Get Messy Art Podcast

Take Time to Make with Anna Baer

Together with Caylee Grey and guests, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.

No more excuses. Okay? Okay.

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Why is it so difficult to just. make. art? We know how much we love it and how it feeds our soul. We know it makes us better in a multitude of ways, but sometimes even the thing we love the most can feel like a massive effort.

I talk to Anna Baer, aka Olive Green Anna, about this. We talk about her mad skills – in creating art, in getting others to make art, and in pep talking directly to the heart.

I wanted to get together to talk about her latest offering, the Take Time to Make at-home artist residency, mainly because I’m taking part in it.  I also sneakily wanted to learn more about her as a human since she lives so close to me.

Our conversation lit me on fire. I loved hearing about how her process and seeing art as wildness in control; a way to see what comes out of her. We speak about destroying your own art in order to make space, removing the preciousness of supplies, making shit art, and where we put our worth as artists.

Grab your supplies and let us keep you company while you create…

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Podcast Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Caylee:
All right, Anna. I am so excited to talk to you today.

Anna:
Me too. I’m thrilled. I’m so excited also.

Caylee:
Yeah. For the person that’s saying … Anna and I have … We met online. We’re both experts in Germany and artists. We’ve been wanting to meet each other for a long time. Then finally I was just like, “Anna, come on my podcast. It’s apparently the only way I can get to meet you.”

Anna:
I know. We live I think maybe 20K away from each other or something but with COVID and then … Yeah. Here we are.

Caylee:
Maybe we can start by you sharing a little bit about who you are and your art.

Anna:
Yeah. My name is Anna Baer. I also go by Olive Green Anna. I’m an abstract painter, an expressionist painter. I paint quite large scale pieces, often over a meter large, usually, closer to two meters. I have made some smaller work this past year, which has been really nice. My work is very bright and lively and I use a script-y mark making in many of my pieces. Somewhat like writing or journaling, which actually comes from morning pages or from journaling. Yeah, from Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way morning pages, where stream of consciousness writing is a big part of my life and so I’ve brought it into my painting a couple of years ago too.

Anna:
Yeah. I am American by nationality but I actually grew up in Thailand and I’ve lived here in Germany for 10 years. I kind of am from Earth [inaudible 00:02:02]. Yeah. That’s always a hard question for me to answer. Yeah. I’m a mama of two. I have a one year old and a three year old and my husband is a musician. It’s kind of an artist family. Yeah. We’re making it work on the day to day, getting into the studio.

Caylee:
I love that. There’s so many things that I want to ask you about but let’s start with why Olive Green Anna?

Anna:
Well, actually, to be honest, I used to play more music than I painted art. It was the first name of my first band. It was a girl band. It was two of us and we were called Olive Green. Then when she moved away I just became Olive Green Anna as my musician artist name. Then when I finished my bachelor’s and was finally finished studying art and everything then it became my blog name and then now it’s my artist name. I kind of switch them and swap them but Olive Green is my favorite color. It’s ugly. It’s almost like gold but without the glitter.

Caylee:
I love that. I love that. I feel like this podcast episode is great because it’s kind of like I’m interviewing you for friendship. I get to ask you all these questions like you would usually ask your friend over time. I’m just going to throw them all at you now.

Anna:
I love it. I love it. Perfect.

Caylee:
I love how you described olive green. That’s amazing. I was thinking that I could never limit myself to a color but I think that the way you described it is perfect. Gold without the glitter.

Anna:
Yeah. Well, it’s like an odd color because it’s kind of ugly but it’s also so beautiful. Yeah. That’s why I like it.

Caylee:
Yeah. Obviously, I am very drawn to the fact that you use the script you’re writing in your work. I think that’s awesome. You’re a big morning page person then?

Anna:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don’t do the whole three pages. I’ll usually do one or two pages. Then continue into my paintings. Yeah. When I was growing up in high school and stuff, I did a ton of art journaling. It’s always been really fun to see what you do too. Yeah. It would be fun to look back on some of those art journals too and maybe get back into that.

