In August, Anne savored several days relaxing and sketching the wild inhabitants of the Earthfire Institute in Idaho. A very special wildlife sanctuary nestled at the base of the Grand Tetons, the Earthfire Institute is dedicated to helping people see wildlife and nature with new eyes. You can learn more about their important work at earthfireinstitute.org
The following is excerpted with permission from "Art is Like a Prayer" -- An Interview with Anne London by Susan Eirich, Executive Director of the Earthfire Institute in Idaho. A PDF of newsletter is available.
Susan: Why did you decide to do wildlife art?
Anne: You know, I don’t remember the decision it was so early. Even as a small child, it was so early for me it doesn’t feel like decision.
Susan: Could you talk a little bit about how you try to capture the soul of not just the animal species, but that particular animal? Or its intelligence or qualities?
Anne: Well, I have to say—this question, and I hear it often—how did you get the animal’s personality or soul into that painting? I would pose a different question: how can you leave it out?
Because if you are looking at real models, and that is a key factor to what I do, if you’re looking at real models, real living beings, you’re not thinking “the hipbone is connected to the leg bone.” You’re thinking, “Oh, the emotional state of that animal as it looks at me is really something.”
Everything else is just descriptive, like the carriage that holds that emotion. I do spend a lot of time studying the carriage, so that I can get it right, but the soul part—I’m more nonplussed when I see really technically great work—that has left that out. It seems as though it’s more work to leave it out.
It’s almost like trying to create a real animal from a taxidermy one – you can get all the parts completely right, but you don’t have a light behind the eyes. If you start from something that’s not alive, let’s say you only work from photographs (and I will use a photograph for back up here and there for a certain detail), but if you only work from photographs, then you’re only getting the same kind of empirical information that a camera can deliver to you.
When looking at another living being from a position of emotional presence, you have the ability with your brain and your two eyes and your whole being to record that other being’s state.
A camera is never going to be able to do that. And there’s some great photography out there, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something much more arresting looking at a living being. Especially as an artist, when you draw from life, the feeling of that creature informs your line and shading in a way that just duplicating from a photograph cannot.
And I think most artists would agree with that. It’s hard— harder to work from a moving creature—you know, they don't pose for you, but the rewards are stupendous... (read more in the full newsletter, page 6)
Anne's full interview is available below as part of the Earthfire Institute's Winter 2017 Newsletter. Learn more about their efforts at earthfireinstitute.org.
Download the full interview & newsletter (PDF)