Minn is originally from South Africa and this heritage heavily influences her artwork. Now that I know she saw elephants, giraffe, water buffalo and lions in her childhood on a regular basis lets me understand her love of painting African animals. She seems to capture their essence, the heaviness of elephants, the intensity of lions and the stillness of giraffe.
Minn is a wonderfully friendly and sweet woman who I've truly enjoyed getting to know. Let me introduce you to a spectacular person and artist. Here's our interview:
Jenn: How did you get started making art?
Minn: Three and a half years ago, a friend suggested I join her for a watercolor class. The suggestion would kill two birds with one stone, so to speak: it would get me out of the house for a sanity-break (from my five fanatic fantastic little boys) and to have mandatory girl-time once a week. I was not too excited about taking an art class, for my previous attempts to art had been neither very satisfying nor successful, not that I did not hunger for creative expression. I would play with papers, pencils, markers and glue. I would walk past the brushes and canvasses in the hobby store and drool. But there was a missing link somewhere between what I wanted and what I could do, what I desired and what I was capable of. Or so I believed. The watercolor class changed it all. Our instructor, Tom Herzog, is one fantastic artist and teacher – talented, creative, patient and encouraging. Through him I learned about The Right Brain… and that I actually have one! I ‘just’ had to silence my (usually helpful but not very “free”) Left Brain. Yet I will confess that my Left Brain is not very easily silenced… However, since I started on this creative journey, my sanity has increased significantly. It is as if I've found the part of me that has always been missing.
Minn: I can best answer this question by starting with a quote (I do so love quotes – they help me express my thoughts when my own words are inadequate – which is often!)
"A lute player", observed one of the wisest of the old philosophers, "when he is singing for himself, he has no anxiety."So indeed it is with the writer. "It is only when he is writing for himself that he writes happily."
- David Grayson, Adventures in Understanding
And I will add: so it is with this artist. It is only when she is creating for herself and for the simple enjoyment of colors, lines and shapes that she paints happily. I find there is for me a fine line between “producing” and “creating”. When I paint to please - or to sell - anxiety steals the therapy that painting is to me… and I slip into a producing mindset. But that said, I have been fortunate enough to sell a handful of pieces that were “created happily”, but the sales happened mainly because the pieces were part of local exhibitions, and pricing was mandatory. These few sales have done wonders though in replenishing my art supplies, lol. But in general, I find the pricing-and-preparation process very stressful, for I have not one single entrepreneurial hair on my head. Logistically, I also cannot even begin to think of going to the post office with 5 little boys-in-tow, trying to mail pieces of art – so no Etsy in my near future either.
Jenn: What is your process in creation? (do you like plein air best or use of a photograph, or your own imagination, or follow where the art supplies take you?)
Minn: Due to my Left-Brain-Fear-of-Failure artistic handicap, I am still very dependent on photographs for my work. I still desperately need the direction obtained from 2-D images to develop my sense of proportion and negative spaces. However, I like to play with the composition of the photographs in order to find one that is unusual or pleasing to my eye. I usually also change the colors to suit my mood. When I do venture out to draw from life, it is usually a quick sketch, often with less than stellar (or simply disastrous) results. It is like the hard part of therapy - the part that you know you have to go through in order to gain fullest benefit, but can be simply run-way painful at times.
Jenn: What are your favorite artist's supplies?
Minn: I love watercolor since it is the medium that unlocked my creative journey. I started with Van Gogh student paints and have found them adequate for where I am in my journey. I do also have a few tubes of Windsor & Newton, which is visibly a better quality paint. But while I will be stingy when it comes to paint, I do invest more in paper. I have found that not all papers are created equal…so I stick to either Kilimanjaro or Arches cold press 190lb paper. Lately I started playing with ink – and love it!! As soon as my next accidental sale happens, I plan to invest in some more ink. The other staples on my art box are salt, a straw and masking fluid.
Minn: "When the bee stings, when the dog bites, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember…[my African animals]... and then I don’t feel so bad!” I grew up in South Africa (and now live in the USA) and I guess, growing up, the animals became part of my internal blue print. I do not think I was aware of this until I started painting, but this is the subject I keep coming back to and is most therapeutic for me to paint. I suspect it is more for emotional reasons than artistic reasons that I love them so… I think in painting them I gain a sense of belonging when I am lonely, a sense of life when I am tired, a sense of wildness and freedom when I feel “sardined” into cultural or community expectations. (OK, go ahead - just call me a rebel;-)
Minn: I am still often surprised when something turns out well or really works. I never set out to make something spectacular – I just sit down to regain sanity. But it certainly is an encouraging feeling when a piece becomes a “frame-able” creation. David Grayson says in his book Adventures in Understanding that “…we move too fast…to feel the spaciousness and continuity of life. We see only surfaces.” He says this in reference to an Auguste Rodin quote: “Slowness is beauty.” So when lines, colors, and shapes join to make a beautiful whole, it provides me with a sense of going beyond the surface and growing roots in a fast paced world, it promotes freedom and space to look more intently, appreciate more fully and being more alive than the surface alone allows.
Jenn: What do you do with a less than stellar piece, do you rework until you're happy?
Minn: It depends on the subject and my mood. I almost never throw a piece of art away. With watercolor, if I have lost my whites (and therefore the light), there seems to be little to do to redeem it as a whole. (Occasionally I will use Chinese White (Gouache) to try and regain light, but it never gives me quite the crisp results I came to appreciate from saving areas of white paper.) Sometime I will crop the piece and use it as abstract background to a sketch on a card. If lost light is not the problem, I stare at it for weeks to see what on earth the matter is. And then sometimes it comes together by adding a few missing strokes, or… it eventually goes to the “got bored – use as background” pile. Alternatively, my boys recycle these pieces into their own art or into bookmarks. And their creations often totally work in ways that I never could have envisioned myself. I suspect their Right Brains are still fully alive.
Ok, one last painting, I just CAN'T leave it out! Notice that Minn has somehow made it look like this tragic woman is "unseen" by making her look like she's fading into her environment, like no one sees her anyway. So incredible Minn.
If you'd like to read previous Featured Artist posts just Click Here and you'll pull up all the Featured Artists that I've interviewed. They're so worth the read & their art is so inspiring!