In 2017 Anna Perlin was the Artist & Illustrator’s Magazine Artist of the Year, awarded the top prize for her Mixed Media work ‘Brambles and Bluebells’. Anna’s practice combines materials and processes to create works that evoke the delicacy and lyricism to be found in the natural world. In her colourful depictions of woodlands and plant-life the exuberance of paint marks remain evident – the energy of the process used as a language to describe the delicacy and power of the subject. I wanted to ask her how becoming Artist of the Year affected her work, and what plans she has in store for 2018.
Lisa: Congratulations for winning the A&I Artist of the Year Award! What does winning the prize mean to you and how has it affected your practice, if at all?
Anna: Thank you! Winning the title was amazing and a complete surprise. Although I’m very happy with what I do and how I create, which is why I felt confident enough to enter my work for critique, it was a huge honour that people I respect in the art world valued my work too. Art is very subjective – I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to create and it can be tough putting your work up for inspection…but I’ve always worked by the principle that as long as you’re creating for yourself you can’t go far wrong, and it was wonderful that staying true to my practices paid off.
Lisa: How would you describe how 2017 has been in your artistic practice – what breakthroughs and set backs did you experience?
Anna: 2017 has been a roller coaster year for my art. I was on Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year in 2016 and reached the semi finals which aired in November and December 2016 so the beginning of 2017 was crazy as the response I had from that was phenomenal. Then winning Artist of the Year in January meant that suddenly I had a lot more people interested in my work than ever before. It was quite over whelming to begin with and I was also working towards my first solo show that summer with Bircham Gallery so it was a lot of juggling. Although all these events were amazing and what I’d been aiming towards for years, the amount of work that wasn’t painting took me by surprise and was a steep lesson in putting the time and effort into the non creative side of being an artist.
Lisa: Do you get to visit many art exhibitions? If so what were your favourite in the past 12 months?
Anna: I visit as many exhibitions as I can, but not just the big exhibitions, also the little art galleries, and I made a special trip in to London this year to see one of my favourite artists and favourite galleries in Cork Street just behind the RA. Messum’s is a gallery I’ve been visiting for about 15 years as they have the most amazing artists at the height of their careers, but they’re the loveliest art gallery and always made me feel welcome even when I looked like an art student who was clearly never going to be able to afford the paintings in there! This year they had a Kurt Jackson exhibition and I’ve always loved his work. Seeing his paintings in the flesh and how he uses mixed media was very inspiring.
Lisa: Do you have a plan of what you might hope to achieve creatively in 2018?
Anna: I don’t have a goal for 2018 other than to stay true to painting for myself. Although I’ve now got more demand for my work, I want to make sure I keep my art fresh and relevant as I think you can tell when someone has truly enjoyed creating something rather than doing it because they have to. I’ve also got a great relationship with the three galleries I’m with (Bircham gallery, Rob Fogell Gallery and Thackeray Gallery) and want to work with them on upcoming shows and opportunities.
Lisa: What art material have you loved above all others this year?
Anna: As part of my Artist of the Year prize I got a year’s worth of art supplies from CASS art and I treated myself to a huge box of all Sennelier oil pastels. They’re the most beautiful oil pastels – buttery soft and gorgeous colours. I wouldn’t have treated myself to them if it hadn’t been for the prize so I have loved using them.
Lisa: What has been the most important creative lesson you have learned in 2017?
Anna: 2017 has really reinforced my belief that as an artist its important to be happy in the work you create and to do it for yourself primarily, and not to work thinking about someone else’s preferences or ideas. If you like the work you’re doing and you’ve pleased yourself then someone else will like it too. Never judge yourself by someone else’s work and continue to push in the direction you want to go.
Lisa: What work were you most proud of in 2017 and why?
Anna: There’s a couple of paintings I’m very proud of from last year and it’s because I’ve found them challenging and pushed through to find paintings that have worked in new and unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s tempting to think ‘well that painting worked and people liked it, I’ll just do that again’ but it can be easy to get stale and bored that way. I feel the biggest sense of achievement and satisfaction when I’ve created something completely new, even though I don’t know how people are going to react to it, but that’s part of the point.
Lisa: Can you tell us a bit about your working with Carborundum – what is the process exactly and why do you like working in this medium?
Anna: I use carborundum in my print making and came across it when I was experimenting with different print forms and discovered collagraphs and a wonderful artist called Vicky Oldfield. Carborundum is the grit that makes sandpaper and it comes in different grades from DIY-type websites. It holds the ink in its grains and by painting it onto a printing plate (a sealed bit of card) with glue you can create very painterly prints which I really liked. Depending on the grade of carborundum and the ratio of glue you can make lines and tonal shading so the possibilities are endless.
Lisa: Do you have any exhibition plans in the pipeline for 2018?
Anna: I’ll be starting off the year with some of my carborundum prints at the Bircham Gallery in Holt, Norfolk, for a mixed print exhibition they are having from 13th January – 21st February and I will have some of my paintings with the Bircham Gallery and Robert Fogell gallery in Stamford in their mixed summer exhibitions. I will also have work in the 50th anniversary exhibition at the Thackeray Gallery, High Street Kensington, from the 19th June – 20th July. I’ll be having another solo show with Bircham gallery in either 2019 or 2020 which sounds like a long way off but it takes time to create new pieces so I’ll be working hard all year!
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Anna: I’ve just launched a new website with new work and up to date information on upcoming exhibitions – www.annaperlin.com, plus you can find my work at the Bircham Gallery, Holt Norfolk, Robert Fogell Gallery Stamford Lincolnshire, and Thackeray Gallery on High Street Kensington London
Header Image: ‘Quiet Autumn Morning’ by Anna Perlin, Mixed media, 40cmx100cm, 2016