Post Numero Trois: Georgia on My Mind

Post Numéro Trois: Georgia On My Mind

Last week I had the divine pleasure of visiting one of my favorite artists, Georgia O'Keeffe, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had the serendipitous chance to visit this museum in 2006 on a diverted road trip through Southern Colorado after the biggest snowstorm of that year...in May! That's a fun(nish) story I'll tell anytime you have the desire to listen ;) .

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Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Website in Santa Fe, NM

Visiting this museum some thirteen years later I noticed totally different things about Georgia's work. At that time in my life I had taken an acrylic painting class at the University of Vermont in my undergraduate studies in 2003. I wasn't really painting yet besides that, although I'd stomped all over London, Paris and Spain during a semester abroad exploring as many  museums as I could stomach in a 6 month period. I was completely turned on by what I saw in oil painting. When I saw Georgia O'Keeffe's work in 2006 it was like meeting a soul sister. Her work was soft and feminine, yet rugged and strong. It explored color, shape, form and contrast of the natural world in ways that excited me. And it was simple. Not overly complicated. It felt tangible. I didn't recognize her visual influence on me until many years of painting later when patrons and supporters suggested a likeness in some of my work. What a compliment!

White Iris - 28x22” Oil on Canvas. Prints available here:  https://www.artbyannaayres.com/print-shop/

White Iris - 28x22” Oil on Canvas. Prints available here: https://www.artbyannaayres.com/print-shop/

This time around, I noticed Ms. O'Keeffe's abstract pieces and their subtlety balanced beauty. I find Georgia's work exquisite in her insane ability to know just how much was enough to express what she was intending or exploring in a piece. One of the finer skills in painting is knowing when enough is enough. And sometimes the only way to learn this is by going too far and losing the strength of the piece entirely. And doing that again. And again, until one eventually understands that more work doesn't necessarily mean better work. She was incredibly technically skilled, and as she grew as an artist, she combined her technical understanding with the stirrings of her soul and how it related to the outer world.

"Above the Clouds 1" has new interest to me. At one time, I may have breezed past this painting due to its simplicity, but I now appreciate the nature of calm and interesting depth through use of shape created by this patterned composition. It reminds me of a photo I took from the plane on my way to New Mexico.

Above the Clouds 1 - Georgia O’Keeffe

Above the Clouds 1 - Georgia O’Keeffe

High above the clouds - Anna Ayres on American Airlines

High above the clouds - Anna Ayres on American Airlines

I learned at the museum that O'Keeffe began traveling internationally in the 50s and continued through the 70s. Much of her later work involves her perspective from the sky, above the clouds into the limitless horizons, or down below to the abstract patterns of rivers. This thrills me! Once freed from the ground by wings, Georgia was able to involve a new perspective in her work, one that is closer to omniscience. I believe international travel is one of the most inspiring threads to being a well-rounded human being. Travel offers perspective and more informed creativity. It is high on the list of life goals I mentioned in my first post, and more validated now knowing Georgia spent almost three decades exploring the globe.

In life, it's so important to observe, ask and learn from those who come before us, especially those who stun and inspire us. Georgia is that to so many. What a legacy!

Thanks so much for reading. I hope this inspires you to follow what's in your heart just a little more.

With love,

Anna

Santa Fe - taken over my shoulder as I devoured a flourless chocolate cake from  Cafe Pasqual's  in the plaza :) Adios!

Santa Fe - taken over my shoulder as I devoured a flourless chocolate cake from Cafe Pasqual's in the plaza :) Adios!

Post Numero Dos: A Room of One's Own

Today I bought a beautiful, hardwood table from a gal who just graduated from USF St Pete with a degree in conservation. She is moving to Lake Tahoe, CA to take a job with AmeriCorps. I am so excited for her. The desk was her mother's before it was hers, and now it will be my art table. It's big and sturdy and I can't wait to spread out on it. Setting up a work space is a hugely necessary step in the process of creativity and I feel that after moving back to FL four months ago, mine is finally work-worthy!

A new desk purchased for the Art by Anna Ayres Gulfport studio!

A new desk purchased for the Art by Anna Ayres Gulfport studio!

