AF: Where are you originally from?
AC: I am half Swedish and half American. I grew up in Atlanta, GA and spent most summers of my childhood in the Swedish archipelago outside Stockholm.
AF: How did you end up in New York?
AC: It’s New York! This city is magnetic and like so many artists before me, I was drawn to its charms.
For a more specific answer though, I first moved here in 2002 after graduating from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. In 2003 I moved to London for a year and half, then returned in 2004. I love NYC and have been here ever since.
AF: You work a lot in the film industry. How does that affect your painting?
AC: It’s so odd when I joined SAG and started acting back in 2007; I viewed the work only as a side gig to bring in extra money and a way to qualify for affordable health insurance. I never anticipated how much fun it would turn out to be or how over time I would be influenced by the industry.
Since I started acting I have been in over fifty movies and over twenty TV shows. All these hours on set have been such an amazing experience and now I am not surprised at all to discover the parallels between the set and the studio. Since I started acting my paintings have become much more narrative in nature. I now often use dramatic lighting to emphasize the story or heighten a sense of mystery in an image.
Working as an actor is very imaginative and creative, even when I have a small part or I’m an extra or a stand in, I am still thinking visually and surrounded by fantastically interesting and creative individuals. In fact one of my most recent paintings, Galina, is a portrait of an actress I became friends when we met on set years ago while filming Gossip Girl.
AF: How do you arrive at something that you ultimately want to paint?
AC: Mahatma Gandhi said “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still small voice within me.” I hear that quote and relate to it, but I also shake my head thinking that small voice of mine is so demanding!
In all aspects of my life I like to push myself. I enjoy challenges, I am ambitious, and I bring this attitude to the studio. That said, the one aspect of my process which is always easy and always painless is answering the question of what to paint. Certain images will pull my eye and I feel I have to paint them.
I try and listen to that impulse and not get lost in my head with asking why or for what purpose. With painting many of my best decisions come when I stop analyzing everything and just respond intuitively, so I have learned to trust this and to draw in the direction my heart guides me.
AF: Who are some of your influences?
AC: My work is nostalgic, romantic, decadent, and vibrant, so I have found influence from people and ideas in the past who have embraced these sentiments too. The life of the characters in an F. Scott Fitzgerald book, Whistler’s portraits, the patterns in a Vuillard, Klimt’s trees, Yves Klein’s blue, the Fragonard room at the Frick, Pre-Raphaelite paintings and poetry, Tiffany stained glass, and Mucha’s prints are just a few of the many sources of inspiration which have shaped my aesthetic.
AF: Any exhibitions or projects coming up?
AC: Yes! I have a few exciting things in the works but it is still too early to discuss them… Stay tuned to my artist page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AnnikaConnorArtist and my company Active Ideas Productions page for the most up to date news on what is new and happening https://www.facebook.com/ActiveIdeasProductions.
This print is only $35 and you can get it here: http://www.littlepaperplanes.
AF: What’s your dream project? If you had no constraints and could work on anything you wanted, what would you do?
AC: I have so many answers to this question! One of my big wishes though is to get a large commission to have my paintings turned into several huge stained glass windows or walls.
Being raised Catholic stained glass windows have often surrounded me. As a child in church, they would draw my eye and engage my imagination as I thought about ideas of spirituality and magic.
Then when I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, I would go and stare at the big Chagall stained glassed window in the museum. Chagall’s America Windows are wall sized and hauntingly beautiful. The piece positioned near the back of the museum served in my imagination as the divining wall between the museum and the painting department where I was studying.
Later on in my studies, I followed my love of Matisse and mysticism and went to Vence to visit his chapel. You can’t imagine the beauty as the sunlight of southern France streamed through the glass. Enchanting and inspiring are too weak of words to describe it. Ever since then I have longed to one day make my own stained glass paintings. I love the ideas of seeing my paintings boiled down to be the essence of pure light, line, and color, and I hope that life will give me the chance to one day actualize this dream.
AF: Any advice you have to give other artists out there?
AC: I would remind them that when they are feeling low or lost to stay true to the beauty of their dreams and remind them what Carl Schurz says which is “Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.”
AF: While in your studio you took a picture of me with my favorite painting and you told me that you were starting a new project. Can you please tell me more about the project?
AC: Sure! The Studio Visit Photos are a fun little side project which I just started a few weeks ago. Over the next six months or longer, I will be inviting lots of fascinating and fun people over to my studio for tea, drink, or coffee and a bit of art talk. While over, I am photographing the visitors with their favorite painting or paintings of mine. I hope to learn what people respond to and why, and to see my art through the eyes of another.
As I only started this project a few weeks ago I have no conclusions to report yet, but I love hearing what my viewers are thinking and listening to what ideas my art sparks in them. For those who allow it, I am posting their photo on my Facebook Artist’s Page as a way to visually track what the response is. If you’re interested in checking out this project or seeing how it develops please visit: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.542665185757364.126194.339136786110206&type=1&l=f99c38a7c3
Interview by: Jamie Martinez
Photos of the artwork by: Devon Banks