K.L. What’s your background?
A.M. Growing up semi-nomadic (Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York--oh my!) led me to become an artist of many mediums. I have always been a drawer and painter, making funny little cartoons and characters, and also involved in the performing arts--acting, comedy, directing, filmmaking. I have probably tried most things at least once! I studied acting and stage management in high school, and went to college for film and television production. There, I concentrated mainly in stop-motion animation and life drawing--peppered with printmaking, sculpture, photography and creative writing. I currently consider myself a children's writer and illustrator, and, at least on Tuesday nights at the Magnet Theater, a musical improviser. (I also started making a puppet the other day, so who knows…) In the end, as in the beginning, it usually always comes back to drawing. And making silly faces.
K.L. How would you describe the type(s) of art that you make?
A.M. I write funny, silly poems and attach silly drawings to them. I also love to draw tiny, imagined communities--apartment complexes full of cats (cats on the phone, in a hot tub, drinking coffee on their deck) and detailed indoor alien habitats (where I ask myself, "will the aliens need an opera house? what about a diner where the fry cook is falling in love with a customer?"). I draw a lot of surreal and fantastic characters, usually dancing, flying, or in love, and animals doing things that humans do. I prefer to use pen, pencil, watercolor and colored pencil, in a variety of combinations, while using my experience in theater to color their expressions, their body movements, and their facial expressions.
K.L. What part of your process do you enjoy most?
A.M. I enjoy that moment where an idea is just beginning to be realized on the paper. Whether it's a written line or a drawn gesture, when that thing you see in your head is starting to come together, there is nothing better! I then, of course, enjoy the whole process from then on--coloring, shading, whatever--but that first moment, where you feel in the groove, is very satisfying.
K.L. Is your process structured or do you jump right into making without a plan?
A.M. A little bit of both. I tend to make the same kinds of things over and over again, until the next thing that I make. For example, I will make a Cat Condo picture over and over again (different every time, of course) until I'm inspired by a new idea or a new freelance project comes along. I do sit down at my drawing desk every day, regardless of a plan or of inspiration, even if nothing substantial comes out. if nothing else, I'll have a new panel for a cat cartoon!
K.L. Do you have any rituals around your creative process?
A.M. I don't have any particular rituals, beyond making the cat get off of the desk and making sure I have water in my painting cup. However,I do surround myself with various clutter on my desk and the wall that I look at, and there is something about the curation of that space that calms me, becoming like a ritual. Look at the picture of my dream living room, read a love note, look at a kid's drawing, read the post-its of one liners taped up with my tax information...look at last night's drawings to start figuring out tonight's!
K.L. Do you pursue any specific themes in your work?
A.M. Love comes up a lot. Creatures, animals, humanoids, shapes with faces--all of them falling in love or creating elaborate love letters to one another or the reader. I celebrate the strange-come-familiar, or the underdog. I love weird-bodied people, strange faces, bizarre situations and ideas. I try to portray honesty and simplicity.
K.L. How has your practice changed over time?
A.M. I certainly take it more seriously than I did several years ago. I think because I enjoy so many different kinds of art making, I was content with knowing a little about everything and not a lot about anything. Somewhere in there it changed to knowing that I will never know everything about something, but I could try to know everything about my relationship with that something. I think I also dove in more whole heartedly when I found the language to articulate what I really wanted--to write and illustrate children's books. In defining that for myself, I think my practice has changed dramatically. There is a theoretical goal in sight. There is this idea that I want to do this forever, so in order to do so, I have to write a poem a week. Or at least try! And that sentence does not end with "…for the next four months!" but with "…forever!" There was definitely a mental switch that was flipped for me.
K.L. What do you do when you feel stuck creatively?
A.M. I try to do it anyway! I'll sit at my drawing desk, and at least try to do something. Even if it is not particularly meaningful to my overall artistic life (like, cutting up collage material even though i am rarely a collage artist), I will sit there and do it. Or, if i have no new ideas, I will make something in a series of old ideas--Cat Condos, Alien Habitats… In a way, those become like a fall-back doodle, something to absently work on that hopefully sparks new ideas. Or, if it's really bad, i give myself the permission not to work on art. I'll watch a movie, or clean the house. I will iterate to myself that taking some time to do other things will ultimately be beneficial to the art making. Sometimes i listen!
K.L. Where do your ideas come from? Or do you know?
A.M. I have always been a comedian and a weirdo. (Even reading that line over again, I think that sums it up!) I have a strange and pretty positive way of looking at the world. I was influenced by picture books, tales of imagined worlds, pretend games, and being a latchkey kid in the '90's.
K.L. Where do you find inspiration?
