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Life & Work with Ann Vastano

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ann Vastano.

Hi Ann, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Born in 1972 on the beautiful Hebridean island of Islay, my childhood was one of great freedom.

Running wild on the huge empty beaches, making sand and shell villages, diverting sea water into little streams and rivulets… all to succumb back to the rising tide, and then a blank canvas once again. Art has been my go-to friend and comfort throughout my life.

I knew before I had left primary school I would be going to art school, My path was very clear to me. So it was no surprise to find myself studying at Grays School of Art Aberdeen,

I was married at 21 and had my first son at 22. Motherhood was a full-time position with what became life with three busy boys, but I always found time for art. My husband was very supportive in that he made sure I had a studio space. However, this was probably more out of desperation to get the paint brushes out of the cutlery drawer!

Mostly painting landscapes in watercolor, inks, acrylics, and mixed media. I exhibited locally and nationally. The opportunity to create an exhibition celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Cairngorms National Park at the Scottish Parliament came up. This is the beautiful part of the world where I live – so it was naturally a fantastic opportunity.

As a result of this exhibition the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon asked me to create a painting for her office at Holyrood, which was a huge honor.

I continue to work prolifically from my studio in Kincraig. We also run a café gallery here in the village alongside my husband Toni and our middle son Luca. Serving artisan lunches and delicious locally baked cakes and coffee from the Marche region of Italy where my husband’s family hail from.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My life-like most has never been a smooth road.

I’ve had many challenges, But actually, the artwork has been the one constant. I’ve found that my studio and painting, drawing, and creating time have been very cathartic, helping me to process various challenges. This dialogue with my work has been a key force for good.

An example would have been when my husband had a heart attack in his forties. It was a real shock and our sons were still quite young. It was a peculiar time, I had a lot of fears about how I might manage these three boys myself.

Fortunately, my husband did ultimately get better.

I started painting after things began to settle again and worked on a very large painting for a long while. I remember my mother asking me about the painting on its completion. It depicted a cottage, standing amid a landscape where the fences were falling down, the sheep were running free, the gate was swinging free, blowing open, and the sky was wild and stormy.

I realized on talking through the work with my mother that the cottage represented me, standing in the midst of all the confusion, the chaos of my life swirling around me, the things that I had no control over, and the stormy weather represented that, the sheep perhaps represented my children, looking for direction – but my mind was on other things.

I subsequently named the painting ‘Storms made us stronger.”

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I paint, draw, and photograph, the landscape I live in. I’m particularly drawn to the old crofts and cottages which are strewn across our Scottish Highland landscape.

They tell a story of days long gone, I’m best known for this type of work. Many of the commissions I receive are to preserve an old cottage in paint form, it’s a privilege to be privy to these well-loved character-filled bothies.

At the moment I’m most proud of a children’s storybook with which I have written and illustrated, it is just about to be published. It’s again based on our locality and develops on a local folk tale from our wild mountain landscape.

I’m not sure what sets me apart from others, but I feel I’m one of the most fortunate of people as I do a job I love passionately. They say that’s so lucky in that as a result of doing the job you love – you never work a day in your life!

I hope I never retire! Like Mattisse with his cutouts in bed! I love the idea of being constantly engaged and never tiring with your art and creativity.

What do you think about luck?
Possibly not luck, but I often find that from perhaps difficult situations I’ve found I’ve grown from them more than anything. I remember in my early days of exhibiting I had submitted work to large national exhibitions.

On this occasion, the work was rejected and then the offer came to put the work to the subsequent exhibition des refusé, the work was refused by the original exhibition jury. So when it was rejected from the rejected exhibition work I was at an all-time low!

When I finally got over the double blow, it made me really very determined to do better – so the next year I entered again, and the work was accepted in the first instance and sold!

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