Caylee:
Obviously, I think you should. I know a lot of art journalers are always wondering how they can incorporate their words in their art because there is kind of a step from an art journal and from a sketchbook onto canvas and stuff. I think that the way that you’re able to make the writing look like art itself is amazing. Anyone that’s looking for ideas on that really should check out your Instagram and check out your work and just see the fact … I mean, are there still words in there? Because it’s beautiful.

Anna:
Thanks. There are. They’re kind of mantras or thoughts and things that come into my mind while I’m painting. They are but they’re not really supposed to be legible. They’re quite jumbled and mixed up. I’ll start a line and then continue it here and then continue it here and move around. It is supposed to give the feeling of words but it’s also supposed to be read as line and as texture and as part of the composition.

Caylee:
Yeah. Do you think that it goes back to your music artistry?

Anna:
I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe it does. Yeah. With lyrics and with writing, it’s always been a big part of my creative process. Like I said, with art journaling and music writing. Yeah. That’s probably where … Yeah.

Caylee:
Tell me more about your creativity. How do you see everything all fitting together? I think you do that quite well. I think you bring your whole life and your whole life is art and then when you go to the canvas it’s just an expression of that. Can we talk more about that?

Anna:
Yeah. Well, actually, to be honest, I studied art so in art school you learn how to control materials. You learn how to master the paints and the materials. You learn how to control everything so specifically. That’s a part I’ve really appreciated too because I learned so much and I was able to pretty much paint or draw or whatever I wanted, right?

Anna:
I always wanted to be an abstract painter but I never knew how or where to even start. There’s no classes for abstract painting. At least, in my college. Expression, it wasn’t so important. You know? Anyway, for me, the abstract painting really started when I had a miscarriage. The first baby was … They didn’t make it. That’s when I couldn’t go into the studio anymore and have so much control. I just needed to let go. I was like I, obviously, don’t have control in life. You know?

Anna:
Yeah. I just was like I need to be okay with letting go. I need to somehow be okay with letting go. Yeah. I think that’s when … Life has always been a part of my work but I think especially for abstract expressionism where I really found my voice is when I began to be able to let go and to work with materials that were somewhat difficult to control, more fluid ones I brought in and then also new materials like spray paint and using materials in weird ways. Yeah. Trying to let go and be okay with letting go in the process.

Anna:
I think that that was a really big part for me in terms of having my life directly affect my work and my process. Then it just speaks so much … Now the process is almost like speaking into my life more. Like I learn so much about life and about me when I’m painting.

Anna:
I mean, you’re faced with all of you when you’re there alone in the studio. You know? Being there and putting marks on the canvas, I get to make a mark. I get to make something beautiful out of something that wasn’t there before. I get to play with color and try to even see what this is coming out of me. Often, I don’t even really know what’s happening and then only a couple of months later I’m like, “Oh, that’s what I was painting.” You know?

Anna:
For example, with the circles. When I started painting the circles, I started … I start with water first and I fill the circle just with water. Then I start adding pigment. I start adding raw pigment, I start adding fluids, acrylics, or inks and then it starts to flow, and then I start to push and pull and take away.

Anna:
It’s in this controlled shape. In it is sort of this wild. … I appreciate that too where, to a degree, I can have quite a bit of control but I also want to let go. I think that’s just in life … I mean, all of life, right? We only have so much influence and then the rest we need to let go of and … Yeah.

Caylee:
Gosh. That is so beautiful. Tell me more about how you … How do you practically go and let go? What were those steps for you? You knew you needed to let go. You knew that this might be a way for you to do it.

Anna:
The first way I started, I had these self-portraits of myself. They were very realistic. I honestly just was like, “These I have to let go.” I splattered them with paint and I scribbled on them with pastel and I smeared some other color and so they became … You could see the portrait in the back but on top was wild. This was the very first way that I started letting go is destroying some of my own work. You know?

Caylee:
Yeah. No. There’s an art journaler called Ollie, I’m going to butcher his name, [Avenary 00:12:20]. She burns her journals. She’ll create the art and then she’ll burn it or she’ll throw it in the sea.

Anna:
Yes. No.