A.M. Working with preschoolers is pretty inspiring! They are so funny and weird. They say the most amazing things because they are completely unfiltered, using their own kind of logic to make sense of the world around them. Here's a perfect example: a boy comes up to me and says, "Annie! Annie!!! I had a nightmare last night that there were DINOSAURS in my bedroom PLAYING CHECKERS! And then I went inside one of their teeth! I ran to tell Mom and she said dinosaurs don't exist and I said NUH UH YES THEY DO THEY ARE PLAYING CHECKERS IN MY ROOM!" (Expect to see "Dinosaurs Playing Checkers in My Room" on a shelf near you soon.)
K.L. Name three artists whose work inspires you:
A.M. I know that I love someone's work when it makes me feel physically angry inside. So angry and so jealous. I am so jealous of Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back, Extra Yarn, The Dark) (jonklassen.tumblr.com) who I think is one of the most creative and innovative children's writer/illustrator. His work makes me want to throw a lamp. My favorite painter is Marc Chagall for his use of color and of the symbolic and strange. My favorite painting of his is "The Birthday"--it absolutely blows me away, the way the boy flies, his neck twisting to kiss the woman. And, in a run-on list that I'll pretend is one person, ShelSilversteinJackPrelutskyRoaldDahlDr.Suess!
K.L. Do you remember when you first became interested in art? What is your earliest memory of making art (any kind)?
A.M. I have a very strong memory of an early vacation with my Mom and sister to Destin, Florida. We drove from Texas, which I am sure I colored in my coloring books the whole way, and when we got to the hotel parking lot, I somehow slammed my finger in the door--breaking it! Now, there is nothing one can really do for a 4-year-old's broken finger, so I remember my Mom buying a lot of icy-pops, while I sat at the table trying to color with my ring finger up in the air. I was very determined. In the following years, I carved out my own studio space in our basement (to craft my comic strip "Budapest" about a dog of the same name who was always hungry…Hungary…anyway…) Not long after, my Mom kept a wall of my art in her room, and I was simultaneously painting, drawing, practicing sock-skating and my mime routines.
K.L. Are their other artists in your family? If yes, who are they and what do they do?
A.M. My mom is a mosaic artist and craftsperson; my older sister is a YA novelist ("All Our Yesterdays" by Cristin Terrill); my younger sister is a 14 year old sweetie pie who's proving to be a great artist and performer; my dad is a wonderful photographer and journal keeper; my step-mother is a drawer and general life designer; my grandmother was a painter and sculptor, under the guise of a junior league homemaker; my grandad would follow along with bob ross and paint happy little paintings; and i have a book of my great grandmother's witty poetry published by the junior league in the 1950's. Not until writing this out did I realize how many artists are in my family!
K.L. What memorable responses have you had to your work?
A.M. I think my favorite and most memorable responses have come from "Bobby's Booboo" (lulu.com!) that Tom, my wonderful and hilarious boss, and I did with one another--Tom wrote it and I illustrated it. Seeing it now, process-wise and execution-wise, I would maybe do some things differently, but then we get the responses of the kids and parents that we work with--"when she falls down now, we have to read the book!" or "George makes us read this 5 times a night!" or during story time, someone shouts it out as a request--and it's cool to have a first hand account of the ways in which your work is affecting the intended audience.
K.L. Do you feel like you worry about your art being liked by others?
A.M. Of course! We all do! (Oh God, right? We all worry, right?!) I don't think I am changing my style or what I do or how I approach it because of worrying what people will think, but there is that moment of showing your work that you think about how you hope people like it. As much as we make art for ourselves, it's also made to be shared. And because art can be so personal, it can almost feel like a personal rejection if someone hates your stuff. On the other hand, it is a hard and wise lesson to be able to take a critique. Through working for other people, I have been learning this lesson (again, and again…) and it is actually a blessing. It allows me to take a step back from my personal work and try to look at it with a more objective eye. Unless I love it JUST THE WAY IT IS and I'M NOT CHANGING IT! ..No, but really. I'm trying!
K.L. Do you have a favorite piece of your own art?
A.M. There is a watercolor and pencil drawing that I did about four years ago that hangs in my bedroom. I have never scanned it or photographed it, but I made it the night that I knew I loved the man I'm with.
K.L. Is there a type of art that you would like to pursue but haven’t yet?
A.M. Oooh, probably! I would love to learn how to make puppets and do a preschooler web show with me and a puppet. I would love to know how to make soap and candles. I would love to learn to fire ceramics. I'd love to take a storytelling class and a class on the program Illustrator. I also love cooking, so I would love a pastry making class! I'm seriously down for all kinds of stuff.
K.L. Anything else you’d like to say about art or anything or everything?
A.M. Just that I hope to wake up every day and still be driven to perform and make art, to write and to be thinking of new ideas! It's a fun and challenging way to live, and I wouldn't change it.
Thanks again to Annie Moor for so thoughtfully answering my many questions (and for being a good friend!). You can also find some of her lovely creations on products over at Society6!
Shared to: Paint Party Friday
*All images used with the consent of Annie Moor*