Thursday, March 11, 2010

Annie Dillard Paints

Art is like an ill-trained Labrador retriever
 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. . . .

No longer writing 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.
Stand With Haiti


Laura said...

Fascinating! I will have to see her work. If her paintings talk the way her books do, they must be exquisite. Thanks again for some excellent resources, Maureen!

Unknown said...

I did not know she had stopped writing and was painting. Will be an interesting wander. And yes, you are an excellent wayfinder.

Louise Gallagher said...

I didn't know she'd given up writing either! When I went and read her bio -- I thought, oh my, her writer's life was very busy and full.

Thanks for the light again!


Anonymous said...

interesting that she made her name known through the written word, that now draws people to see her other art.

Judith van Praag said...

Maureen! W
What a great post and wonderful links. I had no idea —obviously didn't read An American Childhood, I'll add the title to my list or rather pile of next reads. I'm not surprised she's switched from writing to painting. Doing both is possible, but only when you have enough time. She must have had an intense wish to express herself in this fluid tangible medium.

For me writing takes first place at the moment since I wish to finish a book "Painting for Life" (work title), and there's so much to do to make that happen.

Do you, does any of the other visitors here know if she's talked about this switch over?

Maureen said...

Judith, in the Provincetown Banner article to which I link Dillard does say just a little bit about why she no longer writes books.

Dianna Woolley said...

What a marvelous post on Annie Dillard's artwork. Her pieces are skilled, soft and I felt quite drawn to their peace. Beautiful work.

Thanks for revealing yet another talented side of AD!


Ann Tracy, Maine's Digital Alchemist & Artist said...

it's so good to know that there are others out there who work in multiple media! I'm surprised that she's quit writing, she is one of my favorite authors... I'm interested to see if her art is as representational as her writing...

Ann Tracy, Maine's Digital Alchemist & Artist said...

good to hear of others who work in multiple media! will be interesting to see if her artwork is representational as was her writing, which I really enjoy.

Darrelyn Saloom said...

Fascinating post. I love to surround myself with books, paintings, and photographs when I write. How lovely it would be to have one of Dillard's pieces on my shelf (no room left on the walls of my office).

a.q.s. said...

i really appreciated this post and all the resourceful links you provided. many thanks.

as my own writing process evolves (i write on sundays & tuesdays on my own blog) in addition to the current work in progress manuscript i am working on, and learning about art and artists and their processes, i can't help but notice it has taken my work to a whole new level. of course, the conduit of this has been @holly59 and @waltpascoe. through them i have connected with many artists (including your blog too now!) that only adds fuel to the fire within. very much appreciate it.

i thought i was going mad for this desire to paint---i don't know how to draw--but now it makes so much sense!

i will check out the other links you provided.