ART IS LIFE :: Anna Todaro Interview

I really enjoy good art and one of my favorite visual artists is Chicago's Anna Todaro. Her style is colorful, animalistic and very distinctive. In her own words it's Utopian Folk Art. Utopian, because she seeks to make the world a better place though her medium and that comes from a genuine place of unconditional love. 

Anna's been supporting herself from her southside studio where she creates works to sell in shops, at art festivals, and online. She decided to reveal a bit about herself with us in an interview.

Thanks for doing this Anna. I've always enjoyed your art and I'm happy to share it with our readers.
Thank you. I really love what I do and am soooo happy there are other people out there who enjoy my work so I can keep on doing this.

So how long have you been painting professionally?
I've been doing markets mainly on the west coast since 2009. I started doing street fairs in Portland, Oregon in 2004 and I have been painting full time since 2011.

Do you have any formal training or is this something that you learned how to do on your own?
I went to Northern Illinois University where I got my BFA in Painting in 2004. I was given a scholarship to study abroad in Florence, Italy for one of the semesters at NIU. Most of what I do now I taught myself over the years after graduating college and actually participating in the "real" art world.

Are you influenced by any other artists, either in paint, prose or music?
Oh man, soooooooo many. I guess right now I will tell you who is currently influencing me, but in reality, there are tons more. I learn a lot simply by looking at other work and currently have been learning a lot looking at traditional Japanese paintings as well as cave paintings. I am super into their use of line. Business wise, I am looking at a lot of what a lot of local artists from Portland Oregon and San Francisco are doing ... ladies like Jill Bliss, Amy Ruppel, Chicago artists like Nerfect; Some more famous contemporaries would be like Mark Ryden, John Currin and Amy Sol to name a few.

I'm into music with good vibes. I really am into Brian Eno while I work because it's not super distracting, I like positive noise like Brainstorm, and I also like string instruments and live instruments.

We share a mutual fondness for Brian Eno. I always listen to "Music for Airports" when I've having a bad day or trouble sleeping. I've noticed a theme in your work for using pastel colors, is that something that is intentional or did it develop over time?

I've always loved color. I remember being in preschool, not even three years old, and looking up at this hanging stuffed rainbow and memorizing the order of colors. I can look at any color and see it's opposite. My color system has evolved over time. My "mother" color is the exact middle of the color spectrum, yellow green. I love this color because it contains both the bright happiness of yellow and the calming coolness of blue. I like to use bright colors that are also not dominating. They are intended to lighten a space and a spaces mood, not to control it.

Well, it definitely works ... and it suits the subjects of your work, which is another theme I've noticed - birds. Why such a fondness for painting birds?

I love that birds can fly. I love their songs and their mysterious ways and I Love Love Love their bright and exotic feathers. I love how well they go with atmosphere and air as well, kind of like fusing together the tangible, and the intangible.

Yes, I must say that I'm a little jealous of the birds. My best dreams are the one's where I'm flying. Your art captures that feeling very well. I understand that you've recently started creating children's books. Can you tell us a little about how that came about?
Well, I've always been into the theater and have always been a pretty ok writer, especially of simple works, I used to do a lot of work with the Portland Poetry scene in Oregon and would go to all of the open mics. When I really started bringing all of the work together was after I had gone to this meditation circle for my friend Tazdeen. I met a woman there who, when she saw my business card got really mad and said I needed to write children's stories. For some reason, her words seems to echo in my head and when I got home, I realized that I'd actually been at the wrong party. It was at the same address, but actually a block away from the place I'd meant to be, I tend to look at scenarios like this as real everyday magic and used this message from this woman as a warning that I really need to get all of my work together into one format to really put it out there for people to enjoy.

Your first is a children's story under the name Mother Heron, about learning to hula hoop. I know that you are currently raising money on Kickstarter.com to publish this. Can you tell us more about that story?

It's called "Everybody Hoops, but me" It's about a little girl who really wants to hula hoop, and everyone else in the whole world can hula hoop but her and it's about her struggle. I have audio of myself reading the story up on soundcloud.

Is there a bit of Anna in this story?
Well, I am definitely one to never give up (three fixed signs) and this is the really meaning of this story. I also found it really difficult to hula hoop, and needed to practice a ton even to get the thing to go around more than twice.

So I'm guessing that you look like a natural when doing it now?
I'm ok ... I have fun and I think that's the most important part about hula hooping. I have a bunch of stories in the works for Mother Heron and I thought that the idea of never giving up was a great theme to be the first story by a lady who has been working so hard, and never giving up for so long, doing most of the work myself. It feels like so many people come up to congratulate me on all of my success and the truth is, it's all been hard work, lots and lots of work, 99% perspiration you know.

Well, you certainly are an inspiration to perserverance. How close are you to your Kickstarter goal?
With 15 days left, I am currently at $1,111 out of $6,000 for the goal. My goal is to be able to buy enough copies of the book to have the price per book low enough to sell them in independent bookstores.

Well, maybe 11 is your lucky number. I wish you all the best in this and all your future endeavors. Is there any thing else you'd like to share?
Oh, thank you sooo much Noble. I really think the most important part about crowd funding is getting the word out. Thank you so much for this interview.

I'm glad to help. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.

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