Annamieka Davidson is a painter based in Portland, Oregon and she leads art retreats out in the Oregon wilderness. She teaches a lively mixed-media painting process that combines botany & nature with collage & acrylic paint. She sends a weekly newsletter with heartfelt stories from the path less traveled.
Her online art course called “Wild Wonder” is designed to be a wilderness painting retreat you can do from anywhere in the world. She brings energy and a love of art-making to her workshops, and students will feel encouraged and at ease. She earned her BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) from the University of Oregon in 2007.
Carrie: Are you an artist? Can you please describe your work?
Hell, yes! I’ve always known I’m an artist. Even when I’ve had other careers in social work and healthcare, I’ve always been an artist first and foremost.
My work involves learning how to do new things with art and then implementing them in my own fine art, and then teaching them to my workshop students and online students. My work is all about the process of learn—do—teach; discover—implement—share.
My fine art is that middle step: when I’m implementing the techniques in collages, paintings, drawings, and textiles. My work feels most exciting to me when I’m learning new things, and that makes the paintings evolve dynamically. This also allows me to continually have new things to teach my students.
My work is rooted in nature and color. I enjoy playing with the idea of how we can create our world. The paintings are offerings or descriptions from my imagination for new possibilities in the world. I have two ongoing series: the Tropical Series, inspired by Costa Rica and Hawaii, and the Oregon Wilderness Series.
Carrie: Can you describe the evolution of your artistic style? (Have you always made art with this unique vision or what was your turning point into recognizing this style was your authentic “you”?)
This has always been challenging for me, because I change my mind and evolve frequently. I’m the queen of reinvention! As a kid, I did those “How to Draw” books, and became skillful at realism. I think my artistic style really started developing in high school, when my family took a trip to Bali—it profoundly changed my life. I learned to do batik dying, and the reductive layering technique is still important to my work today. I also got to be an illustrator for a local newspaper’s teen section, which provided powerful affirmation as well as a good challenge.
My style has always been evolving, but I’ve always been interested in realistic portrayals of flora and fauna, as well as richly layered imagery with vibrant colors.
Most recently, my work has been influenced by color epiphanies and by teaching and by the idea of “learn—do—teach.” What gives me the most satisfaction is when I make a new discovery when I’m painting or making art, then I implement it in my fine art work, and then I immediately want to turn around and teach it and share it with the world. I enjoy inviting others along on the adventure! It feels like a complete artistic process to me.
So, my style goes beyond just my work—my work is just one step in the process of discovering, implementing, and then teaching others how to create.
Carrie: What would you say to people who have also had inspiration from dreams or some kind of subconscious source?
When I was a child, my mother used to help me cope with nightmares by having me reimagine them afterwards. She’d sit with me and have me describe every detail, and then I would change the outcome. Later in life, I would come to use this same method to “reprogram” negative thoughts. This helps me control the way I respond to the world and keep things in perspective.
I feel that my art can be these “imagined awakenings.” They can be like care packages of insight that I’ve discovered along the way. The final layer of my paintings are usually a message of optimism and hope, after working some stuff out during the process. I love playing with imagery and the creative process in that way, because it feels like I’m actually creating new possibilities in the world with the art itself.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
I like to clean my studio/car/house and rearrange furniture. This has proven to be an almost magical restorative process for me when I’m in a lull.
I take a walk. I do a headstand or handstand to get blood flow to my brain.
Phoning a friend helps. My creative friends can relate to being stuck and to creative challenges, so they can provide a helpful sounding board. We chat on the phone or get together for brunch.
Another way I cope is to take a bath with several cups of epsom salts, as well as simply to go to bed early and try again the next day.
Carrie: When you have multiple creative interests, how do you decide when and where to focus your creative energies?
I haven’t mastered this yet! I called 2015 my “Year of Going for It,” and I did everything I could possibly do with my art: live painting and events, craft fairs, art workshops in my studio and elsewhere, blogging, stationery, original paintings, magnets—you name it. From trying all that, I realized that there were just a few things that truly satisfied me, and those are what I’m focusing on now: creating my fine art paintings, and teaching my online classes and retreats.
But to be honest, I sometimes think about learning to play the guitar, or taking up ceramics, or learning to make jewelry. I think when you’re a creative person, it’s normal for your brain to constantly generate hundreds of ideas and juggle numerous interests. For me, focus has been a challenge. I would say that focus is the next level of creative maturation for me, and probably for success in my business. However, there’s nothing wrong with having multiple creative interests, and I don’t want to lose that—it’s part of what keeps me excited, curious, and interested.
