Interview With M M Anderson

When did you first become interested in art?
I’ve been interested in art since I was a small child. Color has always fascinated me. I initially learned to mix colors by mixing my Play Doh into secondary colors from the primaries. I really didn’t take an art class until my senior year in high school though. Then I chose to major in art when I attended college at Lynchburg College in Virginia. My plan was to teach art but that didn’t pan out. I really didn’t do much with my artistic skills until a few years ago when I began to work with vector images.

What style of art do you use most?

I am influenced by the Impressionists and by American artists of the twentieth century like Georgia O’Keeffe. I love to work with nature and with animals as subjects and especially with the depiction of light. My favorite medium is soft pastel but I also work with vector graphics done in Adobe Illustrator software. I enjoy creating seamless patterns for fabrics, wallpaper and other uses. My portfolio includes a bit of photography too, which I enjoy doing very much but don’t consider my artistic strong suit.

Brindle Beagle Mix Portrait

Has your style changed from when you first began as an artist?

I wouldn’t say that my style has changed significantly but my skill level has increased quite a bit with practice. Line has always been a critical element in my work but lately I have not been emphasizing it as much as I once did.

What medium do you use?

My favorite medium is soft pastel. I also use charcoal and occasionally graphite and conté crayon. I used to paint with oils but have found that I don’t enjoy the clean-up anymore, but I wouldn’t rule out doing an oil painting in the future. I do vector work on the computer using Adobe Illustrator software to create graphic motifs and seamless patterns. Photography is also a pastime of mine but not my main focus (pun intended).

What made you choose that medium?

There is something about the immediacy of soft pastel, the feeling of drawing and blending by hand, that appeals to me. As I mentioned before, line has always been an important element in my artwork, and pastels allow for manipulation of line as well as shape and color. As for computer graphics, I started doing that work to try for stock art sales. That avenue didn’t lead to success for me but I did learn a great deal about graphic design and I do enjoy working with vectors, especially for creating fabric patterns. I used to sew a great deal and someday I hope to be able to do so again using fabrics of my own design.

What the Hen Said

Do your ideas come from life or imagination?

My inspiration is mostly from the natural world. I am very good at depicting animals and enjoy doing pet portraits. I am an avid gardener and love the colors found in flowers and in nature. Sunlight is my favorite type of lighting although I don’t often work out of doors with my pastels. I take photographs and use them for reference much of the time. We have a backyard flock of chickens and I’ve found that they make interesting subjects for my work.

How do you choose your images and colours?

I choose subjects in a variety of ways. We have a number of pets and chickens which make good models as well as growing things around the garden including leaves, flowers and acorns. I also do occasional landscapes and seascapes. My home is not too distant from the South Carolina beaches and we also have several rivers and parks around which are wonderful to investigate with the camera. The Blue Ridge Mountains lie to the West and my childhood was spent within sight of them so that is another subject that moves me, especially now that I live in the flat land. I love color and strive to use it effectively in my work.

I learned color theory in college but I also try to use it instinctively. Sometimes I just let the work flow and go in whichever direction it takes me.

Waccamaw Impressions

Do you work in a studio?

Actually, my studio is my bedroom. I share a 100+ year old house with my sister and brother-in-law. My room is upstairs and has fantastic light coming through a large dormer window with a Southwestern exposure. My desk and computer are right in front of the window so that I can take advantage of the view and the sunshine. Sometimes I do pastel work seated at my desk but many times I like to work reclining on my bed while listening to music.

Who is your favourite artist?

I have always loved the work of Claude Monet. His talent for depicting light was amazing as well as his use of color and texture. Plus, the longevity of his career inspires me to keep working as I grow older.

What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?

It is difficult for me to pick a favorite among my own work. I am very pleased with much of my most recent work in pastels and charcoal. ‘Squirrel in the Autumn Dogwood’ is a current favorite.

Squirrel in the Autumn Dogwood

How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?

I can usually do a 9×12 pastel in five to six hours after I’ve first done a preliminary pencil drawing in my sketch book. Some complex computer graphics will take much longer than that. It really depends on how much detail the subject calls for. Sometimes I get distracted by detail. It is a struggle for me to keep things simple but that is one of the things that I strive for in my work. I always try for a balance of realism and simplification in order to communicate the meaning or feeling of a subject without taking a photo realistic approach.

How well do you take criticism?

We did periodic critiques of each other’s work when I was a student. I think that I can take criticism well if it is constructively given and well thought out. I have often benefitted from the advice of other artists, especially with a work in progress. Sometimes I can sense that something is off but it takes a fresh set of eyes to actually see and point out the specific problem.

What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?

The only way that I have found to overcome a block is to force myself to start working on a new project. Usually, once I get started I can get into the work and produce something that I like. But getting past that initial inertia is the hardest part.

