Monthly Archives: August 2015

Annastasha Larsen: Wildfires


Annastasha Larsen is a painter of fire. She grew up in Southern California amid annual wildfires that have been the genesis for much of her recent work. As she says, “I paint wildfires. Symbolizing the challenges of life bringing change and growth. Find beauty in struggle.” Larsen graduated from BYU. She, her military husband, and her one week-old child live in Mary Esther, Florida–our first artist from here in the Sunshine state.

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You grew up in Southern California. Why do you think the forest fires of your youth provide so much of the subject matter for your art career? I grew up in Southern California and experienced many wildfires. I can never forget the sight of a smoke filled sky, ash landing on cars, flames, and the smell of burning. These experiences and memories left an impression on me of the power of nature. One particular experience was when I was in central California. My family was driving back home from a trip and we came across a wildfire. It was miles away, and we couldn’t see the flames. The smoke completely covered the sky and horizon in eerie colors, and mysteriously veiled the sun. I took pictures of that scene. It felt apocalyptic.

I felt overwhelmed and sad, but also wondered over this process of nature and just how small and powerless it made me feel as a human. Over four years later I came across that picture, while I was going to school at BYU, and decided to paint it for one of my classes. I wanted to depict a landscape scene that isn’t usually seen in artwork— that of destruction. The breaking down of nature through the element of fire. Though my work directly portrays destruction, I use color, perspective, style, and titles to make this body of work have layers of symbolism and meaning. I aim to direct viewers thoughts to nature’s process of destruction and rebirth and relate that pattern to our own lives.

You have had your share of challenges in life. Tell us what you think about the word resilient. When I think of the word resilient I think of overcoming great challenges and obstacles with brightness and hope. There’s an optimist feel to the word resilient. To me I think of someone who presses on through the storms and destruction of life, always looking forward and upward with hope. I also think of nature. Nature is incredibly resilient to the natural elements and disasters that befall itself. Seeing nature progress and change through challenges, is a reminder to myself to have faith, hope, and courage in my own struggles.

As an artist, how do you think your spirituality, your creativity, your voice, and your themes come together? With time and my own life challenges, I’ve come to better understand my subject and the important role my perspective and voice carry. My spirituality, creativity, voice, and themes come together in my paintings to share my testimony of Christ’s atonement, my own life challenges, and the optimism and hope I have for life. We, as children of God, have to experience opposition to know the good. That’s the whole point of this life, to learn, grow, and change with the struggles we face. My work is central to all these thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, coming together in a visual and tangible way.

What are you doing next? Having a baby, learning to find a balance between being an artist and a mother, and getting through my husband’s deployment. I also plan to take private lessons with another LDS artist in Utah, focus on making larger pieces, and continuing to share and sell my work. And I have a solo show I’m looking forward to locally, here in Florida, in the summer of 2016.

Visit Annastasha Larsen’s website.

Follow Annastasha Larsen on Instagram.


Casey Jex Smith: Ramparts


Casey Jex Smith is another artist that I struggle to articulate. He is prolific, intricate, bizarre, humorous, and incredibly talented. His work makes me think what might have happened if Waldo had joined the Fellowship. Smith is a self-described ‘8th level artist’ and he obtained a BFA from BYU and an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute. He lives in Ohio with his wife, the artist Amanda Smith, and their children.


Your style is so unique. Do you get tired of describing and explaining your work? I do get tired of explaining. But not so much because my work is hard to explain, but because I know people are being polite when they ask. They aren’t interested. Very few people care about art. It’s hard to keep my wife and mother interested and they are both artists and invested in what I do. Then again I don’t speak with many artists these days. I guess if I wanted to keep it short and sweet and would say, ‘I mostly make drawings’.