Carrie: Can you please share one story of positive outcome from one of your workshops?
I had a student named M. C. in my workshop the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. He told me that he’d been a painter for many years, but he’d become very discouraged. He was having trouble getting into galleries and group shows, and he had quit painting for over a year out of frustration. He lit up at the workshop—the techniques really “clicked” for him, and he was set free by them. M.C. returned to my workshop the next summer, and reported that he had been painting nonstop since the workshop. He said his paintings had taken on a new life, and that he had paintings hanging in a gallery in his hometown. He was so proud, activated, alive, and open to possibility!
Another positive outcome I’d like to share involves a student from my online class who had very little art experience. She found that the technique really worked for her; she evolved it into her own style; and she’s been painting every day since then! An artist is born! Nothing could make me more gratified.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
I’m a visual artist, but I’m truly a writer as well. There are wonderful stories to be told—about me, about my students, about my art, about life—and they need to be told well to move the business forward. I love doing stream of consciousness writing, but sometimes I need help crafting those stories into the myriad written formats artists need to submit: essays, blog posts, newsletters, web copy, show applications, interviews, grant applications, artist statements, and more. Acknowledging the importance of writing to my business and having a copywriter on my team has been an important part of my success
Another hurdle I overcame that I think is important to mention is that for a long time, I felt that being an artist wasn’t “enough.” I felt that I should somehow contribute more “substantially” to the world, and in fact I took classes towards studying medicine. I thought being a doctor would be a better way to contribute than being an artist. However, I found that I was miserable with this path! The further along the path I go as an artist, the more convinced I become that this is enough—creating art, teaching others, and doing what I love. I am contributing to the world.
Carrie: How do you navigate the feelings of vulnerability that show up during the creative process?
Feelings of vulnerability show up for me all the time—as an artist, as well as teaching and running a business and creating offerings. I try to be super real about these feelings. For example, I recently launched a New Year’s Day art retreat. I anxiously put off the launch for several weeks as I wondered, “What if nobody signs up? What if they don’t like it? What if they think the retreat is too life-coachy?” Finally I bit the bullet and announced the class to my newsletter and social media, and it was filled within 24 hours! I shared this success on social media, but I also shared the vulnerability I’d overcome—that this was a giant “TAKE THAT!” to my inner critic.
I have built a support structure around me, and this helps me to navigate the vulnerable feelings and to keep me in motion as a creative being. I’ve learned that it’s vital for me to have support around me to keep me from getting stuck. I have a group of friends who meet as an art group once a month, and we’re a huge source of support for each other. I also have an accountability buddy that I meet with monthly to discuss our businesses and our art. I meet with my business coach every six weeks, and she has encouraged me to get help and delegate. In that vein, I’ve recently hired a part-time virtual assistant, and I’ve also hired a copywriter.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
Movement! I think of my body and movement as a creative resource. I get so much information from getting some distance from what I’m working on and then reproaching it. I like to do yoga, walk my dog, or stretch. I feel like a lot of my creativity is replenished by moving my body.
I’m a huge fan of Tiffany Han’s podcast, Raise Your Hand Say Yes.
I also use my journal as a resource. I call it my “external brain,” and I just dump my thoughts, doodles, and lists into it. For the past several years, I’ve bought Leuchtturm1917 Journals. They have numbered pages, so I can make a table of contents. It allows me to search through my journals easily.
Even though I store years and years of journals, I’m not someone who keeps sketchbooks around. It seems wrong to me to hide sketches away, so I collage my sketches into my paintings or hang them in my studio and use them as reference.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
In terms of my painting, I’m inspired a lot by color. I gather natural materials as I walk through the woods, and then I bring them back to the studio and mix my own colors based on them. I’m also very inspired by the color palettes of places where I’ve traveled, particularly Mexico, Guatemala, and Bali.
Growing up, I was involved in the surfing and snow/skateboarding culture, and I have been influenced by that. I love the rebellious, free-spirited attitude and the colors (lots of hot pink). That vibe is still part of who I am and present in my work.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
I believe that creativity is part of human nature. As humans, we have this incredible ability to make connections, solve problems, and create new things. This is what defines creativity for me.
In my workshops, we always begin with an icebreaker in which I ask the participants to share a way that they are creative in their daily life: cooking, telling stories to their kids, writing poetry, playing music, arts and crafts, or anything. The point is to have them take ownership of their innate creativity and begin to identify as a creative person. We are all creative, but many people feel that they are not creative—I want to break down this limiting barrier.
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