Caylee:
[crosstalk 00:12:30].

Anna:
I do that too. I mean, I don’t burn them but I’ll rip them or I’ll … If they must, if they must go. Yeah. To make space. You have to make space for new ideas and new work.

Caylee:
I love that. I’m writing so many notes. I think you’re very eloquent and you also have very good practical ideas. I’m going to be putting them in the show notes for anyone that … I don’t know. Otherwise they’re just going to have to listen like 10 times.

Caylee:
Something that you’re doing at the beginning of next year, that I’m very excited about, is an artist residency, right? Tell me more about that.

Anna:
Yeah. I’m leading … It’s a five day artist residency. It’s an at-home residency so we’ll all be in our homes or in our studios. The first couple days … It’s called Take Time to Make and you can find out about it on my website, www dot Olive Green Anna dot com, and there’s a tab for Take Time to Make. It’s going to be five days … It’s actually over two weekends. It’s the first weekend in January and then the second weekend in January.

Anna:
Yeah. We’re going to take some time to make together and to make space and brainstorm ideas and let go and be free, be okay with making mistakes. We’re going to work on multiple pieces at once so that we have that freedom and it’s not so precious. We’re trying to let go of the preciousness of material also. That’s an enormous one for me. If I start feeling like my materials are precious then I am blocked. I need to let go and to not see them as precious. We’ll talk about ways to do that.

Anna:
Yeah. Mostly, we’re going to be playing together and showing up in our studio, at least on the five days, the Friday, Saturday, Sunday of the first weekend and then the Saturday and Sunday of the next weekend. The commitment is an hour a day on those days. If you can get more in, perfect but I wanted it to be something for parents or for people that have a full-time job, whatever. I just know that I need to take time to make and that you probably need to take time to make.

Anna:
It’ll be a really nice time at the start of the year. A chill but also inspiring time to work together with a small group of artists. Last time I had 10 participants. To be honest, it was a range of different medium. One person worked with clay, one person worked with florals, and actually put arrangements together, another person did painting. Another person actually used sound. Whatever medium you’re using, you’re welcome. It’s totally interdisciplinary. It doesn’t matter.

Anna:
Yeah. It’s about making your own unique work and starting to find your voice. Figuring out where your curiosity is and making those first steps to make a little body of work. We’re going to start some new pieces, between three and five new pieces, and you’re going to make your own individual work and you’re going to start finding your voice a little bit more and just taking that time and that space for you. I know I need it. Usually when I need something other people need it too.

Caylee:
Absolutely. Well, I need it. I’m joining. I’m beyond excited about investing in myself and giving to myself because it’s so strange how the thing that we want most in life, that creative time, we just don’t give ourselves some times.

Anna:
I know. It’s wild what keeps you from the studio, isn’t it? Whether it’s laundry where you’re like, “Why?” You know? Yeah. Something trivial like laundry or the dishes, those honestly do keep me from the studio sometimes. Mostly, it’s fear and just struggling to know where to start. Those are the types of things too that we’re going to talk about and that I’ll share about because, yeah, it’s a lot about mindset. It’s really a lot about mindset.

Anna:
Changing some of that dialog in your mind too and, again, taking the pressure off. Doing something for you and just making for the sake of making. I know as a professional artist, the pressure is so high because I want to make work that, obviously, I can sell it, that somebody would want to buy but also I really actually want to make work for me and my collectors want work that I want to make. Right? Yeah. They don’t want me to be thinking about them when I’m in the studio. They want me to just be free and to be working and to be making for me.

Caylee:
Yeah. It can be so tough when we’re making for ourselves even … The amount of judgment that we bring to the table, our whole lifetime of judgment, that even when we’re just making for our own eyes it can be so much pressure and we can be so hard on ourselves.

Anna:
Yeah.

Caylee:
I think something that helps me, I’ve been doing work with a life coach in other areas of my life, and she has to keep teaching me or reminding me that I’m worthy. I was like, “Okay but I don’t do anything.” She’s like, “No, no, no. You’re just worthy. You’re worthy of taking time to create. You’re worthy of sitting with a cup of tea and a piece of paper and some paints. You’re worthy of whatever you want just because you are. You don’t need to do anything. You don’t need to have made 30 good pieces of art in order to go back and try again.”

