Ann Craven, who painted 400 moons and then did it all again

Image courtesy of the artist

One of the highlights of the Kilkenny Arts Festival so far has been the work of artist Ann Craven. Ann has ancestoral Irish background but lives and works in New York. At the Artist's Brunch event, the curator of the visual arts strand Josephine Kelliher talked about Ann's dedication and her life of painting and re-painting significant images. During one year she painted 400 images of the moon, staying up each night to capture the sky from her roof. Later she re-painted that series again. Say no more!

The show in Kilkenny is discussed here by Ann, anyone who sees it will find these words deepen the experience. The works are large and although she says that roses signify the end of mourning, to me they were still laden with sadness.

The only down side of this show was that I would love to have seen more. If you would like to see more have a look here at her Studio link. The show is in the Castle Yard, Kilkenny and continues until August 16th.

In the past, you have often used found images as sources, but 6 of these paintings are made from observation. What does that change mean?

I began painting flowers when my mother died – I painted the roses from the funeral from life. The paintings were gifts for my family.

You’ve painted the roses from observation, but the backgrounds are semi-abstract flowers.

I took the backgrounds from some of my previous paintings of birds. The bird paintings always have flowers in the background. They’re often lifted from Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings.

All the flowers are painted in black and white? Why is that?

The absence of color takes out the decorative aspect and feeling. But even in black and white, they seem to me full of color and light.

Do the dark tonalities mean that there is something sinister about them?

No, not at all. I see light emerging out of the darkness. I see them as the end of mourning, almost as rebirth. That’s the traditional symbolism of roses, you know.

You’re well known for making paintings using animals, such as birds and deer, which today are considered as amateurish or discarded subjects. Why do you choose this kind of iconography?

I really connect to popular imagery. And I like making paintings that people who do not know much about art can connect with. At the same time, the birds in the paintings are like actors in a play or an opera. I can use the birds to express human situations and feelings. I sometimes think of them as costumed actors in an extravagant opera production.

What do you do everyday, what process do you use for developing your work? What is your studio, workplace like? (a photo of you working would be great!)
Do you have a daily practice in your studio?

I need to have things around that I’ve already painted. In many ways, one painting comes from the next – it’s born from the previous idea. I also have thousands of printed-out images that I need to have around me. I print out images of my old paintings, as well as flowers from every nature book I can get my hands on. I love cat books – and vintage bird books. I paint watercolors from printouts I make from the cat books. Then, when I start painting, I’ve got to stick with it for twelve hours, sometimes more. I paint wet-on-wet, it’s all one continuous surface, so once I start, I can’t stop until it’s finished.


  1. Great post. She is a very in depth artist which really comes through in the words. I too read a little child-like imagery in the cats and birds, but her description gave me a more mature understanding of meaning and process.

  2. Finally a quiet evening, I can now check out a few Blogs. Thought I would see what you are up to. Much enjoyed the interview. I spend a great amount of time with many different artist. Where Gardens at Waters East is located is filled with over 1,700 galleries up and down the counties here. A great place to live and enjoy creativity. It is a get-a-way for the Chicago crowd. So again, nice reading the interview. Jack