Ansley Adams enjoys making art so much and wants others to feel the same way towards it.
However, being the director of fine and performing arts at South Piedmont Community College makes it hard sometimes for Adams to find time to work on her own art.
“It’s hard to balance sometimes, but for me what’s important is to find the right window and time to focus on each part of my career,” Adams said. “I see these two things as connected, as my teaching often feeds my creativity, giving me ideas for my art. Likewise, when I am working on my art, I am gaining a better understanding of the materials and techniques. This makes me a better teacher.”
Her paintings depict women with bodies that do not conform to societal expectations of thinness. She sees issues in the promotion of unrealistically slender models especially on social media, showing people that only slender bodies are valued.
“Everyone should have confidence in their bodies and appreciate the way that they look and not feel the need to judge themselves and others,” Adams said.
For Adams, seeing how judgmental people can be on social media is a big motivator for her artwork.
“You can have a body that doesn’t fit these standards that industry sees as beautiful and still be beautiful,” she said.
Almost all of her paintings have flowers in them. She finds special relationships between women and flowers. A novel called “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh inspired her to create the Bloom series. The book talks about how flowers carry meanings. It led her to see a broader level of flowers and how they can be related to women.
“I think there’s an idea about resilience, strength and rebirth,” she said. “Flowers look really delicate and beautiful. Although at the end of a year they look like they are killed by the winter, they are all popping back up again. They are beautiful throughout their lives, they are delicate and strong and resilient at the same time – so are women.”
The painting “New Beginnings” is the first in the Bloom series. As her first figure painting in a really long time, she experimented with it a lot, and it’s the one that she put the most effort into. It was the first time she had ever made a painting that related to her body.
“It was kind of like finding myself again,” she said. “I had a bad experience in graduate school. I was steered away from making figurative art. It was nice to find my voice and what I like doing again. It’s a rebirth of me, which connects to the rebirth of flowers in the spring.”
The biggest obstacle to her artistic creation was self-doubt.
“I can’t even tell you how many times I repainted the faces over and over again until I got the exact thing that I wanted,” she said.
It was not only about her skill as a painter but also about the subject she wanted to express.
“I was definitely scared when I painted 'New Beginnings.' There was a lot of self-doubt about exposing my scars and insecurity to other people. You want everyone to think that you’re always really confident, but you are not. It felt like a very private thing for me and exposing that to others made me feel vulnerable and anxious. But when I got to a point where I started to like the painting and be happy with it, instead of self-doubts, the painting started to give me confidence. It even let me feel better about myself and some of my insecurities started to go away.
“I saw the women in the painting as beautiful and started to think that if I saw them as beautiful, I should see myself as beautiful. Continuing working on it and not giving up is what helped me to overcome all of the self-doubt.”
Adams works primarily on canvas, wood and silk. She tried painting on silk for the first time a couple of years ago.
“The interesting part of it is that you can’t control it that much, unlike oil painting, in which you can do it over and over again until you get it right,” Adams said. “With silk painting you only get one chance, you either do it right or you don’t do it right. I basically just play with it and enjoy the process.”
Adams highly suggests students learn fundamentals first. After you become a more mature artist, the information you learned earlier will become your intuition and something that is imprinted in you that you know too well to forget.
“Foundation is one of the most important things, but have fun with it still,” Adams said. “Make stuff that makes you happy and enjoy the process of drawing, don’t make something just because you feel like you should make them.”