Caylee:
I think especially as women we’re told that we’re not worthy. I know there are a lot of people inside of Get Messy that are retirees and they’ve just been told their whole life you have to look after the kids, you have to make money, you have to clean the house and you are not allowed to make art and now only when they’re retiring, they’re finally saying, “Okay, now it’s my time.”

Caylee:
It’s so sad that the patriarchy and society are doing that to us because we don’t need to wait. We’re better people for ourselves and we’re better people for the people around us when we are treating ourselves as though we’re the people that we are.

Anna:
Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative). No. This is a really big moment for me too. I ran a pop-up gallery here in Heidelberg a couple of years ago. This woman, she was in her early seventies so, yeah, recently retired. She said to me, “Anna, you’re doing it right. You’re making work now and you’re expressing yourself and prioritizing your work now. I’ve been living like compromising for my mom growing up, my ex-husband, I have never pursued my creativity and I’ve never let my …” I just thought, “I need to do this now.” For you, for people like you but … You know? 50 years ago. You are … Yeah.

Anna:
Yeah. We need to do that. I need to do that. I know I needed to do that. Not necessarily everybody needs to do this professionally. For sure. Yeah. Yeah. Do it just for you and your work because we need it. You know? As humans, and our individual voices, we’re the only ones that can make this work. Caylee, you’re the only one who can make your work and you need to be doing that. Same with me. I’m the only one who can do it and that’s why I have to keep doing it.

Caylee:
Yeah. That’s why I like to think about when people say, “I’ve got nothing new to bring” and you’re like, “Uh, yes, you do” because the amazing thing is even if I were to copy your paintings exactly, it would look completely different because I’ve got … Even if I took the exact same supplies, the exact same scenarios, because I’m bringing myself to the table and because I have all of my history and everything that’s after me, it’s going to be completely different.

Caylee:
The fun thing about art is that every time we try and emulate even ourselves or we try and replicate something that we’ve done in the past, it’s going to look different again. There’s definitely a lot to be said for that letting go and just being like, “Okay, well, let’s see what happens.”

Anna:
Yeah. Yeah. Totally.

Caylee:
Yeah. For you, I know you were saying making supplies not be precious is how you are able to create true art.

Anna:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I mean, I think I feel like it’s gotten a bit easier now because I know … Just because I know that even if something doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. I’m going to make a ton of shit. I’m going to make a ton of shit. Can I say shit on here? I don’t know.

Caylee:
You can say fuck too if you want.

Anna:
Oh, perfect. Okay. No. I mean, I have to get used to making a lot of shit because I don’t make any great stuff unless I make a lot of shit. You know? You have to show up and you have to do something and you have to put your mark there and if the mark doesn’t work or whatever it’s fine. Who cares? No problem. Move on. Let it go or revisit it or paint over it or do whatever. Yeah. There’s always new materials and you always can get more and … Yeah. Even if it is shit, it was probably the shit you needed to make so that you can make something that works.

Caylee:
Yeah. I’ve got a theory that there’s a certain number of crappy pieces of art that I need to make, I don’t know what that number is, maybe it’s 1000, I don’t know, so every time I make something crappy, I just go, “Oh, yay. I got to tick one of those off. I never have to make it again. I can get past it.”

Anna:
That’s a good way to think about it. I like that. I appreciate that.

Caylee:
I also think there’s something to be said for where we put our worth, right? If we’re putting our worth into am I making the next Mona Lisa, we’re never going to get there. If your worth is, “Well, I want to enjoy the process and I just want to pour out of myself” then you go, “Oh, I just spent a whole bunch of paint there and it looks terrible but that’s okay because I achieved what I came here for”, right?

Anna:
Yeah. Well, I’ve also been thinking … Recently, I’m kind of in between works and bodies of work and so this is why Take Time to Make is going to be perfect because I need it, it’s going to get me focused in and figuring out what I want to make and getting me loose to be able to start experimentation in a new body of work.