Yesterday I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet with my new mentor for this grant, Carrie Jadus. Carrie is a self-taught world class oil painter and the co-creator of SoftWater Studios, an artist cooperative in the Warehouse Arts District. She's raised a family and created a thriving art business. She's my hero because through her experience, I have a solid example that this dream of being a painter is tangible. When I first saw Carrie's work it truly resonated and I somehow knew then that one day I would get the chance to learn more from her. There was no shortage of magic sitting across the table from Carrie getting to ask, learn and share our stories. We talked about all things art and creativity: the challenges, the rewards and the discipline, as well as the dreaming, required to make a creative pursuit realistic. I have copious take-aways and I am beyond grateful to Carrie for taking on this opportunity to mentor me.

This year is about stability for me. I'm a bit of a dreamer and in efforts to lead a charmed life, I've often followed change and what seems exciting, easily ignoring the practical. Change is a constant in life, however, in mine it verged on addiction. Over the years, it's left me feeling disorganized, depleted and confused, more often than charmed. Through steady inner work and self-development, I identified this imbalance and realized I've been waiting for someone else to ground me, whether that be friends, family or a partner. But that never worked. I also came to realize that while I was still able to create new work with this pseudo nomadic existence, it could be so much better if I wasn't adding a perpetual sense of movement into my life. Now, I am creating a more grounded way of living for myself and my art. As reflected in my first blog, I reside in a sweet little house on a quiet street surrounded by birds, trees and sunlight. I take care of Little Z, the first pet of my adult life, just bought a magical vacuum, also a first in my life, and am finally saving receipts after years of trying! I am a part of my community through jobs teaching and advocating for art. And I have a room of my own, a little painting studio, devoted to creating, as Virginia Woolf suggested is necessary for creative success. Sure I still feel pangs of wanderlust when I scroll through beautiful pictures of the world on Instagram and such, but travel will come when it's ready and perhaps from a different approach than the one that was no longer serving me. I feel so much peace in my heart now that I am here and feel that time has finally slowed. I breathe deep and sleep sound.

Doubt is still a visiting character in the story of my life, as it is with everyone's; however, I now understand that doubt is merely a substitute for impatience. Very few of the best things in life happen quickly. Patience is a necessary team player. Good art takes time, as does a good life. Things we desire have a way of coming about in their own time. There's this vision I hold onto of my future self in my someday studio slabbing big globs of paint onto multiple canvases while the sea crashes outside my open balcony doors bordered by waving banana leaves. It's fantastical and in this fantasy, I produce work quickly and joyfully. In my real life, the work I create can take years for an idea to blossom. In the past, if things weren't happening quickly enough, I'd likely make hasty changes, requiring movement and upheaval. Jobs, homes, states, boyfriends, etc, expecting change to ground me but it never did. Bringing creative ideas to life requires time, space and energy. Navigating our way through life to provide ourselves and our craft these things is no simple feet. It requires careful attention to the driving forces behind our imbalances and patterns. It feels that I am at the tip of the iceberg so to speak and when I focus on that, I know I am right on track. No doubt.

I am experimenting with a new trucker hat design. I created a hand-painted sample last year and sold it online. I'll make patches of this design that I can then add to any hat and background design. Progress! I'll be vending outside Painting with a Twist at 2527 Central Avenue in St Petersburg, FL on Sunday, June 23rd for St Pete Pride weekend and look forward to having some of these new hats available for purchase.

A special design for St Pete Pride!

A special design for St Pete Pride!

Tonight I joined 20 other Gulfport artists to start planning the ArtJones tour of December 14 & 15, 2019. ArtJones was created 3 years ago by a small group of professional artists in the Gulfport area, offering a self-guided open-studio tour of working artists. This will be my first year joining the excellent group of artists and I couldn't be more honored and blessed to join them!

I painted on a small 4x3" block of wood today. It was a scrap I found at work. The idea for this mini painting was something I saw last Easter weekend while helping my friend out with her catering business over the holiday weekend. At the end of the day, I walked across the client's lush grassy yard and looked up at the sky, a deep indigo shade of purple, with three gray green palms spread across it. To me, this little mini is so sweet and it inspired me to try more paintings on found wood. I plan to add resin to this piece to give it a polished look. Again, an idea that was years in the making and can only come to fruition now because I'm planting the garden for it to grow in. My goal is to create lots of these minis for the ArtJones tour in December!

A 3x4” mini painting on wood block.

A 3x4” mini painting on wood block.

