I do love having a sense of humor with them, I don’t think good art needs to be serious, I think its OK to make something that’s “real art” and for it to be whimsical, fun, and enjoyable (on “the creatures”).
We sat down with oil and pastels artist Ann Solyst, we explored this artist’s work from unique hybrid animals which can be striking and humorous to realistic nature themed illustrations, we touched on creativity and covid, and getting back into the art fairs.
My name is Ann Solyst. I was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Then I moved to St. Peter, Minnesota, and then eventually to La Crosse. And I got into art. I have always loved art. I’ve always wanted to be an artist. We have like those elementary school papers of like, what did you want to be when you grow up? And I have artist written in there. So my mom’s a graphic artist, so that’s probably part of my window into the arts. But it’s always what I wanted to be.
Brent Hanifl 01:21
I just recently saw you at Artspire and I’m sure it’s nice to get back to the different festivals and events to vend. You know, I noticed everything from oils to pastels, how do you choose those mediums, what draws you to them?
Ann Solyst 01:33
Yeah, I think going back to the idea that I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Oil is such a classic medium that growing up realizing a lot of these artists I admired painted in oils, it just it was kind of the default in my brain that I would paint in oil. The pastel was a different, a little bit of a different journey. My degree, I graduated with a degree in oil painting, but after graduation, I didn’t really have a great space to work. And I was dabbling in this old box of hard pastels, that actually was my mom’s when she was in college. And I was sitting at a show showing my oil paintings, and just sort of dabbling away, sketching by passing some time while I was sitting there. And somebody came up and bought the piece that I was drawing and none of the oil paintings sold. So I at that point, in my life, when I didn’t have a ton of space to do the oil painting, I didn’t have a lot of ventilation, I didn’t have as much time as I did in college. It was a really, it kind of clicked as a good transition at that time to start thinking about something a little bit more portable, more saleable.
Brent Hanifl 02:44
Your work with these sort of these hybrid animals, you know, to me is really striking. I mean, they’re trying to explain I guess you’ll do better than I would but you know, they’re striking, they’re humorous, they seem realistic. What made you go this route, combining these things from you know, I got down there, I put down name titles of some of your work like the Octo Bun, which is a bunny and an octopus, or a Flutter Pig, which you know, you can explain, but.
Ann Solyst 03:08
Yeah, yeah, I call those ones the creatures. Yeah, and the Flutter Pig, it’s this big, you know, farm pig is very huge and then it has just these little tiny butterfly wings on it. The creatures I got into pretty organically. I had been doing a lot of just regular animals that I was getting maybe a little bored of them. And there’s always a fear that if you are, you know, making something and it’s going well, there’s kind of this fear of branching out or doing something weird and different. So I drew a jackalope just to see how it would go and went over well, so I eventually added more and more of the creatures and now those are really what sells well. And the regular animals kind of sit around for a while. As far as the inspiration for which animals to mash up or any of that. I do love having a sense of humor with them. I don’t think good art has to be serious. I think it’s okay to make something that’s real art, and for it to be whimsical and fun and enjoyable. Yeah, so I try to have a sense of humor with it. I usually start with one animal, one font, so a rabbit and I just consider what would be either complementary or contrasting. So take something cute and approachable like a rabbit and then adding tentacles, something kind of scary and odd on to it. Kind of sort of both highlights what we appreciate about rabbits and then also makes it less approachable or just harder to wrap our brains around. I’ve had people walk into my booth and they have just a really confused or a blank look on their face for a couple minutes. And then eventually they start to smile and they start to engage. And they start to point and look and, you know, like, call their friends over. And but it’s fun to see the wheels kind of spinning when people approach my artwork, because as you said it is, it’s pretty realistic. So in some ways, I know a lot of other fantasy type drawing is realistic, it’s very detailed, but it has that very, it almost has a very graphic look to it. Whereas my pieces have a lot more of a natural history kind of feel to them. But yeah, but their fantasy.
Brent Hanifl 05:33
For someone who hasn’t seen it yet, and I’m sure they should check it out, you have what you talked about the half rabbit half octopus right next to you know, a very realistic, beautiful cardinal on your website that’s just like a traditional something you’d see, you know, that’s just like a real realistic picture of an actual bird. And then when it kind of complements it with this kind of out of the ordinary additions. It just makes it kind of fun. So how has COVID affected you? I’m sure you know, just talking to you. And I had a brief time to talk to you and I bought one of your paintings, which I just found out the backstory, which you call it. I bought one that’s a sheep and a dolphin, I believe called the Sheep Fin.
Ann Solyst 06:13
Brent Hanifl 06:14
Going from things like these different festivals and vending, how is COVID been for you? Is it? Was it stifling in any way? Or is it giving you an opportunity to work or?
Ann Solyst 06:23
Yeah, it’s been both of those things. It was hard to not show my artwork. One of the things I love about being an artist is seeing people interact with what I’m making. And so having those art shows is really fueling to see people and to you know, sell artwork and just feel like that get that momentum to keep creating. But also in other ways it did give me the time to keep creating or to start new projects. So I started a YouTube channel during COVID. My husband and I started a blog during COVID. And both of those can be reached through my website which is annsolyst.com. So a-n-n-s-o-l-y-s-t.com. So that was really great to have that time and space to start some of these projects that have been kind of on the backburner. But again, it’s really great to get out and to show my art and have people in person reacting and responding with my artwork again.
Brent Hanifl 07:23
So, you know, just kind of referencing again, you’re getting back to the art fairs, what else is next for you? What are you excited for, you know, in the years coming up?
Ann Solyst 07:30
Yeah, I’m really excited to, I’ve been working on pastels for a long time. And I’m excited to start bringing oils back into the mix. So during COVID one of the things that I had time to do was explore more classical realism in my oil painting. And this involves like some different kinds of techniques, older techniques that people you know in the Renaissance up into the the 1900s you know practiced a lot. And I’m just excited to continue to build that series. I haven’t posted very much about that series. It’s not really on my website, it’s very little on my social media, but I that’s something that I’m really excited to continue it to put out there and build a nice group of paintings that I can eventually put into a show
Brent Hanifl 08:17
So also looking through your website, you know, I see on here I see you know you also do commissions. Is that something that you’ve been doing for a while or looking to do more of?
Ann Solyst 08:25
Yeah, thank you for bringing that up. Yeah, that’s something else that I’m looking forward to getting into. So I also teach and I do enjoy teaching, but for a while for the last couple years teaching has kind of taken over and I’d like to get back into more creating. So commissions are a really good way for me to get back into creating my own artwork, and also have more steady income. I do love doing commissions. I do a lot of pastile commissions, so folks are welcome to go to my website, check out some of the other commissions that I’ve done on there. And shoot me an email, contact me. Typically with a pastel commission, something that’s around 9 inches by 12 inches, I charge $80 per individual depicted.
Brent Hanifl 09:13
That’s awesome. I’m just looking at this for me, really.
Ann Solyst 09:17
Brent Hanifl 09:19
So if people want to find out more, you’ve kind of mentioned before you’re on YouTube, you’re on the various social medias. What’s the best avenue for people to go to?
Ann Solyst 09:27
Yeah, um, Instagram is always great. I’m on Instagram at my name, Ann Solyst. Reaching out to me through email is gonna be great too. So my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Those are probably the two best but again, just head over to my website. I have a bunch of links on there. Look around.
Amy Gabay 09:52
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.
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