I find it fascinating to see how we all have different perceptions of the world. We all see the same picture differently: some see beauty and some see scary or dark side of whatever there stands in front of us.
Artist Anna Shultz tends to have very vivid nightmares from time to time and this is not something that she enjoys. For a long time it bothered her a lot. It scared her. It took her inner peace away. But one day she got this idea of transforming nightmares into something that could expose the darkness in its full form and bring the light in, instead. She began drawing them that way directly facing and disarming it on the spot.
I feel as if through her Art she says: “Life is too short to be denied. Let’s face it as it is.”
Why do you create your prints?
It is hard to pin point exactly why one is creating its art. I have the particular series, which are called ‘Darker Than That”. If we wanted to generalise and just discuss the outer shell, why is that I produce my pieces through drawing and etching, I would need to say that I chose those two media for the love of drawing. The passion that I hold for drawing spreads very smoothly onto printmaking. The methodology and resulting piece in print are the closest of the forms to the drawing. The linear quality of the printed image resembles drawn images, and I use it as an extension of my sketches and doodles.
I indulge in print. The technology itself creates a pool of possibilities for the artist, it offers amazing experience of creation where each and every print is unique, never the same – each time there is a new discovery. The process of printmaking can be tiresome, especially if things don’t come out the way the artist hopes for, but if successful, then it can be extremely rewarding and satisfying.
It takes a long time to produce an image; it is a difficult method and takes time to master, but a wonderful one too. One could say the reason they create their pieces is behind the common idea of need or mean of expression and I could probably apply this statement in my case too. Much harder is to describe that there is ‘something’ inside yourself, ‘something’ that wants to come out and to make its appearance onto the paper, that your hands aches to draw, that it can actually make you feel a physical pain that is hard to explain.
These particluar sketches of yours are dark. Why is that?
The series, which is introduced in this interview, has been created based on collection on nightmares. I experience very vivid dreams, many of which are nightmares and dark in context.
Some time ago I saw a window of opportunity, where I thought why not to turn something negative (nightmares) into a positive energy product (art). The more I thought about this, the more it shaped the idea, and that is how the project came to life.
Breathing a new life into these often disturbing images and changing its context took away the scary aspect and I no longer was afraid to experience my own dreams. They became a well of inspiration and source of my creative thought. I used these night siluattes as actors on printmaking stage. They may have lost some of their spirit in this process, but in a sense that is how I wanted them to transform – from frightening thoughts into something much bigger and greater. The demons were gone and I was able to control them with my own hand; the balance was changed and I no longer had the night dreams chasing me.
This particular series is dark, but not all of my work is. They are based on nightmares. My dreams can be dark at times, but perhaps it is that I tend to remember the most disturbing dreams, the ones that made a greater impact on me. I am able to remember most of my dreams, and for some time I was even writing them down and created a collection that I call My dream library. This helped me to select the ones that I found most interesting and as the best printing material.
The darkness in dreaming can be brought by many different factors, it may have something to do with past experiences that still return via subconscious mind, it maybe that there are fears and worries underneath that get suppressed by conscious mind but linger around…
How do you see transforming a negative energy into positive? What does it make you think or believe that drawing a nightmare transforms it into a positive energy?
Nightmares can be unpleasant, and I think majority of us would agree with that statement. They bring out fear, worry, scary images and thoughts. Sometimes, after waking from a bad dream, I still carry the feelings (during the day) and I try to forget what I dreamt of.
By memorising the nightmare, I face my fears and that way the nightmare loses its scary facade; it no longer controls me. It is little bit like taking its outer shell off, peeling it with my own hands and removing the ‘bad seeds’; what’s left is only the image, but negative feelings are gone.
Act of creating an art piece is positive in itself. The idea with which I create my own prints is not to scare the viewer, but to awake a positive response, so that the viewer would experience positive feelings, appreciate the linear quality of the image, the technology used, the story line.
The image is positive, because it is only a visual representation that is flat and safe to look at. The scary context can only be the scariest to the dreamer, for everyone else it is just a drawn story.
How do you possibly see yourself awakening a positive response from the viewer through the dark images? Have you ever received a positive review on this topic?
There are different types of audience with various preferences and with interest in all sorts of qualities. The response to this particular series was one of the interest, curiosity and wanting to hear the story behind the image (that’s in relation to visual context). Another group was more interested in the methods of printmaking that I have used to achieve the image, the linear quality of the piece and the drawing style. Some of the audience, which were interested in subject of dreaming and subconscious in general, found the idea of dream story behind it fascinating.