The greatest take-away from this week's events is this: the inner work is the most important. Everything follows from there. When we're doing the work it can feel like nothing's changing, or heaven forbid, getting worse! It can take time for the outer world to reflect the changes of the inner world. We are here to learn how to love. That is all. And to borrow shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown's hashtag, it involves #practiceoverperfection. I'll leave you with a quote I came across recently in Don Miguel Ruiz's "The Mastery of Love" (author of The Four Agreements) that sums it up for me,

"The only thing left is to enjoy your life, to be alive, to heal your emotional body so you can create your life in such a way that you openly share all the love inside you."

Hallelujah!

Yours truly,

Anna

 

 

Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant - Blog #1: EXIT 19

EXIT 19

#1 round oil brush for small details, the first purchase of my recent Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant!

#1 round oil brush for small details, the first purchase of my recent Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant!

“Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” – Terence McKenna

Two years ago I put my little Florida life into storage and moved home to Vermont for the summer. My mother and step-dad were traveling to Alaska for four months and their picturesque country home on a hilltop in the capitol city would be empty, save for my dear friend, Murray, who would be housesitting and tending to the upkeep of the old home. I signed myself up for the outdoor weekly art market I had participated in years past and made my way north at the end of May that year. I would treat my time like it was my own personal artist residency. My heart told me to go home and rest. To find my north. To sink into the natural world and allow it to show me my rhythm and routine. I wanted to know what it felt like to truly be an artist.

Quickly, routine began. I rose early after deep sleeps. For the first hour after waking, I read, wrote and meditated quietly. After, I plugged in upbeat music and hit the road for a wog, some walking, some jogging, depending on how I felt that day. Upon my returns, I was energized. I ate, yogaed, danced, showered and started my work day painting. I was working on new ideas, painting images of nature and animals onto trucker hats in acrylic paint, and exploring watercolor and illustration for the first time. Within a month, as I wogged the dirt roads below the hill, ideas came easily to me. They flooded in and would escape just as quickly if I didn’t find some way to capture them. Words, stories and images came effortlessly; like I had my finger on the pulse of the earth and the trees were speaking to me. It felt exquisite and almost too good to be true, like I was opening up to a new way of thinking, but not ready to trust it. There was doubt, worry and insecurity mixed into the joy of discipline and routine towards something I loved. At times, I wondered if I was wasting time and money on fruitless efforts and I questioned why I was still alone in this life. However, something urged me on and those two brief months of my self-designed artist residency have stuck with me since. To me, it allowed me to feel what my “impossible dream” felt like. To sample something outside the realities of my circumstances that only my imagination could dream up.

Last night, I read through my sketchbook/journal from that time. Some goals I wrote about consistently included:

  1. To live in a house in Gulfport

  2. To paint large canvases inspired by Florida skies and water

  3. To travel

  4. To teach

  5. To get a cat

Today I live in Gulfport. As I type this my new-to-me 8 month old kitten, Zeus, is purring ferociously on the floor by my feet. I’m surrounded by the calls of birds and quarreling squirrels. I occupy a sweet 2 bedroom home on a quiet dead end street surrounded by various trees just steps away from a park with a path along a creek. I teach art in several places and will soon start teaching yoga again at a church. It is the beginning of my dream, my impossible dream really, because 5 years ago I didn’t know this existed for me. Over time, it has slowly revealed itself. And there are many, many parts to the dream that either have not been known by me yet or have not become reality. Our dreams take all the time they need. So if they’re impossible or unknown, how do we come to know them? By tuning in.  Because there is no roadmap to the life beyond the practical. We are each one hundred percent unique, with our very own purpose. The only way to know what is possible is through faith. And how do we get closer to our faith? Through practice. Through making time to be still, to clear the mind to listen to the heart. To show up every single day and practice whatever way gets us there: meditation, prayer, movement, etc. Faith is the only place where the solutions are revealed. To slow down is to open the window to better feel the extraordinary in the ordinary. And that is why I paint.

Little Z chillin.

Little Z chillin.

