We recently sat down to chat with Polychrome's very own print artist, Anna Koon. In addition to her collaborations with us, Anna is a thriving painter, the founder of her own brand A2N2 which she uses to market her work, and an educator and business mentor to many artists.
Thea: How did you get your start as a professional artist?
Anna: I have always been an artist, creating since I was in diapers. Eventually that led to my BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Unfortunately, I came out of art school unsure of how to be a professional artist. I had a lot of jumps and starts over the years; a lot of missed opportunities. Finally in 2002 I decided to take my art more seriously. Over time my commitment to both a regular studio schedule and finding various ways to get my work in front of the public expanded to the point where I could make art my full-time pursuit. In 2013 I ditched my other means of earning a living. It was a scary leap of faith, but once I made that decision I found my business flourished, and has been growing ever since.
Thea: What is a typical day of work for you?
Anna: First and foremost, I try to be very vigilant about my studio days. On days when I don’t need to leave home, I don’t; I live in a loft, so a portion of my living space is designated for my business. I get up early, but like to have a leisurely morning. Studio time usually begins between 10-11am, and can last as late as 5pm. Once I’m in the zone - I’m in the zone! I often forget to eat, and if it wasn’t for my dog reminding me she needs to go out, I probably wouldn’t take a break!
Thea: What is inspiring to you? What do you do when you feel "blocked" creatively - how do you get unstuck?
Anna: My finding is that the more often you are creating the less you get stuck. I will say there are times when I feel uninspired, and I’m not sure what to do next. But I have an Inspiration Board on Pinterest that I scroll through, and I have a pile of little torn pieces from random magazines and catalogs. It’s sort of like giving myself a homework assignment: What can I do with these colors? This concept?
Another tip: go find inspiration! I walk EVERYWHERE so most of my paintings are based on things I see along my travels across Boston and its surrounding communities. My home/studio is on 10 acres of wooded land so I often find my “models” while walking around the property. I also find looking at what other artists are up to -whether at a museum, or gallery, or art festival - can get me fired up and ready for the studio.
Thea: I know you have a couple of creative projects besides the wonderful work you do for Polychrome. Can you tell us about some of your other work?
Anna: I wouldn’t call these “Creative Projects” but I am proud of my partnerships with Girl Bosses like you! To this date I have six collaborations. I have wholesale agreements with four female-owned-and -operated small businesses: a gallery, a gift shop, a bookshop, and a home goods store. I also partner with an interior design team. Depending on what they need for a project, they either select paintings from my inventory, or commission special orders for their clients.
image source: Portsmouth Museum of Art
Thea: You are also very involved in the art community in and around Boston. Can you tell us about some of the programs you run/ are participating in for local artists?
Anna: In addition to being on a couple of community boards, I am the founder and director of The Focusing Series (also on Twitter and LinkedIn), a professional development workshop series tailored to artists of all skill and professional levels. Our team is comprised of successful creative entrepreneurs. We’ve been around for five years, and it is a true gift to come alongside so many artists and solopreneurs to help them reach their goals. We have had the honor of working with groups all over New England: Arts Worcester, Fort Point Artists, New England Wax, Uforge Gallery, Jamaica Plain Arts Council, the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts, Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, Belmont Artist Association, Danforth Art Museum, and just this year I was invited to present at ArtWeek Boston. Occasionally artists want further guidance beyond the classroom, so I also offer private coaching session.
Thea: You live in a very cool and artistic community in Boston. Can you tell us a bit about the scene in Jamaica Plain?
Anna: Jamaica Plain used to be a serious creative hub in Boston. Until recently we had three art galleries all on the same street. Unfortunately, as the cost of living increases our art community isn’t what it used to be. However, I love the diversity of JP, I love our variety of small and local businesses, and I love how JP is all about city living with a small town flair. Everyone greets you. You get to know the shop-owners. There are a lot of community events. I will also say this: Our community is filled with art appreciators! I recognize how tough it is to make a living as an artist in other places, but most of my best customers live in the immediate area. I am fortunate that I live in a neighborhood that celebrates shopping small, local, and handmade.
Thea: I am sure that in such a neighborhood you see all kinds of people expressing their style in unique ways! Is there any street style you have been noticing on your walks around town? If you had to pick 3 print trends to watch for in 2018, what would they be?
Anna: I don’t know if I can answer based on my neighborhood, though - just like me when I first moved here in the early 1990’s - there are a lot of creative fashionistas! Here’s what I see popping up repeatedly:
1) I do not particularly care for cats, but cats are HOT right now! Predict a lot more cat prints (as in domesticated cats, not wild ones) on both apparel and home goods.
2) Athleisure doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, especially here in the city. I love the late ‘80s/ early ‘90s spin on everything right now. Bright, playful, and Pop-py!
3) Out of place logos, particularly from junk food and chain restaurants...and food!
Thea: Do you have any larger goals for your fine art business in the next year or so?
Anna: I always have goals! Personal- to become a better artist in many regards, and Professional- to keep growing my business. I would love to develop new partnerships: more galleries, interior design companies, home goods & gift shops, and the like.
Thea: If you could not be an artist for some reason, what other profession would you have chosen ?
Anna: My Dad thought I should be a comedian. My Mom thought I should be an attorney. I have enjoyed the work I’ve done in the film industry, and feel that was a missed opportunity. So perhaps that, though I’m not sure which avenue I would have pursued: Set design? Location scout? Wardrobe? Acting? No matter what I would have been able to lead a creative life; just in another way.
Thea: Do you have any upcoming shows where people can go to see your work? How about some online sources?
Anna: In addition to my website and my online shop, I do have a couple of events happening:
I have five paintings in the upcoming Souvenirs of Summer at Fabulon Art in Charleston, South Carolina. The juried exhibition runs from August 14 through October 6. I love the show’s themes of nostalgia, travel, summer, and memory-making!
And I am excited that my biggest event of the year, Jamaica Plain Open Studios is coming up on September 23-24. This weekend gives me a chance to share my beloved neighborhood and all the ways it inspires my art!
Thea: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your work!
Anna: My pleasure! I am honored to have been invited, and I am especially honored to be a part of the Polychrome team!
Want to see some more of Anna's work? Check out her website and her Etsy shop!
.... and take a look through some of the terrific prints Anna has in our collection , left to right :
Bramble Rings | Patchwork | Leafy Thicket | Abstract Brushstroke | Etched Leaves | Organic Abstract
* image sources: Anna Koon | POLYCHROME | Portsmouth Museum of Art