Art is like an ill-trained Labrador retriever
that drags you out into traffic.
that drags you out into traffic.
~ Annie Dillard
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard paints and draws. She's had a brush or a drawing implement in her hand since age 7, and in her memoir An American Childhood describes learning to draw this way:
One thing struck me as odd and interesting. A gesture drawing took forty-five seconds; a Sustained Study took all morning. From any still-life arrangement or model's pose, the artist could produce either a short study or a long one. Evidently, a given object took no particular amount of time to draw; instead the artist took the time, or didn't take it, at pleasure. And, similarly, things themselves possessed no fixed and intrinsic amount of interest; instead things were interesting as long as you had attention to give them. How long does it take to draw a baseball mitt? As much time as you care to give it. Not an infinite amount of time, but more time than you first imagined. For many days, so long as you want to keep drawing that mitt, and studying that mitt, there will always be a new and finer layer of distinctions to draw out and lay in. . . .
books,* Dillard gives her time to painting or drawing. Not unexpectedly, she takes as her subject matter nature, particularly water, mountains, and dunes or other terrain in places she calls home, such as Cape Cod and Key West, Florida. She creates landscapes of vistas in Maine and Virginia. She also makes self-portraits. Almost always working in small scale (16 inches or smaller to a side), she never over-populates her canvas or makes it dense with imagery. She works in oils and gouache (a type of paint in which the pigment is suspended in water), in colors that sometimes are quite muted and at other times are sharp and vivid. Occasionally, she overlays text (as in "Primary Colors" and "Work Harder"). Some of her work tends toward abstraction (see, for example, "Gonzo Sunshine") or cubism (as in "The Road to Emmaus"); mostly, it falls in the category of realism or representational art.
From her original paintings Dillard creates archival-quality reproductions in editions of 10 that can be ordered in any size for $350. She donates all sales proceeds to Dr. Paul Farmer's Partners in Health. (PIH is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing access to primary health care, ensuring free health care and education for the poor, addressing basic social and economic needs, and serving the poor through the public sector and community partnerships. It is known especially for its work in Haiti.)
Dillard shows her paintings and drawings at Julie Heller Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where in 2009 she was part of "Writers Who Paint: Ellen Langer and Annie Dillard", and Pierre Mendard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is represented by Gallery on Greene, in Key West, where she and her husband spend winters.
* Dillard announced she was giving up writing after the publication in 2007 of The Maytrees, the story of two married artists in Provincetown, Massachusetts, after World War II.
For the article "Author Annie Dillard Turns Attention to Painting, which appeared in the Provincetown Banner of Provincetown, Massachusetts, in July 2009, go here.
Images of original work available through Gallery on Greene may be seen here.
If you are interested in purchasing a reproduction of a Dillard painting or drawing, go here.
For my post on Dr. Farmer and PIH, go here.