You once said, “I am a big believer in putting your all into something.” It seems like that could describe your art career. Explain your evolution a bit. I think I’ve changed my mind a bit on that. I wish I had put more of myself into other things. I might have failed as an artist earlier and still have had time to change careers before I had kids. I might have learned a bit more math or taken some advertising classes. I am certainly not happy where I am as an artist and provider for my family. I still believe that if you want to be great in any of the arts, you do need to make tremendous sacrifice. Something big has to go like kids, videogames, or sleep.

You also once said, “Half of my original intent is to help push the definitions of what “Mormon Art” is for Mormons.” Are we as a Mormon community succeeding in that regard? I think our “Mormon Art World” has certainly diversified. There are plenty of artists that use their Mormonism in identity work and there are more artists that don’t use Mormonism identity in their work, and are successful, and happen to be Mormon. As always we have a large contingency of artists that have left Mormonism but still consider themselves culturally Mormon and still reference that part of their identity in their content. The MFA structure is just producing more of us and a few have had some moderate success. I don’t know if Mormon audiences are looking at art besides Greg Olsen. I know that my work has not sold very well within the LDS community. But if this audience is looking, there is a lot more to choose from than just 10 years ago. Mormons are cheap. That hasn’t changed. And the new race to the bottom with Etsy and prints just feeds into that cheapness. The BYU Art Department seems to be putting out some good graduates. Their visiting artist lecture series is well funded and brings in some heavy-hitters. There are some young artists like Noah Jackson and Jacob Haupt who are making some great work while still students. It’s fun to watch that program evolve. Still need to wait and see how many will be relevant in contemporary art. So far, only artists who have left the church like Wayne Thiebaud, La Monte Young, and Paul McCarthy have made a lasting impact.

Visit Casey Jex Smith’s website.

Follow Casey Jex Smith on Instagram.


Paige Crosland Anderson: The White Series


Paige Crosland Anderson has a new series of paintings she calls the White Series.  Most of the paintings will be on display at a duo-show called Two Lines at the Meyer Gallery in Park City, Utah. The opening reception is on Friday, August 28th, from 6-9:00 p.m. Anderson lives in Utah with her husband and two children and was featured on The Krakens previously for A Bright Recollection.

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Tell us about your White Series. In a nutshell it’s all a meditation on creation. I think it all started when a passage from Terryl and Fiona Given’s book “The God Who Weeps” stood out to me. The passage talked about Enoch and creating a Zion society. It postulated that maybe we are forming heaven right now; forming it with the materials around us as we love and serve each other; that maybe “Heaven is not a club we enter. Heaven is a state we attain, in accordance with our ‘capacity to receive’ a blessed and sanctified nature.” This idea resonated with me and I began to fixate on it as I painted. My work is already tied to this notion that we are creating something bigger than ourselves as we engage in the small daily acts that constitute the miracles of our lives. It was a natural jump to think about creation in bigger contexts as well.

I spent some time looking at Hubble Telescope photos and became humbled and amazed once again by the majesty of our Heavenly Father and his creations. The virtual space exploration made me want to paint something heavenly and ethereal. I loved this idea that I could take something geometric and rigid in form and make it read as something soft and inviting. I also really wanted to focus on this idea that we are increasing our capacity for sanctification by working on creating blessed relationships and making our lives a little more heavenly. Thus the “White Series” was born.

As I’ve worked I continued to read and look and take in as much as I could that would fuel the visual aesthetic and the intellectual engine behind the work. Just last night I came across a passage in Romans 1 about those who, “worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator,” a good reminder of who deserves the praise for the beauty in our lives. I hope I translate it well into tapestries that bring us a little closer to our Creator as we ponder what we are doing each day to create—whether it’s meaningful experiences, families, beautiful homes, worthy goals of any sort.

