By Janelle Faignant | Correspondent
Something became apparent after a handful of interviews with members of the artists group East Mountain Mentoring Artists (EMMA). They were each engaging, whip-smart, interesting, and funny. Was that just a coincidence? Or is it because they had zeroed in on a passion for art, used it to connect with a group, and the effects of that were optimism, mental clarity, a feeling of community engagement, not to mention an artistic outlet and a great group of friends.
This week’s interview with Ann McFarren is a glimpse into her thriving art business. A mother, grandmother and Vermont native, she turns 80 next year. And she isn’t afraid of technology.
“In today’s world you just plug your camera into your computer and you’ve got your pictures,” she said in a recent interview. “I used to have rolls of film and had to have them developed, but now I put them in iPhoto and if I want one I print it out.”
Since her grandchildren introduced her to the computer, she carries a digital camera in the car with her, taking countless photos for prospective paintings. She has a website, Facebook page and Etsy account, does about twelve art shows throughout New England in a given year, and teaches classes both from her home studio and at the Chaffee’s Sip and Dip.
She’s been an artist for the past 45 years, (“after the first time I tried it I was hooked”) but aside from some lessons she took one winter from Robert Frick, she has no formal training. A prolific artist, she says her biggest claim to fame happened in 2007 when she won a statewide contest to paint the Capitol Christmas tree. Her painting now hangs in Washington D.C. at the Department of Agriculture.
“It’s exciting to watch a painting come to life,” she says. “I usually build a story in my mind as I’m painting and try to stay within the boundaries of that story to portray whatever it is I’m feeling, so people can transport themselves to that place or that time.”
She uses the five downstairs rooms of her house in Rutland for her business — a gallery, studio, and classrooms — where she teaches and paints. McFarren prefers to paint in her own studio, but if she does go on-site somewhere she uses watercolors, which she says are more easily transportable and dry quicker.
“But I’m an oil painter first and foremost,” she said. “That’s my first love.”
She recently finished a new painting — a sunrise on a pond that she, partially, at least, imagined. The rest comes from a photo. She describes mist rising from the water, early morning light, a pinkish-orange color. She can also paint a picture with her poetic descriptions. The story she imagined for this piece?
“You think, this is an early morning, you were able to get up early and catch that sunrise and the beautiful colors. In the distance evergreen trees are silhouetted in the water.”
You can currently see some of her work on display at the Compass Art Center in the exhibit “What EMMA Loves,” and McFarren will be giving a demonstration and artist talk on September 20 about her path to becoming an artist.
“I like the camaraderie of the other artists,” she said of EMMA. “It’s important to have that feeling of other people doing what you’re doing. You feel out there by yourself if you don’t have any network to fall back on. Someone that knows what your struggles are and can sympathize with what you’re doing or perhaps advise you, or just in general to be there for you. It’s important to have these connections in the world that you’re in, which is the world of art for me.”
EMMA artist talks, demos & classes
The artists of the Rutland-based group, EMMA (East Mountain Mentoring Artists), will conduct a series of artist talks, demos and classes to share their breadth of artistic skills and experience. The series will take place on Sunday afternoons at the Compass Music and Arts Center while their exhibit “What EMMA Loves” is on display. All events are free. See below for dates and details on each event.
September 20, 1 p.m.:
Ann McFarren and
Ann McFarren, an oil landscape painter and teacher for 45 years, will give an artist talk and demonstrate the painting of a Vermont landscape while explaining her technique.
Christine Holzschuh, teacher, and founder of EMMA, will explain what it means to be a “Daily Painter.” She will share how to paint small paintings (she calls “gems”) in vibrant color using value (white, gray, black) to map it out.
McFarren participates in many juried shows throughout New England and is affiliated with the Chaffee Art Center, Southern Vermont Art Center, Vermont Watercolor Society, Vermont Hand Crafters, Vermont Arts Council, and Vermont Crafts Council; Holzschuh has taken courses at Universities across the country, frequently participates in professional workshops, and blogs about her daily paintings.
September 27, 1-2:15 p.m.:
Mary Crowley – Drawing Made Easy: Anyone Can Draw This Way
Mary Crowley, an art teacher for 30 years and the current host of Peg TV’s “The Art Show,” will lead a simple, four-step approach to drawing that allows anyone, at any age or ability, to draw. The method can also be applied to any subject. Materials can be provided if needed. Beginners are welcome – even accomplished artists can learn something.
Crowley graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Middlebury College and is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education.
October 4, 1 p.m.:
Heather Shay and
Lowell Snowdon Klock
Painter Heather Shay and fine-arts photographer Lowell Snowdon Klock will demonstrate and discuss the differences in how they each approach the same subject with their different mediums. Shay will show the whole process of creating a painting, starting with the decisions on composition, the original sketch, blocking in the colors and finishing the work.
Shay is a former student of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum School in Boston, a juried member of the Chaffee Art Center and has exhibited at Okemo Mountain in Vermont and throughout Boston, Klock has an associates degree in photography, is a former student of Frank Lavelle and Elizabeth Opalenik, as well as a juried member of the Brandon Artists’ Guild, the Chaffee Art Center and artist member of the Southern Vermont Arts Center.
October 18, 1-2:15 p.m.:
Mary Crowley – Making the Grammy Book
Mary Crowley, the author and illustrator of the children’s book, “I Love to Visit My Grammy,” will explain how she came to write, illustrate and get the book published. In addition, she will talk about her second book, and the one she is working on now.
Compass Music and Arts Center is located at Park Village, 333 Jones Dr. Brandon VT, 05733 (Park Village used to be the Brandon Training School, located 1.5 miles north of downtown Brandon off of Arnold District Rd.).
Janelle Faignant is a freelance writer living in Rutland.