“In the summer when I was eight, I knew I wanted to be an artist.”
When do you know this is it? This is what you want to be when you grow up? Some of us don’t know, and we may never find out. Others, well, others just know. At age eight, Anne Martin McCool knew. She knew she was an artist. There was no doubt, no uncertainty, and no fear—just the drive to create. To be that sure, that confident at such a young age, shaped the rest of her life.
Her mom once told her, "the most predictable thing about you is you are unpredictable .”
“I drew more than I painted for a long time,” McCool said during a sit down interview in her studio. She would draw on anything as a young artist. Her favorite subject to draw—dresses. She carried with her a small watercolor set and an ink pen, that way she could always entertain herself. She was a practicing artist, developing her talents by drawing and doodling.
“I really like making beautiful art work.”
And when most children’s attention spans are short and constantly changing, Anne was focused on her art. It wasn’t just a hobby or something which caught her interest for a short time, it was an extension of who she was, and still is.
“You have to do the practice.”
A teacher in middle school recognized Anne’s talents and in his own way sought to encourage and enhance her abilities. He encouraged her to draw portraits, mostly with charcoal, and even when Anne wasn’t interested in what he was teaching, she learned from it.
“Mr. Kelly had too many rules,” Anne said, especially in watercolors. Anne knew there was more, so she rebelled and expanded upon her art. But his lessons gave her a base from which to start, a foundation, yet he also taught her to reject ideas.
"Construct/deconstruct/contruct - sometimes something beautiful has to disappear to allow for a larger beauty."
In High School, the art teacher arranged for Anne to have private quality art time in the storage room where the art supplies were kept instead of participating in class art projects. Even though she didn’t really teach Anne art, Anne learned how to be disciplined about her time. It also fueled her need to create. The solitude helped her grow, gave her the space she craved to do what she loved most, while giving a sense of peace at a time when life was usually awkward and unsure.
As a Senior, she was in a college prep trek, Anne arranged to have two art classes, one before and one after lunch, this gave her three hours a day to work on her art.
"Quest for what is enough structure ( a place of comfort to leap from) to allow the experience of the more subtle, abstract or minimal."
While most children spent their allowance on candy, toys, and maybe clothes, Anne’s father arranged for her to have an account at a local store to buy art supplies. Sometimes she would save up for special purchases.
As adults, life usually takes over and our time is consumed with jobs, children, marriage, and a home. Our childhood dreams and passions get put aside or worse yet—forgotten. For Anne, her passion for art was her career and like all working moms she made time for work.
"Mystery of the spontaneous brushstroke – a different language to access."
For twenty-eight years, Anne had a variety of studios in a few locations in downtown Anacortes before she opened her own gallery. Four of those years she had a studio behind a community gallery where she volunteered. She was the curator of the shows, was in charge of the publicity and hanging the shows. In the back of the gallery she rented a small space for her studio; she called it, “the jail of art” because there were bars on the windows. Later she had a studio in the Keystone Building, where she spent ten years.
"Exploration of texture and layers revealing some symbolism."
For approximately nine years she taught art through the Anacortes Youth Arts in the Anacortes schools. She taught kindergarten through fifth grade. Her favorite was second grade because they were so cute and open to learning.
"Embracing the action of painting in layers and then reducing images to the essential."
Finally the Anne Martin McCool Gallery opened at 711 Commercial Ave. Over time, Anne invited other artists to participate in the gallery. And for fourteen years the Anne Martin McCool Gallery became a staple and a landmark in the Anacortes Art Scene.
Recently she made changes, Anne sold her gallery space and took her art back to its roots—the studio. Now she spends times with the grandkids, her wonderful husband Doug, and reconnecting with her art. She is finding time to experiment in new techniques and materials.
"Trees, plants….gardens of the soul, vessels, stones, sun, moon, stars, air earth, fire, water – elemental experience."
I asked Anne how she would describe her art, her answer, “It’s very intuitive.” Painting for Anne is like a stream of consciousness. Her work has to have a source of light, be natural, earthy, elemental, a symbol for life. “I really like making beautiful art work,” Anne said.
Art for her is kind of spiritual; she is trying to get into a deeper space with color, elements, the art being enveloped by something that has some kind of mystery or feeling. If the painting doesn’t have that certain something then she doesn’t like it.
Her work is meant to be universal. It needs to be beyond her, meaning she wants the viewers to respond to her work because they see something in that painting which speaks to them. Success to her means that when someone puts their hand on their heart or becomes emotionally affected by it, she knew she made difference.
Anne always has to push the edge. When she gets too comfortable with her work, she takes a chance and jumps off the cliff, as she calls it. She feels exhilarated, like she just broke through. She jumps in and goes with it; otherwise she won’t grow as an artist.
"Creating a sense of place….revealing something already there."