Anna Cullen - Artist Interview
'When I paint, it is a perfect example of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Theory. I lose all sense of
space and time, and sometimes it can be hard to pry me away from the canvas.'
~ Anna Cullen
Please tell us a bit about yourself. Anything you’d like to share, perhaps where you live, where you were born, your family.
I'm a mom, secondary school teacher, and hobby artist in Fort St John, BC. I live with my partner, my daughter, and my two dogs, Ralph and Fergus. We're originally from the Vancouver area, but relocated to Fort St. John three years ago when my partner joined the RCMP. I studied psychology and English at Simon Fraser University, and though I have no formal art training, I come from a family of artists and it's always been a side passion of mine.
Can you tell us when you first realized that you enjoyed creating art and wished to become an artist. Is there a particular person who supported your decision to pursue your goals? If so, in what way did you feel supported? If so, how did you feel?
There was never a specific moment, as it was always something I enjoyed doing. My most influential support is from my family who continuously encourage me to pursue my creative side. In the last few years as a special education teacher, it's been a self-wellness activity to break my mind away from work. This past year, I connected with Sandy Troudt about acquiring a print and she encouraged me to join the FCA. Cooped up by the pandemic while on maternity leave this year has given me the great gift of being able to thrust more of my time and energy into my artwork.
What is your motivation for creating art?
My partner jokes that my artistic motivation can be summed up into "tree, house, pooch" because for a while all three seem to be present in my work. But mostly, I choose subjects and mediums that challenge me and make me happy. Because most of my pieces end up on our ever-filling wall space of our tiny duplex, I tend to create pieces with bright colours that make me smile. And yes, my dog Ralph tends to be a popular subject.
Do you have a favorite medium and if so, why?
I have worked with pencil crayon, digital media, watercolour and linocut. Though recently, my preference has been acrylic paint. I really like the brightness on the canvas and its forgivability when I'm interrupted by the baby waking from her nap and need to drop everything.
Can you tell us a bit about some of your artworks and what they mean to you?
I created this piece while my partner was away for six months training at Depot in Regina in 2018. We were just about to find out where the RCMP was going to ship us and I wanted to convey that anticipation in this self-portrait. Since then, I've experimented with a number of self-portrait pieces to help develop my skills for creating faces.
A Shake in the Sunshine
This piece was my first artwork accepted in a FCA gallery exhibition and was a part of the Small Exhibition at the Federation Gallery this past summer. It showcases my favourite model, Ralph, but is important to me because it symbolizes a transition for me from a girl who likes to paint in her spare time to a recognized artist worthy of hanging her work in a gallery.
I created this piece for the FCA Concept Exhibition this summer. My daughter was born in the middle of a global pandemic and so her sense of normalcy is drastically different from my own. I wanted to create a piece that showcased her perspective growing up in a masked world. I'm excited to see that this piece will be on display at the Federation Gallery in late September.
When you create art do you listen to calming music, are you thinking of anything in particular or have any emotions at all?
When I paint, it is a perfect example of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Theory. I lose all sense of space and time, and sometimes it can be hard to pry me away from the canvas. Often I'd lay down roots at the kitchen table, which would turn into a permanent art studio for the remainder of the project. With a tiny tot wandering around these days, (and to my partner's dismay), I've relocated down into the "man den" in the basement where I work on projects while my daughter naps with Netflix going in the background.
In our busy world, time can be an issue. Do you have any tips or tricks to find time for your art?
Art has always been a wellness activity for me, and though my days are a little busier as Mom, I still make time while the baby is sleeping to do a little bit of work on a project each day.
Is creating art your main profession?
No, by day (when I'm not on maternity leave) I am an English and English Language Learner Teacher at North Peace Secondary School in Fort St. John. In previous roles, I've found myself in a number of unique teaching positions including working with students with moderate to severe intellectual and physical disabilities. My passion project in my teaching career has been being an advocate for inclusive practice in schools, in particular for those students with Autism and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Can you tell us about any awards or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life?
None worth noting as of yet, though I am always proud and eager to stretch my creative skills at the North Peace Fall Fair each year.
Do you have any major goals for your art career?
One day, I'd like to illustrate a children's picture book.
What inspires you to be the best artist that you can be?
Love the work. Just like I tell my English students, if you hate a novel, stop reading it. There are too many good books out in the world to waste your time with one you don't like. I use the same philosophy in my creative endeavours. If my passion and excitement for a piece has faded, I put it away for a while until I feel ready to work on it again.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your art journey or inspiration so far to inspire others?
My art journey is very much just beginning, so I feel like I don't have any sage words of wisdom to impart. But I will share that as a novice artist with no formal training, it's been really fun to be able to share my work with someone other than my partner this past year. If you're a hobby artist like myself and think that you're not skilled enough to be worthy of recognition, it never hurts to put yourself out there. If your work makes you happy, chances are it makes other people happy too.
Website - https://amcullenart.wordpress.com
Thank you Anna for sharing your art journey with us!