Husband and Wife Duo, Franky and Annie, Both Art Teachers in the Public School System, Find Time to Explore Their Artistic Ventures.

BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO

Annie, how do you find balance between your public teaching career, parenting and making beautiful art? 

For me as an artist before having kids, teaching was so helpful in creating balance for myself socially and I pushed myself to connect with people through art. The interaction with people that teaching in public schools provides, keeps me on my toes as my students face different challenges daily. I never know what I’m going to get. Through teaching, I’ve grown as a human, it’s a profession where learning compassion and empathy are key.

I’ve taught at the elementary and middle school level, and for the past six years I’ve been teaching drawing and painting in high school. Students’ needs evolve and become more complex when they reach high school, but a little extra care, kindness and acceptance goes a long way. They really just want to feel valued and connected to the world and people around them.

Focusing on my students’ art and creative process has helped me with my art. I have been able to shift the focus away from myself and dive into my craft as a teacher. I’ve learned a lot about myself as an artist through teaching a variety of ages, mediums, abilities, and interests. In the same way teaching helps create balance for me as an artist, so has being a momma to two young children. It’s helpful after a long day of painting or teaching to stop and just play with my three year old son + one year old daughter, get outside, sing Beatles songs, build forts and read our favourite books. I feel needed in a different way as a mom and it’s my favourite creative endeavor. It’s helpful for me as an artist to step away from my work, make dinner and nourish my kids, go for a walk, and just be in the moment. Motherhood has been the catalyst for balance in my life, to flow from one role to the other, finding real joy in each.

Since becoming a mother, I have had to learn how to flow between joy and sorrow and back and forth. I certainly had to evolve as an artist if I wanted to still try and go for it. Ultimately I had to decide if making art was still good for my soul and mood. I was never going to be happy just thinking about making art, I knew I needed to get into it daily to feel whole. It looks different now than it did before kids.

I have to work in the rare occasion that I have a free moment. There’s no transitioning, warming up and getting comfy over here, I don’t have time, I just have to jump right in! I might go from changing the baby’s diaper, to emptying the dishwasher, then working on painting. I have learned to trust myself, and I am constantly reminding myself, “don’t think, just do.” I work a lot after my kids are in bed, but as parents know, you have to work to get to work. Bedtime can be a looooong process! I’m very lucky to have found a partner who understands my desire to be an artist, mother and teacher. My husband is incredibly supportive and helps me with navigating the various challenges of both parenting and being an artist. Being an artist himself, Franky makes everything more fun and interesting. We’re constantly laughing at ourselves!

Being a child of the 80s, there is a strong sense of nostalgia in your pieces. Where do you find your inspiration? What do you miss the most about growing up when we did, as opposed to kids growing up today?

In my current work I find objects that inspire me because of colour, texture, taste, context, story, nostalgia, packaging + letter design, era or function. I find objects at thrift stores, the grocery store, yard sales, friends’ + family’s homes.  Then I photograph the objects and work from the images to create drawings and then paint with watercolour. I paint as much detail as I can, recording my impression of the object. Growing up in the 80s meant visiting my grandparents’ homes which were filled with objects from the 40s, 50s, 60s + 70s. The colours of these vintage objects to this day make me feel comfortable and at home. What I miss most about growing up in the 80s, is the analog childhood we experienced. Rewinding a tape, taking photos on film, staring out the window on a road trip across country. No screens. No phones. Making friendship bracelets with embroidery thread. Drawing in my nature journal my mom made for me, documenting the world around me.

The images for this June feature were from a show called Right to Roam from 2016. Right to Roam embraces our great freedom to access and explore the natural world. We were lucky to grow up in families who valued adventure, with parents eager to load us in the family wagon and hit the open road. Hiking to remote alpine lakes, wandering along meandering creeks, searching for buried treasure, staring into the glow of a campfire, listening to the howl of a coyote or hoot of an owl, nestling into a sleeping bag as rain falls on the tent.  Right to Roam pays homage to some of the most significant places we ramble… parks that nurture and inspire us to keep on exploring.

For us, and for many Americans, roaming into the wilderness provides a great sense of adventure. Embedded deep within our souls when we were small, this longing to explore has left us craving and pursuing it ever since. We meander. We traverse. We linger. We get lost. As humans, we require nature and the spirit of adventure; it grounds us. It lets us contemplate our smallness, and the vastness of the wild. Again and again, we find, refresh, and reinvent ourselves. We live in a country that has long sought to advocate for the preservation of wilderness and make it available to all.  For this, we are grateful.

This is our story of roaming the near, far, and across the in-between. It’s our hope that the experiences we share will spark your own memories and serve as a catalyst for adventures to come.  Look.  Listen.  Taste.  Wander.  Explore.  Take it slow and easy.  We all have the right to roam.

When you’re not teaching or creating, how do you spend your free time?

I love spending time with my husband + two children. We enjoy going to the ballpark, traveling to our favourite cities, listening to live jazz. I enjoy heading north with our kids to Montana. I’m a sucker for thrifting and finding cool pieces of furniture to refinish. I also just love sitting together as a family on a Saturday morning drinking coffee and eating cuccidati and then playing baseball in the backyard.

What are your plans for the future? Where can we see your work up close ?

I am currently creating a new body of work for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival July 6, 7, 8. I’m having a lot of fun making this new collection and plan to keep painting and gathering objects along the way to paint.

Annie, it has been a pleasure to learn more about your evolution as an artist and we can’t wait to see your new body of work at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. To see more work by Annie and Franky of My Favourite Colour Studio, check out their site at www.mfcstudio.com.

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