Many of our first paint sets are watercolor-based. Perhaps it’s because they’re some of the easiest arts and crafts to clean up. For Anna G though, watercolors were more than a quick and easy escape. Growing up in Russia, she said the medium was very common for children. That mixed with her mother’s love of art allowed for a seed to be planted early on in Anna G’s head. She notes, “Our personality shows itself since we are 5-7-year-old children,” adding, “In those times of early childhood, the passions that I found through the years, I recognize them. Now they’ve grown up with me, but they started in these years.”
A child born into a military family, Anna G went onto become a lawyer. Today she’s painting portraits with her favorite water-based paints in a small Italian town, but that’s not all. Find out about her decision to walk away from a traditional career, her refugee work and more in this conversation across seas.
Kendra: It wasn’t surprising to learn that you went into law after being raised in a military family. Do you feel like art was your way of breaking away from the expected? Was there any push back from your family when you walked away from law to pursue a career in the arts?
Anna G: Yes, I’d say so. It was a chance to find my own pat and to challenge myself and to explore another culture. Changing profession and countries are life rocking experiences. You leave behind (cultural background and its values, pressures, and expectations) for the unknown perspectives, freedom, and exhilaration, but also fears and insecurities.
In the beginning, It wasn’t easy to convince my parents to let me go. In the end, it was them and my friends who supported and helped me in every way. It would have been easier for them to have a daughter nearby with a safe and predictable job. However, being good parents they understood my nature, creative spirit, and nonconformist personality and gave me the opportunity to try. Now that I’ve got my own children, I understand how difficult it is to make this choice for a parent, not keeping daughter for themselves, but giving her wings and encouragement to fly.
Kendra: You went all in and moved to Italy at 23 to study art. Was there anywhere else in the world that you were thinking about heading?
Anna G: In those days I was not even certain what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if it was fashion or art that would be my future profession. The real difficulty is understanding what you really want to do. So I started looking for fashion institutes. The choice was between New York, London, Paris, and Milan. I had never been to any of those places before. Europe was closer geographically but Italy was cheaper than London and seemed warmer and more welcoming than France to me. I’d been suffering cold in Russia and dreamed of a milder climate. In the end, instinct drove me, as always. The same instinct led me from fashion versus art direction later.
Kendra: Has your favorite medium always been watercolors?
Anna G: Watercolor has been my favourite medium since early childhood It is very common in Russian schools. Since the days of nursery, we are taught the basics of this medium. I think for this reason there are lots of very good watercolorists in Russia. It was an immediate love story with the watercolor.
Kendra: You take photographs and transform them into the most beautiful watercolor pieces. Many revolve around couples which makes sense to me because watercolors have a way of looking romantic. Do you agree with that?
Anna G: Thanks a lot! Yes, the photographs are a great help as references, they are the bases of departure. Sometimes I use mine, very often they are customers to send me their photos.
Watercolor is romantic, delicate, lively, vibrant, spontaneous medium, it lends itself to painting people. Especially children and lovely couples in my case. Watercolor’s natural luminosity seems to be perfect to duplicate the skin’s translucent tones, getting soft and joyful wedding day atmosphere.
Kendra: Where was your art before you joined Etsy in 2017?
Anna G: I’d been working in the fashion industry before, doing illustration. I wasn’t sure I’d become a portrait painter before. I used to paint watercolors to decorate the house, so people began to ask me for paintings of their families and friends. It was a natural process of growth in this direction, one portrait after another became quickly a full-time job for me.
Etsy announced a new professional phase with customers from all over the world, especially from the United States. A fantastic opportunity for an artist based in a small provincial Italian town to get the visibility and an international showcase. Something unthinkable 15 years ago! I am very enthusiastic and grateful to all my clients and creative friends on Etsy and Instagram, who help me to realize my passion, who inspire me and give me the strength to continue with their comments and feedback.
Kendra: You’re not only making an impact on the lives of your customers with your art but are also helping refugees. Can you tell us more about that?
Anna G: This is another advantage of living in a social era. Some tragedies are no longer invisible, there are people who make testimonies, help those in difficulty and invite others to help them with their example. The drama of the refugees is one of the most tragic of our times and we must talk about it, and not ignore the problem. It is very felt in Italy, which welcomes immigrants every day, with a thousand difficulties that there are already in this country. The Italian people are very supportive and ready to help those less fortunate even when their resources are very limited.
I follow UNHCR non-profit organization supporting and protecting refugees. Many of them are women and children. Anyone can help through simple donations on their website (depending on own possibilities). I believe even a small donation can save someone’s life, especially if we’re in many to offer helping hands.
Kendra: What is going on for you and your work in 2019?
Anna G: My goals for the next year are simple. I want to make as many portraits of people as I’m able to do, help as many people as I can, and teach my children kindness, generosity, love, and humility. This is what our world needs.