Meet Local Artist: Annette Picher Houston
Quilter and Multi-Media Artist
Every week I highlight a local Upper Valley artist or maker. I give them a list of questions and they choose to answer as many of them however they'd like. I hope you enjoy meeting our local artists!
This week I'd like to introduce you to Annette Picher Houston, quilter and multi-media artist
Mount Katahdin, art quilt
Bio and History
Annette was born in Waterville, Maine and continued to live in the state most of her life, majoring in art at Colby College and sculpture at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She taught art in the Waterville, Vassalboro and Fairfield Schools for 25 years before moving to Newport, ME, as a Gifted and Talented Program Consultant in 1989. She exhibited paintings and quilts as a member of the Pine Tree Quilters Guild and the Newport Arts Alliance.
Annette currently lives in Lebanon, NH, closer to her daughter, Meg and her son-in-law Steve Maker. She is an active teacher of art at the Hanover Senior Center and maker of quilts for the Parkinson’s Comfort Project.
How did you get started with art?
I have always loved art. I was encouraged by an artist in elementary school. She later became my art teacher in high school, encouraging me to go beyond, having me paint a mural in oils for the series she sponsored on King Arthur and the Round Table. These remarkable paintings number about 8 and are now installed in the newer high school.
Have you had any training?
I was able to major in art at Colby College, and go to the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture between my junior and senior years. While there I had a marvelous course on paint materials, which has colored all my future efforts in creating art.
Do you make art for a living? If so, for how long have you been able to do that?
I only returned to art following two years of work for the telephone company and four years in Germany with my Air Force husband. I got a part time job as an art teacher at a girls' school, and in the middle of the year, my former high school teacher left, and I was offered her job at Waterville High School. I taught there until my daughter was born, and only returned to teaching when she was in school full time. I taught part time at two local prep schools, then later taught elementary art in the Waterville School district.
After many years I was let go due to budget cuts, and later taught art in a neighboring rural area as an itinerant art teacher for several more years.
What jobs have you had other than being an artist?
I became very concerned with meeting the needs of talented art students and gifted academic students, and pursued certification as an administrator of Gifted and Talented programs. I worked in this area for twenty years as well, leaving only to move to New Hampshire in 2010.
Because I was very busy preparing and delivering art lessons to my students, I found an outlet for my own talents and interests in teaching adult education classes in painting, drawing, crafts and quilting.
My interest in Quilting began in the 70’s, and soon I was teaching classes, and organizing a chapter of the state quilting guild, where I subsequently became the vice president, in charge of workshops and programs, as well as helping to create an educational component for schools, and a scholarship fund for fellow quilters.
While a member of the state guild, we formed a chapter called “Art Quilts Maine”. As a member of this group I shared some of my talents, and was rewarded with workshops by artistically other talented members. We had our own shows and also participated in the State Guild shows yearly.
As a Gifted and Talented Program Administrator, we moved to Newport Maine, a rural area north of Waterville. I found it my calling to bring more arts into the school system and the community. I was able to get grants to bring talented performers into the schools, and to help create the Valley Arts Alliance, which is still going strong since I left seven years ago! We displayed communally in banks and libraries, local businesses and at the Newport Cultural Center, which we helped support. I also exhibited solo at a local bank, and in Waterville at Thomas College and the local hospital’s gallery.
Having moved to New Hampshire following the death of my husband, I am involved locally in teaching art and craft classes at the Hanover Senior Center and at my residence at Quail Hollow. I joined the local quilt group and have exhibited with them in their bi-annual shows, at the Aging Resource Center and at the local coop.
Soon it's Going to Snow, acrylic painting on fabric
What are your passions outside of art?
This is a great area in which to live. The area is lovely, so many trees and beautiful gardens everywhere. There are many music concerts and plays one may attend nearby. I belong to the International Womens’ Club and enjoy their luncheons and programs as well.
I participate in the exercise classes at the Hanover Senior Center. I do enjoy reading mysteries and following mystery series on TV. After the children were older and I had more “time”, I started reading Sherlock Holmes, progressed to Agatha Christie, and have branched out from there.