Your work is so connected to your family–do you struggle to title the pieces for fear of making them too personal? I have found that titling is becoming increasingly important to me. I don’t struggle because I’m afraid they’ll be too personal, but I’m anxious about giving the viewer just enough to get them started on engaging with the work without pigeon-holing what they perceive that the work is about. I want to provide the context to have an experience with the painting. Some of them reference a person, usually a “He” in my title is a reference to the Divine. I hope titles like, “The Sum of Our Ceremonies,” or “Slight Inclination of Each Day”  reiterate the idea that we are building, small yet significantly, every day towards something celestial.

What’s next? I have a few commissions to tackle and then I think I’ll take a bit of a breather and get to a few non-art projects that have been on the back burner for a while. The next body of work I want to make will allow me to meditate on prayer. I have a few titles I need to create a visual for. There are so many good visually descriptive passages on prayer just in the standard works alone. I hope to also participate in a winter market of some sort or another sell some small paintings. After making big ones all summer, I’m itching to go small again. It’s good to switch it up.

Visit Paige Crosland Anderson’s website.

Follow Paige Crosland Anderson on Instagram.


Annie Poon: Painter-turned-Animator

Annie Poon is an animator and illustrator with a captivating and upbeat style. Poon’s work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and has worked with organizations that include the Brooklyn Academy of Art, Pfizer, Nickelodeon, and the LDS Church. She lives with her husband, photographer Kah Poon, in New York City.

Poon1crocodile fashion001 The Split House Still PoonDescribe yourself as an artist. As an artist, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I think people who like my work can see it is very rough and playful. Whether I’m painting, doodling, or animating, my work is very autobiographical. I mostly spend my time making stop motion animation shorts made from cut paper that are based on memories of childhood and adolescence. Sometimes I work for clients but primarily show my work in fine art settings. I have an alter ego named Puppy who I use to express poignant feelings and experiences, whether joyful, awkward, heartbroken, or manic. He has become a powerful conduit for me because he enables me to talk about any subject in a light way. I know some people have to talk through puppets, ha ha… I speak best through Puppy. Recently I’ve have started illustrating books to my delight, that was always my dream as a kid.

You have said, “Making people happy is just as important as any other issue.” Explain. For a long time I suffered from depression. It went on for at least ten years. Adding to the anxiety of always being sad, I felt the burden of not feeling like a productive member of society. I wasn’t making social change or mothering children. I felt useless and lost and actually stopped making art so I could figure things out. Then I remembered the scriptures where they talk about how Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like the lilies, and began to notice the incredible diversity of life around me. What was the point of all this random beauty? I realized that Heavenly Father had taken great pains in creating it to bring about happiness. And that creating an animation or a painting was like adding a flower to the bouquet wild, beautiful of organisms I was seeing in Central Park during my daily wanderings. I realized God took great joy in creating delicate wildflowers someone might never even see. There must be a justification in this. And I remembered that ‘men are that they might have joy’. Joy is a priority with the Lord. So if I can create a piece that brings a respite from someone’s sense of overwhelming and sadness, I am following the pattern that Lord has set and adding one more doorway for someone to escape their own anxiety even if just for a few moments.

What is your approach to a new animation? I start each animation with a key image. It could be a picture by me or someone else that expresses the mood that I want to evoke. For instance, some of my darker work is inspired by a particular Goya etching called ‘the Dream of Reason’. I then do a couple of pages of character designs, I like for each animation to be a little different in technique, whether it be a different color palate, new genre for the soundtrack, etc. I set up rules like ‘these four markers only’ or ‘cram it into 20 seconds’, fun little challenges like that. I write or help compose the music and never move on to the next scene until I have completely edited and polished what I have just shot. It usually takes me a day to animate about 5 seconds but sometimes I spend a couple of days re-shooting a scene again and again because my husband offers funny little twists or because it doesn’t have the magic yet.