I have also come across a few people who preferred to make their own story based on what they imagined the print represented. Viewers often like to create their own interpretation of the artist’s work and that is what makes creating art worthwhile. Overall feedback was very positive and constructive.
Do you as an Artist depend on other people’s opinions about your art? Would you change your way of creating art if negative opinions were more persistent than positive?
As an artist you are happy when your work receives recognition and brings interest to the audience. Naturally, as an artist and as a person positive feedback always feels good.
If the negative feedback came from an expert, who wanted to advise me on technique or show new tricks that I may not be aware off, if it was a constructive negative feedback from which I could learn, then I would take it on board.
I listen to any feedback from anyone and I am always open for opinions, especially some of which I might be able to find useful. However, no matter what I would not change my way of creating my prints based just on feedback, but I would consider learning new techniques to enhance them if one became known to me. There are always things that can be done better and it would be foolish not to take a good advice on.
Feedback is always useful, it gives something useful to think about, reflect on, practice and improve things, but needs to come from a person that knows the subject well with expertise. The criticism needs to be constructive and with purpose.
Please talk a bit about these three prints of yours, tell about their storyline.
Not a pleasant dream. It is a representation of a very lonely and sad feeling. However, not all dreams I am prepared to discuss in detail and this is one of them. Some things from the past are better being left in the past. Chapter closed. Let the audience use their imagination. That is how I tell the story here.
That was a weird one and it also went on for a long time. In fact there are two prints from that dream, which I have divided into two parts but decided to only show one, as I don’t think I managed to ‘catch’ in the other print the essence of what I wanted to tell. I have a feeling that I will return to re-do that print (the 2nd scene) once I am ready.
Dark, lonely house. The main character was of a very pleasant disposition, very trusty and open hearted, who gets his trust abused, wounded and eventually losses (literally!) his head (but that’s in the 2nd print). The creature in question was being very friendly at first, very loving and close, but turned nasty and horrid. That was a scary dream and very vivid.
This was a happy sort of nightmare. The creatures appeared from nowhere or maybe people turned into them; the transition between scenes was not very clear. Wondering creatures that I call them, who don’t know where they are going, but they are going forward and forward… What lies ahead? Will the ending of their journey be a happy one or will they perish? They don’t know yet, but they still go forward, hoping for the former ending.
They are in the universe of possibilities and whatever the outcome, they are still going forward.
Is your art only about nightmares or do you create something totally opposite to that as well?
The nightmares series is the most recent, which is the fruit of my Postgraduate Research Degree. During my MA studies I focused my interest on dreams and the subject of beauty. I wanted to discover the ‘other side’ of beauty, the ‘ugly beauty’ and whether we can only admire the conventional model of what we perceive beautiful and pleasing for an eye.
My website is still work in progress, but I hope to present my other works soon and let the audience see the whole spectrum of my art.
Other series include subject of countryside and landscape (very romantic and classic images). I have researched works of Michelangelo and his drawing techniques, which produced series of drawings of body images and scenes from the Bible.
Other works include fairy tale schemes, humorous cartoonish scenes, as well as few abstract ones.
My printmaking journey, which began at the art college, took me through my BA Degree and into postgraduate studies that has resulted in broad array of interests and subjects. I hope all of that to continue at Ph.D. level.
You are an Artist. What is your goal? What is your vision for you for the future in your field of creativity?
My ultimate dream is to run my own art gallery and print studio. However that is all down to finances, which I am not in a position to negotiate at this moment in time. In more realistic terms I would like to establish my own printmaking studio from home, which I already started to put into place. I want to continue learning whatever can be learnt in the print field and continue making prints and exhibit them as often as I can.
I have been shortlisted for the Summer Show at the Royal Academy twice, and I am hoping that perhaps this year I will make it to the final. It would be great to be a part of the Summer Show. That would be an amazing opportunity to get my work known in wider audiences.
Have you ever had any exhibitions or displays of your art before?
I have been actively exhibiting for the last six years. My work has been shown here in UK as well as in Japan.
What makes an Artist, Anna?
There are many different types and styles of art. In my own words it would be that Artist is a person that is more sensitive in how we perceive and talk about the world. Someone who has got the ability to ‘see’ things and then using their own style to express what he/she saw. Personally, I believe in more classical approach, an ‘old school’ that one would call, where drawing skills were essential.
Nowadays many great skills are no longer appreciated as they used to be, and I accept that times have moved on and the audience has also changed, however in my heart I remain committed to the traditional studio and its methods.
An Artist has wonderful skills of seeing things in multi-dimensional way – both the physical and beyond the visible.
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