Tamara: So take me to the beginning of your art story, when did you start making art and what inspired you to do so?
Anika: I have been creative throughout my life, but started focusing on art again after I quit my first job as a graphic designer. I studied graphic design in the hopes that it would be a career that could also be a creative outlet, but the reality of the work fell a short for me. I took some time off and decided to apply to grad school. During the few months between applying and finding out if I'd gotten accepted I started doodling everyday in a sketchbook. The idea behind it was to do something creative, just for myself. I started working in a book with graph paper, so naturally a lot of my doodles were patterns. Each day I would look for something in the world around me, and I found it really satisfying to take a spark of inspiration from things like an intricate wrought iron gate, a plant from my garden, or graffiti on a city wall, and translate that into a pattern.
T: So would you say your primarily influenced by your surroundings? What else do you look to for inspiration?
A: Yes, I'm primarily influenced by my surroundings, especially nature and the things I collect. I spend a lot of time outside and love to investigate the plant life wherever I am. I love to collect natural items, but I’m also inspired by unique or vintage manmade treasures that have a story—either known to me or imagined. My own creative process keeps me going. Many of my ideas are evolutions of previous artwork. The initial idea may be sparked by something around me, but often the real breakthroughs come out of the process of making.
T: I can definitely see that evolution process in your work. Can you explain a bit about your mark making experiments and how you make the most out of your paints?
A: Whenever I’m working on a painting, I like to use up the paint on my brush and palette. Instead of wiping it on a cloth or washing it down the drain, I’ll brush, dab, smear and smoosh it on a page in my sketchbook. When I first started painting, I would brush the extra paint onto little scrap pieces of paper with the idea that I could use them for collage. The results were always so cool which is why I tried out the idea on full sketchbook pages, and the process evolved from there. I don’t think too much about the marks I make with the extra paint since I focus more on the painting I’m creating. They become a framework or jumping off point to revisit at another time to create abstract patterns and compositions. Not only are the paintings that evolve from this process unexpected, but the color palettes that develop are often surprisingly sophisticated and not what I would usually choose on my own. I can then use those pages as reference when searching for color ideas.
T: One of the staples of your work is pattern design. What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get better, or get started, with patterns?
A: I think the most important thing you can do, whether you are starting out or trying to improve your skills is to make a lot of patterns. Try out all kinds of ideas and don’t be afraid to make ugly patterns. I like to stay aware of when I am censoring my creative impulses because I’m doubtful that they will turn out well. When I try out a “not so great” idea, it often leads to something better than I could have predicted. Either the initial idea works out, or it leads me to a new pattern that I wouldn’t have thought of if I’d ignored it. Even when the result is as bad as I thought, it helps to clear the cobwebs so I can move onto something new.
T: That's great advice! You have created some great opportunities to jump into pattern making. Can you talk about how we can join and your patternthusiast tribe?
A: I wanted to get back into making patterns after spending time on other creative pursuits in 2015. When the new year was rolling around, I thought about jumpstarting 2016 for myself with a daily challenge. I’ve joined other daily prompt challenges, but I wasn’t always inspired by the options, so this time I crafted my own list including prompts such as groceries, log cabin, and mackerel. I wanted to use words that could be interpreted in several different ways, or that at least made me smile. On a whim, I decided to offer it up as a challenge that anyone could participate in on Instagram. The response has been amazing and fun. There were over 1,100 submissions to the tag #patternjanuary, and it was always exciting to visit the group each day and see what people came up with. There were so many creative ways that people interpreted the prompts, and the variety of styles was really inspiring. I wanted to share the art I was seeing everyday, so I set up a new account, @letsmakepatterns, where I’ve been sharing a selection of patterns from each prompt. Although I’d intended #patternjanuary as a stand alone challenge, I was reluctant to give it up all together because I’d made some really cool patterns and met a lot of friendly creatives in the community that formed around the prompts. Luckily, other people felt the same way, and after some discussion, I decided to change it into a weekly instead of daily prompt challenge. I’ll be going forward throughout the rest of the year announcing the new weekly prompt every Monday. We’re starting off Week One with “Bouquet,” and any one can join in at any time by creating a pattern (or something) based on the prompt and posting it to Instagram including the tag #patternswithanika. I think of this as a very relaxed challenge where you can take a lot of creative license with the prompt. There are no have-tos. The intention is to offer a creative boost to make something you might not otherwise have thought to create.
T: Thank you so much for giving us a window into your creative world! Now for the fun part, complete the sentence...
My favorite colors are… Somewhere in the neighborhood of Magenta and Red Violet, Turquoise, Gold, Hot Pink, Pale Neutrals, Ochre, Dark Blue-Green.
My favorite Artists are… Paul Gauguin, Alexej von Jawlensky, Charley Harper, Marian Bantjes, Anni Albers, Luli Sanchez, Josef Frank, Charles and Ray Eames, Marimekko… I could go on and on!
Currently streaming… Creatives on Periscope—I’m obsessed with calligraphy, live drawing/painting, tips and tutorials, chats and more.
If I could pick a super power it would be… the ability to create "no-time" bubbles. I would create one around my studio, so I could go in and work for hours and hours and come back out and it would be the same time as when I started. Then I’d still have plenty of time for all the rest of what makes life fun!
My favorite childhood toy was… Wood scraps from my dad’s wood shop and my mom’s craft paint. Colorful painted wooden blocks, anyone?
My perfect day would include… A misty morning, black tea, a big clean table with lots of blank paper and art supplies where I can make a total mess, finding a really beautiful feather, watching the waves at the beach and seeing a whale jump out of the blue, a nice long walk with my dogs in the cool air, painting my nails the perfect color, an unexpected fun letter in the mailbox, dancing for the fun of it, a conversation about creativity and life with an online friend, an in person chat with a friend or two over more black tea, a jaw-droppingly beautiful sunset, fireflies, fireworks, and discovering $20 in an old coat pocket.
Best book ever… This Thing Called Life by Ernest Holmes (or anything he’s written, honestly).
My woman crushes… Right now I’m crushing on my creative online friends: Robyn Wells a.k.a. Robayre, Meighan O’Toole, Jessica Mack a.k.a Brown Paper Bunny, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer of Balzer Designs, Julie Lilienfeld from Wishbone Reserve, Janelle Gramling, Heather Kirtland, Kelly McNeill, …I could go on and on and on!
If you enjoyed getting to know Anika you can follow her here: