I love meeting artists. Their ability to capture emotions and depth on paper never fails to intrigue me. I’m pretty sure that what inspires artists is a similar driving force that writers experience in the depths of their being to create. The thing is that surroundings and experiences do shape lives and hence decisions to follow a certain career path. Still, I wonder, is the driving force behind most artists, actors or writers born as a result of such experiences, or is it born at birth, or does life somehow manage to call out to us and direct us toward what speaks to our heart — if we only but listen?
Today I interview Annette Gaffney who, by the way, is not only an artist but also a writer and illustrator.
AMM: I’m so happy to have you here, Annette. First, I’d like to know, what propels you as an artist?
AG: Thanks Ann Marie. It’s great be here. Creating art is intrinsic to me. I get such happiness from the process and results. I have a history of being “aesthetically experimental” with everything I possibly can, whether it’s decorating my home, how I dress or how I organize my living/working space. A pivotal point in my life was when I was 29 years’ old. Upon walking into my apartment, a guy I dated briefly gaped around, processing my unique décor. First, he looked upward at the sheer drapes I had crazy-glued to the ceiling to create a soft billowy cloud effect and camouflage the giant cracks. Then, he gawped down at my baseboard, which I had trimmed with black electrical tape to make it look uniform and even. Then finally, after taking in the giant pink and blue 3-D geometrical shapes I had painted on my kitchen wall, he looked at me and said: “Why don’t you focus all of this insane energy onto canvas?” So, I did and continue to do so 22 years later.
AMM: I’m so glad you listened. Imagine how your life would have turned out if you hadn’t? Still, how do you reconcile your desire to write picture books with your passion for painting?
AG: A lot of people are inspired to write children’s stories after they have a child. But years before my son was born I had been painting in my whimsical, illustrative style. People were always telling me “your art would look great in kids’ books; you should write some!”. And so, in 2001 during an artistic sabbatical in France, I started working on story ideas and sketches. Since then, I have written many more stories in various phases of realization. Sometimes, as a writer and painter, I feel as if I am being pulled in two creative directions. Both disciplines require a great deal of time and dedication to develop and promote. Reconciling the time between both is something I am still perfecting. Like most women, it’s a challenge to balance career and family life. To help me achieve that balance, I map out my time, create lists, stick to a daily schedule and side-step any distractions (not always easy).
AMM: You know what I love about what you’re saying. You don’t shy away from a challenge, even if it’s out of your comfort zone. You listen to what people tell you and if it resonates, you take action. Way cool! One final question. What keeps you going when the going gets rough?
AG: I use mindfulness and meditation to keep me grounded. Being mindful helps me to be present and not ruminate over the past or future. I remind myself that although the type of work I’m doing will not change the world, it makes people smile. I am also currently working on my psychology degree with a view to becoming an art therapist so that I can help others express themselves through art. This additional endeavour, although challenging, will ultimately be the most rewarding. It is the best way I can imagine to give back through my art, and focus on what I believe is important in life; happiness and mental health.
More about Annette
I am an artist who has been repeatedly told that my paintings lend themselves well to children’s literature. In 2013, I finally followed the proverbial sign posts and ventured into writing and illustrating picture books for children. It is my hope to infuse into my stories the same whimsical and sunny perspective of the world that I represent in my paintings.