promoting art and selling art.  We also ave the goal to try to help the community in any way we can. There was not much information about Artists Cooperatives at the time we were created, but now there is a lot of advice in the web about starting and maintaining this type of organization.

We started in a tiny old house quite a distance away from the tourist area on Bay Street in Florence, Oregon.  Many never discovered our little gem, and when they did find us, they were pleased at the range of art we had to offer. Now we have grown to 24 members and we are planning future growth in a larger space right next door to our current address in Old Town.  The foot traffic we have had since we moved has changed the dynamics of our group from a casual club atmosphere to a thriving business.  We have all kinds of tourists from every part of the world visiting us, and we have some very loyal local customers who frequent us in the lonely winter months, as well as in the summer season.

I joined thinking I wanted to be connected to this great group of artists. I still feel that connection even though we have become more busy and business oriented.  All of our art has improved with the mutual support available from the group. Our sales have increased each year. And we learn more about running a gallery each day. Every one of us works the gallery for about three half day shifts per month, and we work on at least on one committee.  It is very little time for me, because I have worked harder in my life.  Our younger members have to juggle jobs and commitment to the gallery, but they manage.  We are much like a family, all with the goal of making the gallery a success.  I would recommend being in a co-op to any artist willing to work a bit to save paying a 50%+ commission.  If an artist is not willing to do that this is not for them.

Sea Turtles
MBS: What is a typical work day for you? Do you keep "hours" and go to work painting like a 9-5 job or are you less scheduled about it?

Pattie:  I do all my correspondence and checking my email and websites in the morning and get in the studio at late morning.  I am happy working on paintings for the rest of the day, having been fortified with a larger breakfast or coming back for a light lunch, and then I work until 5:00 or 6:00. My commitment as President to the co-op gallery has interrupted this schedule, but I will pass those duties on soon.  I also like to get out in the morning and walk because it feeds my mind.  I truly believe these forays into nature and sometimes to galleries are ways we can feed the mind for inspiration for our future work. This schedule sometimes gets interrupted for a week or two if family things come up.  I think women artists often experience the production of their art this way.
MBS:  What are you currently working on?  Are you working on a series, or do you have any shows or events coming up?

Pattie:  I work sometimes in series, because I have not totally captured what I want in an image, or because one painting is not enough to discover all that needs to be understood.  I might do several paintings to complete the idea.  Usually, I paint the images as they come to me, from inspiration from a variety of sources.

Waiting for Dad Again
MBS:  I noticed that you sell your work online.  How has being online impacted you as an artist  Any advice you can give to other artists who are thinking about selling their work this way?

Pattie: I do have my work online in several venues. I have been doing this for a short time and it is all very new to me. I am pleased that the internet is available.  But I don't have a complete grasp of social networking yet.  I am still working on it. The best thing about having work online is that customers can come after seeing images in the gallery and find my images there.  I have made many reconnections with customers this way and all my cards and prints are marked with all my online information and email. I have come to believe that the blog is probably the most important feature for feeding the rest of the online spaces. And I have not tapped that yet. I feel it is most important to have the main site with your art gallery carry your own name as an artist, so mine is, it links to all the rest of my sites. I chose a group online called Fine Art Studios Online created by an artist, It allows you to use your own url with your name and provides a blog and newsletter feature.  They are very helpful with the set up and have wonderful designs for the pages. The beginning membership is reasonable and easy to set up. I took their newsletter for a long time before choosing them, great articles about managing an art career.

MBS:    Looking back over your career is there any advice you have for those who wish to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

Pattie:  My advice to those who would like to pursue an artistic path is to never give up seeking. And, I am serious about "seeking." Everyone's path is not the same. If you are drawn to make art, there is a reason and you will discover this motivation in the process of making art. The route you pursue could lead to methods of creating art that are far from the traditional. You may end up expressing your self through gardening, fashion, installation, video or a multitude of other avenues.

Begin by feeding your mind.  Humans are inspired by images. Pay attention to the type of image that most captivates your interest. Spend an amount of time each day doing the art that most attracts you. Leave the inner critic out of these sessions. Take workshops or college classes and learn as much about technique and the principles of art as you can, but give your self time to play and experiment with art materials.

I believe drawing is one of the most profound methods to reach your own submerged artist.  The way each person puts down marks is different from any other individual, this acceptance of your personal mark making is the validation of your own creative spirit.  If you do this diligently you will be compelled to continue and will emerge at the end with something uniquely yours. As you explore materials you will find one that you want to work with extensively. But, continue to allow yourself to draw and visually express the ideas as they come to you daily. These drawings are only for you. Taking walks alone in nature (or with a quiet friend) can produce a space in your mind that can't be reached when surrounded by the stimulus of our busy worlds. Allow a time during every day for quiet meditation and walks. If you do these things you will experience a shift of mind that cannot be described in words. And it will bring clarity to your artistic journey.

Thank you Pattie!

To find out more about Pattie Brooks Anderson and her wonderful work, you can visit her shop on Etsy, check out her website or visit her blog.

Links to other interviews in the Mind Body Spirit Artist Series.

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1 comment:

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