Anna:
Right now I’m feeling like in between, I’m not quite sure what I’m doing so I’m playing with pallettes. I’m playing with inspiration and stuff. Yeah. There’s a piece that I made a couple of weeks ago where it doesn’t quite fit into … I don’t know where it’s going to fit in a body of work or whether I’ll even continue with this dialog and this idea.

Anna:
For me, too, I’m learning now, okay, that’s okay if I don’t quite know where this goes yet. I can set it to the side and then it might come into a collection in a year or it might … I don’t know when it will possibly … Like you said, getting over those or having to check those bad pieces off. Who knows where it will come into play in the future? It’s just about the daily. Like you said, about the process, about showing up and being open and making that mark. Like putting that brush to the canvas and just starting. You know? That’s the hardest part. Yeah. That’s what we’re going to do with Take Time to Make too is just to start.

Caylee:
Yeah. I think when there’s a group of people and you’ve made the decision probably a little bit scared, a little bit excited as well, and you make the decision then you give the accountability to someone else, right? If I’m sitting there with you and with the other people that are doing this and I’m not doing anything, that is way worse than doing something or doing something bad, right?

Anna:
Exactly.

Caylee:
[inaudible 00:27:07]. Have you ever had someone that’s just sat and watched?

Anna:
Well, a couple people had to tune in while they were at work or whatever. You know? That was fun also. One person had their child at one of the meetings so she couldn’t participate at the moment. That’s also fine. I mean, some people couldn’t even do it quite live so they just tuned in after and participated on their own. Yeah.

Anna:
I’m fine with that too because I also struggle with working alongside other people at times. Yeah. You really can do it how you like. If you’d rather just be taking notes and listening along then that’s fine but doodling or making some marks along will be great too.

Caylee:
I think something that you’re very good at is having that structure and having that organized thing, like your circle with water, or giving yourself an at-home residency or recently I know you went on a mini retreat. Like you give yourself that structure and then within that structure you can have that reckless abandon and that freedom and there’s where the creativity is able to just go wild.

Anna:
Yes. Yes. I love that. That’s true. I’m all about setting structures but then getting the freedom and being able to … I find that my creativity flows more when I have some structure of some kind. Even if it’s just a certain size or a certain pallette where I limit myself a bit and work within that.

Caylee:
Those are good ideas for someone if they want to make it practical. Choose a pallette for yourself, choose a size for yourself. I know also you were just saying, “For this residency, I’m going to show up on Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I’m just going to show up and then see what happens, take what I need” and also your retreat … Your retreat that you went on recently, that was two days to yourself. Was that creative or mental retreat?

Anna:
Yeah. I mean, kind of both, right? My life and my art are very much fluid. Yeah. It was honestly just a major inhale. I just needed to catch my breath a bit. I went to this tiny little cabin, this little house, tiny house on a lake near you and it was just … Yeah. I just read and I did a bit of dreaming about life and meditating and reading and I bought an art book and I went to the art store and I got some new colors and just treated myself, honestly. Drank tons of tea and ate ramen noodles and it was great. Again, I have two kids, two tiny kids at home so it was so nice. I went to bed at like 10 P.M., 9 P.M., way earlier than I normally do. Just sleeping.

Caylee:
I’m starting to realize more and more that the off times that we give ourselves are just as important to putting in all the work. I like how you called it a major inhale because when I do something I call it an exhale.

Anna:
Oh, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caylee:
Funny. Interesting.

Anna:
For me, the exhale is a lot in the studio. That’s where I just feel like … Well, I mean, yeah, that’s where I feel like at least with my creative juice that’s where it can go. Yeah. That’s interesting. Yeah, I can see that too, though, the exhale is really the release, isn’t it? I guess I meant gaining the energy.

Caylee:
I love that. Tell me more about how you are raising creative children. Completely different. Kind of related.

Anna:
[crosstalk 00:32:12] the other day because I knew no professional artists growing up. My parents are both academics, teachers, and so being an artist wasn’t a possible profession for me. At least, I never even considered it. Even after studying art and finishing my bachelor’s in art I was like, “Being an artist is not a real profession” so I got my masters in teaching.

