Ann James Massey

ArtAscent Distinguished Artist of the 2021 Garden call for artists.

Artist Statement

From my earliest memories, my passion for detail and admiration for the primitive Flemish and 16th century Dutch masters have been a guiding influence. Since moving to France (a country that cherishes past and present) in 1994, a major focus has become creating that juxtaposition in my subject matter. Into that mix, I am now adding the element of tributes to influencing factors in my life. Even as I create my own style, always, we as artists rest upon the shoulders of those masters who came before us.

About My Work

In 1970, my instructor at the El Paso Art Academy put a black wax pencil in my hand and my path in art was decided. My light touch and patience married perfectly with the medium, and the works I created were well received, winning awards from the first exhibition I entered.

Perhaps due to the engineering background in my family, I easily recognize relationship measurements and negative spaces, allowing fairly accurate proportions to develop quickly. Beginning with a gestural drawing on vellum paper, I refine the image to a detailed fine line drawing. I transfer that rendition by redrawing the lines on the back side (seen through the vellum), then tape it to Bristol paper plate to finish, rubbing the lines on the surface with a rounded blunt instrument thereby transferring a faint image to the final support. After daubing up any excess carbon with a kneaded eraser, I faintly redraw the lines. Next, I apply 40-plus light layers of black Prismacolor pencil lines using a needle-sharp point without any erasing or smearing, gently increasing pressure in the darkest areas.

After twenty years of drawing, selling, exhibiting, and teaching private lessons, I finally discovered the traditional oil painting method I had been searching for. Given my extensive art background, I quickly picked up the methods at the Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore.

To create my compositions, I use the same steps as my drawing technique, then transfer the final line drawing to my prepared sapele mahogany board. Grinding my paints using powdered pigments and black oil (cold pressed linseed oil boiled with lead), I also place a thin layer of my hand-made medium (black oil mixed with a gum mastic crystal solution) before each area I am currently painting. The first overall layer on the toned board is in burnt umber creating a sepia rendition to establish values and confirm the composition. That is usually followed by three layers of color. It is finished with a final layer of scumbling and glazing as needed. To achieve delicate, tiny detail I paint using jeweler’s glasses and most often utilize size 000 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable brushes. Though I do not apply thick amounts of paint, with each successive layer affected by the prior layers, the final painting has a feeling of surprising depth.

Despite the tight realism, many of my pieces are not actual reproductions of anything I have seen, but rather a composite of various images I have taken over the years, augmented with sketches and imagination. Often, I deliberately flatten and slightly distort perspective, as did the old masters, to create a composition more pleasing to the eye. Everything is created freehand with no mechanical or reproductive means.

Distinguished Artist of the ArtAscent Gardens call for entry. To see this in print, grab a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Gardens issue.

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