How do you work?
I spend my free time planning art lessons for others, of course. My quilting most recently has been to make small quilts for Parkinson’s patients.
When I do paint, what I like to do is combine a quilt square design with a landscape, superimposing one on another.
Storm at Sea
What is your studio/space like?
I have a second bedroom in my apartment, which is my studio space and storage space - jammed packed!
Inspiration is the first step in creating for me. I like to let an idea percolate before I actually paint or quilt. My ideas for my art come from visual stimulation. Recently a photo on Facebook gave me a whole new area of exploration.
What medium/media do you use?
When I paint I use acrylics, since they are so versatile. I paint and print on cloth often, and then use these to make quilted pieces or wall designs. When my children were young, I did much drawing, since I could manage that in the evening after all were in bed. Probably I’m best at drawing with ink.
As a teacher I have had to be able to have students create in many media, so I have had to learn to use them myself. The medium I find most difficult is watercolor.
For awhile I was creating many small quilt pieces using the Japanese techniques of Sashiko Quilting, and Fabric Origami.
I also painted a couple of portraits of friends.
What do you do with pieces you don't like?
Some of them end up in the trash, but some I have donated anonymously to local trash and treasure tables.
How do you know when you're done?
I have to let the pieces sit for a while while I look at them and think about next steps.
What/who inspires you?
I admire the work of Matisse, and my favorite artist, Ce´zanne.
As a Senior Scholar at Colby College, I studied the works of the Dutch painters, the French Pre-Impressionists, and Cezanne, using their mediums and creating works in similar styles. This is how I benefitted from the Paint Materials Course. I also use this approach as I teach my adult classes.
What's the best thing about being an artist? The worst?
The best thing about being an artist (an “Art Quilter”) is that there are NO RULES! The worst thing is having so many quilted pieces just sitting in my studio.
What makes you unique as an artist?
Not many others are painting designs of quilt motifs combined with a visual image.
How do you get past a creative block?
Getting past a creative block is just waiting until time and space combine to make a day when I can just go for it! I used to love school “snow days” …a free day to just be creative!
What is your dream project?
Nothing in particular. Whatever I think of I can usually get to.
What are your fears as an artist?
It would never occur to me to have fears.
What's the best piece of advice (or a quote) you've been given regarding art and creativity?
“Truth is beauty and beauty is truth - that is all you know on Earth, and all you need to know" - Keats
About Art and Artists
What do people not realize about being an artist?
Their inner life - always looking, thinking, planning art.
What do you think are the qualities that define an artist?
Wanting to and actually making a creative idea come to fruition in visual or tangible form.
Speaking from my experience only - Inspiration; Insight; Ability to see possibilities in whatever materials are available; Perseverance; Physical ability; Stick-to-it-ivity
What do you admire in other artists?
Clever handling of media to get their idea across; Insight, making me think and “see” what they see…
Is there an artist you particularly admire/emulate/enjoy? Why?
I have tried to emulate certain techniques in oils (in college). I have participated in many workshops in Quilting where I was taught certain techniques. I think I use a bit from this one and some from that one as I create…not knowingly, just because it becomes part of my vocabulary of tools and techniques.
Sharing Your Art
I have been so busy teaching and making art that I don’t consciously seek out places to display or try to market my art. Just being in group shows or if someone sees my art and wants to buy it. Several people have asked me to create something for them, which I have done. When I create a piece I often make two, and give one away.
What is the process for working with you to create a custom piece?
If someone wants or needs something we talk about it and come to an agreement.
Where is your favorite place to take a class/workshop (locally or otherwise)?
I have taken workshops at the AVA Gallery locally, and with the Northern Lights Quilting Guild.
Where can we find you/your work?
Right now I don’t have any art on display. Sometimes I post something on Facebook. I do take many examples in to the Hanover Senior Center as inspiration for an art lesson technique, for example.
Would you like to be featured in "Meet the Local Artist"? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com
Last Week's Interview - Nancy Roy, turning memories into totebags!
Next Week's Interview - Elizabeth D'Amico, Multi-Media Artist
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More about the author, Amy Fortier: Her Artist Interview