Anna:
Anyway, my kids, they’re probably going to be shocked at the amount of professions that don’t require you to go and paint your heart out every day. Yeah. My kids, I mean, my son Viggo, he’s gotten really into drawing now. He’s drawing spiders and dinosaurs. He’s almost four so he can at least draw legs and some resemblance of spidery type things.

Anna:
Yeah. They sing a ton too. We sing a lot at night. Viggo is really good at making up his own songs on the ride to school, kindergarten, and things like that. I think they’re getting quite a bit of creative input. Yeah. Yeah. From us. It’s really cool. It’s really exciting. It’ll be interesting to see how these little guys turn out. You know?

Caylee:
Yeah. Yeah. It’ll be so different to you. I was also brought up in a house without any creativity. I’m interested to see what happens with Elliott. I think your children … My husband is an engineer. There’s some kind of balance there. I think your kids are going to see all the children wanting to be engineers, they’re like, “Oh, those crazy people” or accountants are weird, those zany accountants.

Anna:
Yeah. We’ll see. I don’t know. I think my boys are quite a bit smarter than me. I think they’ll probably have a lot of different options.

Caylee:
It’ll be like the opposite, like disappointing their parents by wanting to be a doctor.

Anna:
I know. No. No. They can be whoever they want to be is good.

Caylee:
Yeah. What’s it like having a creative husband too? Do you feel like you’re more seen?

Anna:
Yes. For sure. I mean, we are number one cheerleaders for each other and we need it. We need it as artists. I think maybe more than others because it isn’t … Yeah. I don’t know. I just know I need almost a daily pep talk. I don’t know about you, Caylee, but I definitely need at least one a day. I have to be my own pep talk sometimes too, which is a good thing to practice.

Caylee:
Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes you just need to write, “Hey, you’re great. Okay.”

Anna:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caylee:
I find your Instagram posts also like a really good pep talk for me.

Anna:
For me too. I write it just for me and then … Yeah.

Caylee:
There’s a lot of value, like you were saying, putting out what you need and then recognizing there must be other people that also need it. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with trying to give to people, social media, life, everything but sometimes it feels like a lot when we’re trying to figure out what everyone needs. If we just be true to ourself, put that out there, that speaks so much louder.

Anna:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, yeah, it’s true. I also need art in my life. I collect work from people. I also love living with my own pieces. They bring me life. Yeah. I’m really happy to share them too. I hear time and time again from collectors, they’re just given joy every day when they look at it. You know? What an honor. Wow. Sometimes I can’t even believe that this is my job. You know? It’s amazing.

Anna:
That’s the other side of it. Yeah. I mean, privilege through the roof, of course, and then that I have a supportive husband and family and a supportive fan base and community and we’re doing it. It’s awesome. Yeah.

Caylee:
Okay. To end, what would be one piece of advice to a new artist that you would give? Besides joining your artist residency because I’m excited for that.

Anna:
Yeah. I think like what we mentioned earlier, I think start. Make a mark. Your voice will grow. Your style will develop. Baby steps of progress. Yeah. Just start to make that mark. Like you were saying, you’re worthy, your voice is worthy, and so give yourself that pep talk, make that mark. Again, you’re probably going to make a bunch of shit but that’s okay. It’s about the process. It’s about being expressive. It’s about getting your hands moving and that’s what gives us life. Yeah. Do it.

Caylee:
Beautiful. Thanks, Anna. Thanks so much for chatting today.

Anna:
Thank you so much, Caylee.

Anna Baer

Olive Green Anna (Anna Baer) lives and works in Heidelberg, Germany. Her daily studio practice captures a sense of expansion amidst compression.

Caylee Grey, host of Get Messy

The Get Messy Podcast

I'm Caylee Grey. Creator of Get Messy, official fairy freaking artmother and your pro excuse-squashing ninja.

In the Get Messy podcast I’ll be chatting to a selection of amazing, real-life humans just like you are who are dealing with the very same barriers … but overcoming them to create their art.

Together, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.

No more excuses. Okay? Okay.