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Art Stories: Interview with Annie Poon


When I first came across Annie Poon's  cuckoo clocks  I knew I had to share her work with you. But then  I pursued her passions further and was  trapped  looking through her fun and sometimes quirky artwork. I was surprised to find that she not only paints her cuckoo clocks, she draws, doodles, sculpts with paper and so much more. She truly is very talented and you can tell she is passionate about her work.

This is Annie, oh did I mention she illustrated a book recently? Pursue her blog, Annie Poon to find out more.
VI - What is your preferred medium?
My preferred medium is black and white drawing, whether with a brush or pen.  I like the immediacy of doodles, the way that emotions translate directly to the paper.  Everything about the line's speed and thickness tell a story.  I am not a fan of erasing! A favorite drawing teacher who once told me 'if you draw something that needs improvement, don't get attached to it, just throw it away and make a better one.  You did it once so you can do it again!'  I use a lot of drawing in my painting and animation, keeping things a little cartoony in general. 
One of my favorites of Annie's. Visit her blog to hear the story about why she started to draw all of these items. You'll love it, and the rest of the drawings that go with it. 

My mom is the one that got me interested in art.  When I was in kindergarten she withdrew me from school for a day, sending in a note saying I was getting a 'cultural education'.  She took me in to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and gave me nickels for every artist I could identify.  Mom was very interested in the history of painting in particular.  She was always doing fun stunts to get her kids interested in art.  She also taught me cross-stitching and toll painting as well as quilting, baking, and dressmaking.  My dad was once very into at art as well. He used to make beautiful ceramics.

 VI - How did you get started?
I started out my art career by writing and illustrating little stories in elementary school.  I loved to illustrate the journal my mom kept for me.  By the time I got to high school my artwork was very popular with my classmates.  They would pay me to draw whimsical fairy posters and paint Grateful Dead dancing bears on their clothes.  I also loved making sets for the school plays.   I continued to study painting at the School of Visual Arts in my dear NYC.  It only occurred to me my senior year that my doodles were also something to be taken seriously.  That is when I got into cartooning and animation.

Runaway Bathtub from Annie Poon on Vimeo.


VI - Who or what inspires you? 

I am most inspired by the work of outsider artists and the art of the insane.  These types have no fear of working in the wrong style or of not fitting in.  They are great innovators and risk takers. Once a year there is an outsider art fair here down in SoHo. Whenever I venture to go my mind is completely blown.  I actually can't ever view the entire fair because after seeing just a few booths I feel so inspired that I rush home to stew and make art.  Some particular favorites include Howard Finster, Bill Traylor, and Nellie Mae Rowe.  One of my favorite more traditional artists is Karen Kilimnik.  Her work is so romantic and almost cheeky.  I also love Gemma Correll's cartoons.

My studio is tiny, just big enough for my desk and worktable.  The size of the room contributes to the intimate feel of my work.  It is extremely cluttered with piles of books everywhere.  The table is covered with lights for my animations and jars of brushes and inks.  Now and then the sewing machine makes an appearance.  I have vintage-inspired toys stashed in all the corners as well as a years and years worth of sketchbooks popping out from the table.  I keep inspired by putting up postcards by 'Natalie L'ete' next to my own watercolor attempts and have decorated my desk with handspun wool figurines by 'Vintage by Crystal'.  My window looks out onto the city skyline over the Lincoln Tunnel.  I like to see the cars moving in and out of the city while I work... it's sort of a traffic clock for me to gauge the time.  I like to listen to the honks at rush hour and see the orange sunlight kiss the tops of the buildings at the end of each day.  My window also looks down to a walled secret garden maintained by the lady's residence next door.   
VI - What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into this medium?
I think a person trying to get into art should take a quiet moment and listen to their heart before deciding what to make.  Don't shy away from a cliché if it moves you, and don't work in a certain medium just because you think it is more impressive or legitimate.  The best example of humble exploration would be the window displays at Anthropologie, where the artists create enchanting artwork with everything from paper plates and pins to sandpaper or scotch tape on a window.  It's okay to make humble small pieces.  Sometimes there's a lot of power there.  Also be brave enough to make ten ugly pictures before finding out how to make one beautiful one. I would advise beginners to work in a small series before moving on, exploring the possibilities of a set combination of elements.  For instance, blue paper and a white pencil.  Tin cans and nails.  A camera and a daily walk by the river.  This is an amazing way to grow and innovate, by setting limits then exploring within those limits. 

I live in a little dream world where my values and habits reflect those of a 'lady of leisure' who wants to sit in her parlor all day doing her handiwork and accepting callers.  If there were better dentists back then, I would be quite happy to live in Victorian times.  My cartoon characters like to say things like 'tut tut' and 'oh dear', while my furniture sculptures are inspired by the mansions of Edith Wharton novels and catalogues of vintage furniture from Sotheby's.  My cuckoo clock series is inspired by an old broken clock I found in Harlem at a tag sale.
VI - Does vintage play a role in your art or life? If so, how?

My apartment is big for New York but is actually smaller than my parent's Texas bedroom, so there is not a lot of room for collecting.  But I do love to go to the junk shops and occasionally indulge in a purchase. Williamsburg Brooklyn is only a few subway stops away and has a huge concentration of vintage and junk stores.  My favorites are the dusty ceramic figurines.  I like the dogs with spaghetti-like blobs of porcelain glommed on to the body to resemble fur.  I have a pink poodle like this in my bathroom.  It is so corny and wonderful! Unfortunately her tail is missing.  I also sometimes pick up quirky antique toys like my vinyl red dog with the droopy eyes.  My favorite vintage finds are called 'lawn stakes'.  These are cutout wooden figures, hand painted and weathered from years outside in the elements.  I have a beautiful little example of a girl in a yellow dress holding a bag of popcorn. I found this sweetie in Wells, Maine, a goldmine of affordable antiques!
VI - What is important for your customer to know about your work?
My work is that it is cheerful by choice not because I haven't had my own difficult times.  What I do best is uplift and so I don't squander my abilities on the negative.  It took me a long time to learn that joy is nothing to be discounted.  Joy, if you have it, should be celebrated and shared. Joy can actually become the chief subject matter. 
VI -  Where can we see your artwork in person?
My cuckoo clock paintings can be seen right now at 'Tavern on Jane' in the West Village until mid October.  My animations will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art on Dec 8 in the program 'Rock Paper Scissors', as well as at the BYU Museum of Art in December through April in the show 'We Could Be Heroes'.  Also most of my work is online at my website www.anniepoon.com. You can also purchase Annie's work at her Etsy shop
Thank you so much Annie for this fantastic interview! 


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