Monday, April 3, 2017

Celebrating Life with Style, Soul, and a Wink

The March 15, 2017, cover of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association features a pair of greyhounds. But not just any greyhounds--greyhounds with paisley. This piece is called "Paisley Paws de Deux" by Dr. Ande Hall, a veterinarian who is now a full-time artist in Kansas. Recently we talked about whimsy and not taking yourself too seriously.

"Paisley Paws de Deux" by Ande Hall, DVM
Ande used to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a desert city haven for artists. "I had a practice in Santa Fe for many years and I idolized the art," Ande says. "Whenever I went on a gallery walk there was a little voice inside me that said: I'm going to do that."

"Whenever I went on a gallery walk there was a little voice inside me that said: I'm going to do that."

After moving from Santa Fe to Kansas, Ande took ceramics at the local community college. In Pratt, Kansas, she had her first solo ceramics exhibit and began teaching classes in the medium. Ande says there were several reasons why she started with ceramics. "It was very tactile, I really enjoyed it," she says. "It's art but it's also craftsmanship." She says ceramics had a similar feel in the way you use your hands as surgery does, which was her favorite thing to do in practice.

"Power" by Ande Hall, DVM
"When I first got into ceramics, it felt like a safe art form," she says. "The pressure to produce something astounding was not there. It's an earthy art form and it usually doesn't take itself too seriously. Anything that you made that was a cup or plate or saucer had a function so even if it failed aesthetically, it always had a use. There was a utilitarian function to it."

In 2012 she and her family moved to a different town in Kansas. Not wanting to make the considerable investment of buying her own ceramics supplies and kiln, Ande turned to painting. She now works primarily in oil pastels and acrylic. Looking through her oeuvre on her website, her slogan appears at the bottom of the page: "Lively and eclectic contemporary paintings that celebrate life with style, soul, and a wink."

"I think that as a veterinarian there are perfectionist tendencies. In the long term, that can be wearing."

Ande says her slogan comes from the struggle to not take herself too seriously in anything that she does. "I think that as a veterinarian there are perfectionist tendencies. In the long term, that can be wearing. I try to make art that doesn't take itself too seriously. I like making things that have grace and dignity but also some humor."

"Jest, I surely do!" by Ande Hall, DVM
Grace is a predominant feature in a series of Ande's called "Winged Megafauna." These are large mixed media pieces featuring big pachyderms like elephants and rhinos. "I once saw a documentary on rhino poaching," she says. "It makes me so sad to think that these animals are more valued for their body parts than alive. I wanted to do paintings that juxtaposed their grandeur and size with their fragility and vulnerability. I was trying to think of a way to highlight their plight."

"More Precious than Gold" by Ande Hall, DVM
A large part of the whimsy that Ande breathes into her work comes from the fabric she chooses for her mixed media pieces. "These are a specific project I've been focused on for the past year," she says of her fabric pieces. "My mission is to explore ways to use pattern that are both expected and unexpected. I started with things that were really easy to see, like the paisley patterns to create brindle greyhounds. But then using cabbage rose for a Jersey cow--that was more whimsical."

"Rosy the Jersey" by Ande Hall, DVM
A central concept that has surfaced in other conversations I've had with veterinary artists is that a deep, hands-on knowledge of anatomy helps when conveying an animal's body onto the page. Animals have a central theme in many of Ande's pieces--she also paints flowers--but Ande has a different perspective. "It's not that simple," she says of the anatomy/art link. "Sculpting is easier to apply your familiarity with anatomy. It's a three-dimensional art form and you have a three-dimensional memory of the structures you're depicting whereas painting is two-dimensional. It's quite different."

"Johann" by Ande Hall, DVM
When asked where Ande finds inspiration for her work, she doesn't hesitate to state point-blank: "Everywhere." She admires historic art which sometimes surfaces in her own work, like her piece "Johann." She also takes pleasure in the research of her subjects. One painting might lead to another, she says. Or she'll re-visit a piece she's done in the past. Ande's outlook and practicality make one feel as though the possibilities are endless.

Until next month, happy reading, happy writing, happy vetting!

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