There was a party going on at a neighbor’s house several weeks ago on a Monday night, probably around the time I learned of my receiving this grant. At 11 pm an urge came over me to get a closer look, so I ventured out for a walk. Latin pop rippled throughout the neighborhood. As I walked past the party house, I saw people inside and out talking, laughing and playing games. Contented, I walked on. Soon images in the cool night air were revealed to me: street light-lit white flowers against an indigo sky and a palmetto palm spreading its fingers in many shades of grey green. The extraordinary in the ordinary. Before I knew it, I had the beginning of the work I will do for this grant. It is the 19th year of this century. I live off exit 19 in Gulfport, FL. I was born on the 19th day of June (more 19’s but this summary is adequate). Something about all of this feels very aligned and so I dedicate this unborn series to this time and space off Exit 19.

I feel so so lucky to get to share this grant journey with you. I love that I will be writing about the process throughout the summer months. Perhaps as you get to know me, you’ll appreciate what makes us different and find peace in what makes us similar.

With love,

Anna

 

 

 



Rambling #1 - creativity: Brene Brown & Patty griffin style

For a long time now, I've considered writing some words on the regular. So far regularity is at 100%!

Why do I want to write some words on the regular? Well, because it's been a long while now that I've spent a good bulk of my energy on discovering, exploring and understanding this little thing called creativity for myself. It can be such a bitch! So why do we put up with it or try at all if it's so behaviorally difficult? That's what I want to talk about. As well as what it means to be a creative person, living a creative life in whatever ways big or small that looks like for each one of us. I believe we are all makers of some kind or another, and I recognize the long list of words, songs, movies, books, and so on by other folks that have kept me motivated and inspired to maintain the journey, steering me away from confusion, and towards clarity. It feels like the right time to join the circus!

In the words of the ever brilliant Brene Brown, "The only unique contribution we will make in this world will be born of creativity." Did your brow just furrow? Did your eyes get squinty? It's ok if they did, but this is why I'm writing. I want to talk about why I believe these words are absolutely true and why there may be many areas of resistance associated with them. I want to talk about not just making things, but the process that gets us there. In creativity it's not necessarily the finished product that brings us joy, but rather the path of allowing the seedling of an idea to grow. I want to talk about the things that hold us back from living out our creative ideas. Things like fear, resistance, limiting beliefs, "shoulds", societal standards, shame, grief, regret. All those heavy things that hold us back from our light. From being who we truly are. But we can't just talk about the heavy stuff without also sharing the practices and mindsets that can throw a curveball at those outdated patterns. There are tools, practices and routines that can help us to slowly uncover our creative potential. I want everyone to live with their high beams on! Why? Well...let's see if Brene can help me to explain:

"You are a born maker. And we need what you can bring to us because you're the only one that can bring it."

I'll be darned, such simple eloquence. We are all born makers and each one of us is called to make something completely unique from everything else that ever existed! Isn't that ridiculous? Think about your favorite all time song ever. Can you imagine letting go of all those moments of joy it gave you each time you listened to it? Patty Griffin is one of my all time favorite musicians ever and I have spent countless hours listening to her albums on repeat while working on paintings. The level of emotional depth she brings through her voice, guitar and lyrics led me towards some level of healing while I worked. I could not imagine my experience of making any other way. I smiled, I cried, I felt love and goosebumps of inspiration all while listening to her music. She allowed me to experience both joy and sadness as I created. I am endlessly grateful to this woman for pursuing her creativity and allowing it to live out loud, giving it energy and life to continue to inspire us. 

Patty Griffin (follow this link for her tune "Heavenly Day") is just one example of millions of others who offer their creativity to the rest of us so that we might all find our way home. Creativity inspires, it sends hope, it encourages us to be vulnerable and courageous. It makes us FEEL things. It heals us. 

The musician Michael Franti says of playing and creating music, "My favorite thing to do in the whole world is play music. Whether it's on stage, on a street corner or in my living room, it always brings my emotions to the surface and that shit is healing, liberating and fun."

It took me a long time to believe in the power of creativity. And I'm still learning to trust in it. I now know this to be true: when I paint, I feel more whole. It's my jam. And when I am more whole, the world is a tiny bit better. It starts within. 

Thanks for reading this first rambling. I hope you'll tune in whenever you're wanting a little refreshment. I welcome questions, thoughts, comments, and gifts. Just kidding, no gifts necessary. Your presence is the biggest gift of them all ;)  

For more from Brene Brown check out her books and her viral TEDTalk on the power of vulnerability. The two titles at the bottom of the page are highly recommended.

Also, check out her instagram account @brenebrown for Harvey updates and calls for help in Texas.

Ciao!

~Anna

 

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