Anna Mason is a botanical painter who very quickly found commercial success as an artist following her successes exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show. Having only painted professionally since 2008, she is now featured regularly in Artists & Illustrators Magazine, and is fast becoming recognised as one of the finest tutors of botanical painting in the country, offering both online courses and tuition in person. Anna Mason’s ‘Watercolour with WOW’ set is now available to order at Jackson’s Art Supplies, and contains all Anna’s essential watercolours for painting exquisite flower paintings that possess that added ‘WOW’ factor. Her exhibition with Tom Stephens ‘Tropical Splendour’ runs at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, until the end of February 2014.
Lisa: In the ‘About’ section of your website you mention that you only started to paint professionally in 2008, taking the brave step of quitting the day job. What was the biggest motivation for you making that decision?
Anna: Like so many people, I’d taken the “sensible” decision to pursue academic study, not art, after school and had ended up in a job in local government management. It was OK, but when I began this style of painting in my spare time in 2006, I felt really strongly that it was what I should be doing as a career. For two years I worked a part-time job that allowed me to begin the transition – though it was hard to try to juggle the job and my painting. After I had a successful exhibition at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2008 I thought, ‘It’s now or never’ and decided be brave and go for it.
Lisa: How have you promoted your work?
‘Strawberries ‘Everest”, available as a limited edition print of 50
Lisa: How did you go about teaching yourself to paint?
Anna: ‘Self-taught’ is actually a bit of a misleading term. All I did was practice. I had no tuition, and I didn’t read any books. I did a bit of research initially into the sorts of materials I would need, but in terms of technique it was something that just naturally happened from the first time I tried to paint in this style in 2006. It then took a few months to hone it, but I actually think the groundwork was done in all the years of playing with felt tip pens and paints I did when I was a young child.
Anna Mason’s Study of a Dahlia from start to finish
Lisa: Are there any fundamental tips for painting that all beginners should know?
Anna: To paint things so that they look realistic, you need to practice breaking down the subject you’re observing into shapes of colour. It’s seeing in this way that is fundamental to beginning to use paint to recreate something of what you see.
Anna Mason at work
Lisa: Do you think it is a crime to paint from photographs?
Anna: Not at all. I think a lot of the negative attitudes towards using photographs stem from the time before digital cameras and amazing quality computer screens. Nowadays you can capture fantastically accurate detail and colour with even the most basic camera, and view your photos on a screen that reproduces colour well too.
Lisa: What is your watercolour brand of choice?
Anna: Because my technique involves layering paint, I have spent the last few years finding the most intense and transparent paints. Mostly I use a selection of Winsor and Newton colours with the addition of one from Holbein and one from Schmincke.
‘Apple ‘Acme”, available as a limited edition print
Lisa: What can artists who have signed up to one of your courses hope to learn?
Anna: Watercolour has a reputation for being tricky because of the fact that you can’t lighten parts of your painting if you inadvertently take them too dark. I show you a technique that not only helps you to preserve your highlights, but also helps you to get the darkest tones in your paintings correct too, so that your watercolours become 3D and seem to pop off the paper. I’ve put a lot of thought into working out exactly what I’m doing when I’m painting so that I can be really clear in my explanations. I show you every stage of what I do and help you to build your confidence as well as skills. I’m also relaxed and in my approach as I firmly believe that painting should be about having fun and enjoying the process.
Lisa: Where can we see more of your work (online or in the flesh)?
Anna: If you’re lucky enough to be in Florida this winter, I’m exhibiting at the Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota from the 21st November until the end of February. Otherwise, you can see many of my paintings on my website annamasonart.com and you can sign up for my free online workshop at watercolourswithwow.com where I provide free video tuition and an online community. I also have a Facebook page – www.facebook.com/AnnaMasonArt. In addition to this my book The Modern Flower Painter is published by Search Press in the spring (and will be stocked by Jackson’s Art Supplies).
English Rose: Anna Mason