Walking into Ann Tristani’s art studio is a bit like walking into a sanctuary. The light flows in with warmth and radiance, the scenes in her paintings come to life and her soulful works of art flood your brain and heart with emotion, wonder and intrigue.
Ann is an accomplished oil painter who uncovers beauty wherever she goes. Her work ranges from studio paintings to plein air art collections. Plein air artists participate in “paint outs” where they paint outdoors, rain, snow or shine. There is a strong community of plein air artists in Colorado. That’s part of what led Ann to Colorado in 2014, from her home state of Minnesota.
Ann has been creating art since she was a child but started refining her craft in college when her biology professor recognized her talents and put her to work illustrating bugs and the life sciences. She has created professional art her entire adult life, even while raising four children. But now that her children are grown, she has more time to commit to her painting and is being recognized with accolades along the way. Last summer, she received an Award of Merit at the Plein Air Artists Colorado National Juried Exhibit.
Ann lives across the street from me, and I couldn’t help but notice her silhouette painting a canvas through her front window a few weeks after she moved in. Ann is beautiful, inspiring and graceful, just like her paintings. Her creative energy is evident from the intricate canvases in her massive collection to the perfectly styled vignettes in her lovely and warm home.
I asked her if she would share her story of becoming an artist over a glass of wine and conversation. What I learned about her journey in life and her body of work was remarkable. I was particularly moved by this story.
Just days before Ann gave birth to her second child, her mother was on her way to visit her. Tragically, on her mother’s journey, she was killed in a car accident. As any daughter would, Ann grieved her mother’s passing and did her best to move on after the loss.
Years later, Ann signed up for an art class with a teacher who became a great mentor and friend. This teacher, whom she spent a great deal of time getting to know, had a certain comfort and familiarity about her. What Ann uncovered, was her art teacher was a dear friend of her mother’s who had passed. Neither Ann nor the teacher knew this information about one another immediately. Once this discovery was made, the two were forever bonded in a magical and unexplainable way. For Ann to have found her way to this teacher who celebrated and mentored Ann’s talent as an artist but also opened a connection to her late mother reminds us of how we are all connected by love.
I’m honored to share a little bit about this extraordinary artist and human being.
Where do you find your inspiration to create?
My inspiration comes from everywhere - all the time! Sometimes I wonder if it is even possible to shut if off. In the morning as I wake, I lay in bed studying the way the light streams through the lace curtains, leaving shadows on the wall in varying degrees of brightness, depending on the sunshine. I am always making mental notes, studying those values and colors so that I might use that information in future paintings. This continues throughout the day as I constantly see the world in terms of beautiful shapes and how they are being hit by the sunlight. My mind is always aware of the atmosphere surrounding me and pondering how I would portray that on canvas. And as I progress through my activities I am constantly on the lookout for an interesting or unexpected composition that pops into my attention begging to be painted. Like the other morning as I was walking to church, I passed an alley and had to back up and reabsorb the scene, noting the lovely way the light was passing across the humble alley way creating beautiful shapes of sunlit patterns on the ground. Unexpected beauty in an often overlooked place - my purpose in life is to notice that.
How have your life experiences influenced your art?
I'm not sure if my life experiences influenced my art, but I would say my never-ending desire to create something, anything, influenced my life. As a child of the seventies there really wasn't an abundance of creative opportunities, I don't think. But as I ponder my elementary school days, some of my fondest memories are of the "stuff" I made and my relentless desire to create something no matter what! Like the time I absolutely needed to glue something, because I simply had to create a picture using pieces of fabric, only we didn't have any glue! So I made some glue concoction myself out of water and flour so that I could finish my project. It was a raggedy Ann doll. Speaking of elementary school, one of my sweetest memories is of the art teacher arriving with the “art cart” to our classroom once a week. My heart beats faster just thinking of it! And especially when we got to make those super pretty, lacy, sparkly Valentines boxes - oh my gosh! The thrill of all those pretty options, I used them all. And then there was the doll house I created at home out of boxes and odds and ends, complete with a chandelier I fashioned out of "Lite Brite" pegs, wallpaper on the walls, and Campbell's soup cans clipped from Mom's Better Homes and Gardens magazine, propped just so in the cardboard kitchen cupboards. I remember spending lots of time on my bedroom floor fashioning this pretend world. There was also my prized "Gum Wrapper Chain" that graced my bedroom wall as it grew from mere inches long to many, many feet of perfectly folded, and carefully collected individual gum wrappers. My dad was a high school principal, so I got to go with him to school on Saturday mornings after the football games and have the priceless opportunity to crawl around under the bleachers seeking the hidden treasure of discarded gum wrappers. Oh how I coveted these treasures, carefully saving them into my box of wrappers waiting to be added to the chain of my childhood labors. All of these treasures were in addition to the other creative treasures I cherished, such as my embroidery supplies, my Spirograph set, and of course, good old fashioned coloring books and crayons. Perhaps the thing that was unique about me and my creative endeavors is that in each case, I didn't just kind of pursue them, I absolutely wholeheartedly, with great gusto and wild abandon devoured them, becoming skilled beyond most at each precious craft.And so, even though I grew up in a time when there were not the abundance of supplies and opportunities available that we have today, somehow I was able to nurture in me the need to create that I still nurture today.
How do you overcome creativity block?
I don't ever have a problem finding inspiration and ideas, but sometimes I have trouble finding the motivation to actually get myself into the studio and start creating. As a self-employed artist, being self motivated is a necessity, and usually not too much of a problem. But at times I need to just put myself in the studio, surrounded by all of my painting supplies, my other paintings that inspire me, some good music, and eventually I get in the zone again. There are usually a number of paintings going at once, at different degrees of doneness, so that helps. Depending on my mood at the time I may feel like tweaking a final detail in one already existing painting or laying in a broad general idea for a new piece.
What would you tell someone just getting started as an artist?
I would say paint, paint, and then paint some more. There is no substitute for experience, using your equipment and medium. At the same time, it is necessary to keep growing and exposing yourself to training from others more advanced than you. You will find that the more you know, the more you realize you don't know. And this is good. The journey never ends, and the things you can not see or comprehend or master now will become more clear as you continue to grow in skill as an artist. Always view the world though your artist eyes, fine tuning your skills of seeing throughout your entire life. Notice the light and which direction it is coming from; see the shadows it creates. Pay attention to color and recognize its value and temperature. Notice shapes in the landscape and how the edges and colors get softer and cooler as they recede into the distance. Recognize good design and composition in magazine ads, billboards, and the landscape.
What do you want the world to know about the life of an artist?
The life of an artist is unique in that an artist experiences life, just like everybody else does, but an artist is so moved by the beauty or emotion of it, that she can’t help but to ponder it and respond to it, sharing it with the world, lest the world miss it. An artist's life is filled with wonder and appreciation, noticing beauty in places others might not, feeling emotion so deep it simply overflows into whatever medium an artist speaks through. And the artist simply must create, no matter what. It is not about being paid or recognized that keeps an artist creating. It is simply that an artist CANNOT not create.
Thank you Ann for all you do to light up the world with your art and for sharing your treasures with Let the Light In Studio.
images of paintings courtesy of Ann Tristani