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VOL. 37 | NO. 12 | Friday, March 22, 2013

Nashville artist’s true calling ‘Not forgotten’

By Ellen Nelson

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Artist Anne Blair Brown spent time as a caterer before figuring out how to make a living as a painter.

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Anne Blair Brown’s artistic talents came along at a young age, as did the gifts of gab, song, humor and wit. Eventually, it was painting that emerged as the front-runner from her talent pool.

Growing up in Nashville, Brown’s penchant for song made her the perfect choice as a partner in crime when it came to driving by cute boys’ homes and blaring Blondie on the tape deck. She was always singing along enthusiastically.

It was art, not music that ended up being her life’s work. Her formative years at Harpeth Hall School sealed her passion for the brush and canvas and led to her training at the University of Georgia and Watkins College of Art&Design.

After trying various jobs, including catering, she made the move to career artist, an impressionist with an emphasis on everyday scenes, a fork in the road, a waiter at rest, a sidewalk café and colorful homes and gardens.

"Lovely Day," an 11x14 oil that was completed on location in Leipers Fork.

Today, Brown is a highly regarded contemporary impressionist with art in the Tennessee State Museum’s permanent collection and exhibits at galleries across the nation. One of her pieces, “Not Forgotten,’’ was accepted into the Oil Painters of America National Juried Exhibition in February.

Brown is a member of Oil Painters of America, the American Impressionist Society, Plein Air Painters of the Southeast, Cumberland Society of Painters, and The Chestnut Group.

She talked about her life in art with Nashville Ledger:

When you first began your career, you worked in catering … How did you make the move to art?

“I was always an artist, I just had not figured out how to make a living at it.’’

When did you know that you were an artist and when did you realize that you could be a professional?

“I knew I was an artist at a very early age, but didn’t realize I could be an artist professionally until I was about 30 years old. I applied to an art show, got accepted and the rest is history.’’

How did your love of (and) interest in art develop?

"Il Mercado," a 12x16 oil

“As a child, I was always making things. I used to sit in my driveway and make elaborate log cabin towns out of sticks. Drawing and painting came soon after.’’

Where has art taken you?

“Art has opened up a side of me I did not know existed: as a teacher.’’

Do you have any favorite artistic moments?

“Every time someone buys one of my paintings … Seriously, though, my favorite times are when a student gets a light bulb over their head and I know I have made a difference in their artistic growth.’’

How would you describe your art?

“I call myself a Contemporary Impressionist. I paint expressive interpretations of what I see.’’

You teach as much as you paint, it seems, hosting workshops around the country. How did you get involved in this and what does it entail?

“About eight years ago, a friend asked me to teach with her, and after that I was hooked. I then hired my mother to organize workshops for me. We generally host three-day workshops and besides the fun and learning, we also provide a wonderful culinary experience thanks to my mother’s catering background. The participants are often people with innate artistic talent who for one reason or the other are embarking on their artistic journey later in life.’’

You’ve said that your business has not been affected by any bumps in the economy. How do you account for that?

“I work with very experienced galleries whose clients are very passionate about art and know that it is an investment.’’

Why is Nashville a good base for an artist?

“There are so many creative people here as well as a myriad of art-related groups.’’

Where can folks buy your art in Nashville?

“I am represented at Leipers Creek Gallery (4144 Old Hillsboro Rd.). Lisa Fox, the owner, is warm and friendly and visiting her gallery is like going to a friend’s house.’’

Where are some of the places around America where your art is sold and how did it get there?

“Other towns (where) I am represented include Carmel, Calif., Provincetown, Mass., Naples, Fla., Delray Beach, Fla., and Richmond, Va. Most discover my work from my website, AnneBlairBrown.com.’’

What part of painting brings you the greatest moments of joy?

“Well, of course teaching, but also the times when a painting just seems to paint itself. Everything flows correctly from start to finish, and I completely lose myself in it.

If you could paint anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

“I would like to make my way all over France and Italy painting every nook and cranny. The history and way of life there is very appealing to me, not to mention the beautiful architecture and landscape.’’

How do you balance having your passion being infiltrated by work? Do you ever feel you just have to paint?

“Yes, sometimes I feel like I am painting for other people and not myself, but I remain grateful to make a living at something I love so much.’’

Any other talents of yours we may see morph into a next career down the road?

“I am passionate about music and would love to be a musician, but I think they actually require you to play an instrument for that. Maybe one day.’’

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