Your husband once said, “Annie’s aim is to express how she feels.” Has how you feel changed over the years with regards to your art? I have a feeling of safety and courage when I’m working, because of my dedicated studio space and my husband’s support. There is no judgment in my home regarding my work. I feel very lucky to be able to go wherever my heart happens to be at the time. It keeps things authentic and fresh because as I grow and change, so does the work. For example, the animation I am working on now comes from some dark places. The mood in the first half is very scary because it deals with confusing family issues and mental illness. But I had to go there and I love the way those scenes turned out, with so many layers of feeling in the visuals and the music. Things usually feel incoherent when I’m working on them but once it’s all said and done with I can always see my story coming through pretty clearly.

Visit Annie Poon’s website.

Follow Annie Poon on Instagram.


Brad Teare: Woodcuts


Brad Teare is a talented woodcut artist with a background in design and landscape painting. Teare is also a prolific social media experimenter. His YouTube channel passed 1 million views earlier this summer with titles like Getting Greens Right and Glazing and Impasto. Teare and his wife, the artist Debra Teare, live in Utah.

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What are the challenges in working with wood cuts? Color woodcut using the lost key method takes an incredible amount of planning which is a challenge (the lost key method creates a more painterly looking woodcut without the conventional dark outlines containing flat color). But despite the hurdles the results of this technique are so rewarding I’m constantly returning to it. Color woodcut has phases–the design phase, the color planning phase, the carving phase, and the printing phase. Lots can go wrong at any phase so you have to stay organized.

The biggest challenge of being a woodcut artist has been connecting with collectors. Two decades ago most cities had print galleries and people knew what fine art prints were. That’s no longer true. But I recently started an Instagram feed where I explain the woodcut process. I intend to post every day about block printing until my show in April 2016. It’s my first one-person woodcut show and I’m very enthused about it. I have a link to the feed on my blog as well. So far people seem to be enjoying it.

What do you enjoy about the medium? I love the raw, emotional energy of woodcut. Paradoxically woodcut can also have symbolic and intellectual power as well. All art forms can have those qualities but you almost have to try to excise those traits from woodcut. It’s like the medium wants to occupy a certain metaphysical space. It’s that paradox that keeps me coming back. Despite the challenges I always had a certain knack for woodcut. I discovered the art of Rockwell Kent as a teenager and loved the power he evoked with his work. When I had a chance to buy an antique press for $60 during my last year in college I jumped at it even though I knew next to nothing about block printing. I ordered some tools and blocks and shortly thereafter printed my first wood engraving. The print went into the portfolio that landed my first illustration job in New York City. I also enjoy the physical act of cutting the blocks. Once I have a design transferred to the block it’s relaxing to carve. The process is almost a form of meditation. Ideally I like to sit outside while I carve. I’m building a new studio with French doors and a porch so I can work outside when weather permits.

Five years ago you started uploading instructional videos on YouTube. Explain your motives, your experience, and the reward. Several years ago my brother, who is a web designer, repeatedly told me I needed to write a blog and if I didn’t I was missing a huge opportunity. To placate him I started the blog. I had no expectations for it. My only intent was to give a few artists seeking practical knowledge a resource to move their creative projects forward. I grew up in Kansas where there was little access to art information. Because of that I’ve always felt behind in my career. It’s not a good feeling and I wanted to help fellow artists get early access to artistic fundamentals.

The videos were a complete fluke and I can’t remember why I started them or how I managed to overcome my introversion to make them. With the first video I remember thinking, “dozens of people are going to watch this!” and feeing quite terrified. If I had known that over a million people would watch the videos I probably would have had a heart attack. Usually I made the videos late at night when I was approaching exhaustion so the quality suffered. But people didn’t seem to mind and I started getting emails from all over the world. It’s especially gratifying to get email from artists in developing countries that might not have access to art books, workshops, and DVDs. My blog is translated into 50 languages, which is extremely satisfying. I’ve grown too. I’m more relaxed on camera. I think my videos have gotten better over the years. I’ve grown artistically as the process of sharing ideas has clarified my own vision.

Visit Brad Teare’s website.

Follow Brad Teare on Instagram.

Watch some of Brad Teare’s YouTube Videos.

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