Sunshine Pineapples

How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?

I try very hard not to overwork my images. I have seen artists do that and it really takes away a feeling of freshness and spontaneity in my opinion. When my work gets close to completion, sometimes I’ll put it down for a few minutes and then come back to it with a fresh perspective to see if anything seems lacking. My working style generally leaves parts of the paper untouched or lightly touched by the pastels. I use colored paper a lot and like to let that color play a part in the composition. Also, pastels can begin to look muddy if too many color layers are blended together indiscriminately. Graphic work is a little different. With vectors, I can save and re-use elements of one design in many other designs. Sometimes I will play around with patterns and placement until I find something that I really like.

Have you had exhibits in galleries?

I have never had a solo exhibit but that would be a wonderful goal. I have had work accepted in regional shows.

What are you currently working on?

I have recently been working on a few fabric patterns and some holiday themes. For the year 2016 I made the resolution to create one traditional media piece per week. Unfortunately, circumstances intervened and I haven’t met that goal, but I have done much more pastel and charcoal work than I would normally have accomplished. I think that I might try again in 2017 and see if I can’t rise to the challenge.

Mt. Pisgah Morning Over Asheville

What are your plans for the future?

Work, work and more work is the only plan that I’ve made for the future. I will continue to hone my craft and perhaps pursue other avenues for selling my work. Currently I am selling my art on several Print on Demand sites online. I also list fabric designs on a site called Spoonflower. I would like to find time to order some of my own fabrics and do some sewing. I used to enjoy making my own clothes and I think that would be a great way to advertise my design work.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

One of my art professors used to say that the important thing isn’t how well you draw but how well you see. Meaning that observation of the subject is paramount to translating it into art. I’ve always found that to be the absolute best advice. Learning to actually see contours, light and shadow are so very vital.

What advice would you give new artists?

I would advise new artists to study marketing. I wish that advice had been given to me when I was in art school all of those years ago. The quality of your art will be secondary to your marketing skills if you really want to generate an income with your artwork.

Have you done any courses to help you?

Aside from the art courses that I took while in college, I later took classes in black and white photography. That was back in the days before digital cameras. I have also taken courses in using business related computer software which have been useful. Community colleges are a great resource if you happen to have one nearby. A few years ago I even earned a certificate in floral design. I’ve also taken online courses to learn Adobe Illustrator.

Cardinal on Ivy Branch with Hummingbird and Pink Lily

What do you do to market your work?

So far most of my marketing has been on various social media outlets, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc. I’ve recently started trying out Instagram too. I also keep a handy supply of business cards in my bag to give to folks who express an interest in my work. There isn’t much of an “art scene” where I reside so most of my efforts have been online.

Do you use social networking in your day to day life?

I use social media daily, not only to market my work, but also to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. I would have to say that I’m more comfortable with Facebook and Twitter so those are the two that I try to keep updated the most frequently. I use Pinterest not only to advertise my work but also for items of personal interest like fun crafts, appealing recipes, and small house plans, which I find fascinating.

Are you available for work (commissions)?

I would definitely welcome commissions. I have previously done commissioned pet portraits. If a potential client desired a work in pastels or another somewhat fragile medium, though, then I would prefer to provide an opportunity for purchasing a print of that work rather than trying to ship the actual artwork.

Ginkgo on the Cusp of Autumn

Have you got hobbies?

My favorite hobby is gardening. I love to plant things and watch them grow. I start most of my own vegetable garden from seed each spring. Another hobby that I enjoy is photography. Apart from finding subjects for my artwork, I love to photograph flowers and nature. Reading is also a very important pastime for me. I like historical fiction and also fantasy and science fiction. Basically, I want to escape into the story while I’m reading.

Where are you based?

I currently live in Dillon, SC, USA. This is a small town in Northeastern South Carolina along Interstate 95, around 70 miles inland from Myrtle Beach. We have mild winters and sweltering summers. There is a great deal of natural beauty in the area.

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6 Thoughts to “Interview With M M Anderson”

  1. Really interesting interview. I commissioned MM Anderson to do a pastel portrait of my cat and I am delighted with it. It sits on the wall behind me as I type.

  2. VIVA Anderson

    cONgratulations MM on this great Interview, and compliments on the gorgeous artwork you shared, Well Done – Abbie, great interview/opportunity for we artists……in gratitude……VIVA

  3. Fabulous interview … I really enjoyed getting to know MM better and viewing some of her beautiful artwork!! Congratulations on the fabulous interview!!

  4. it’s always fun to see how people work. I love your work, Linda!

  5. I really appreciate the kind comments that you’ve all left about my interview. 🙂

  6. Kevin callahan

    I am really find of your pastel drawings. Your animals have such life. I just wanted to pet the squirrel.

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