Today we’d like to introduce you to Annia Guillen Hidalgo.
Annia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Art has been a very important part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think it’s in my genes because my mother and brother are also artists. But it was after I got married and moved to the United States when I really started following my passion for art.
We have been moving and traveling to different states for many years because of my husband’s work. I took classes, when I could, from some Community Colleges during those years and attended a few workshops with wonderful artists to learn as much as I could and to keep improving my art. But I think one big part of my development as an artist has been constantly practicing and learning from my mistakes. Each piece of art has something new to teach me each time I start work on it.
In the beginning, I started drawing with color pencils, portraits of my son’s pre-k classmates. I was just happy to have this valuable way to practice. Even now, it is still one of my favorite subjects, portraits and figurative oil paintings. It allows me to express people’s emotions or just capture any casual scene.
Not long after these efforts, I became interested in silk art. It has been 14 years now since I discovered this wonderful art. The softness and transparency of the silk worked perfect for me, allowing me to express my love for nature, with vibrant colors and textures.
I started silk painting by experimenting with any kind of technique that I could find. I learned a lot by dyeing in an eco-friendly way. I especially enjoyed working with organic dyes that I usually prepared myself, and then painting on different types of silk. I recorded the results in a notebook with the different colors of natural dyes, their reaction, quantities used, etc. For me, it was like an art lab. I found it to be so much fun and valuable at the same time.
Later in my career, I began working with French dyes. These dyes are fixed through a steaming process to set the colors. Once I discovered this technique, I really started to create more elaborate designs for my silk art.
At one point in my career, while living near Austin, TX, I opened an art gallery and studio, “Annia’s Casa de Arte.” There I displayed my silk art along with many other works of art from different artists around the community. It was here I learned quite a bit about the art business and what works and what doesn’t.
As you can see from my silk paintings, my principal inspiration has always been derived from the flora and fauna of my homeland, Costa Rica, as well as many other natural environments where I have lived.
To transmit the beauty of nature onto silk has always been my purpose for painting. A few years ago I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with a master silk artist in Washington state to improve my skills.
Besides continuing to paint regularly, I am working hard pursuing my new goal of opening an online store, “Nature on Silk.” I want it to be a place where I can show and offer an art collection based on my love for nature and share with those who want to know more about my art.
Last year I was selected along with other Latin artists to participate in the Journey: “A Woman’s Perspective” exhibition in Houston. Unfortunately, the exhibition was suspended due to hurricane Harvey. This summer, I was invited to prepare and donate a piece of art to support the St. Jude Children’s Hospital’s “Color of Hope Art Exhibition.”
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Well, I have to say it was a blessing for me to be able to stay home with my boys when they were little. This time gave me the opportunity to share time with them and dedicate some hours each day to study art and join some art groups in the community where we were living. Plus having my own gallery and studio helped me a lot from a marketing and business perspective.
It was a little hard moving to different states, for many years, interrupting my art relationships with other artist, or classes, and not having a permanent place to practice my art at that time. Also, when I started learning on my own, there wasn’t the number of learning online classes as there are now.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I wanted to create an online store where I could display my art on silk in a more personal way and dedicate it to nature themes. That is how “Nature on Silk” started. I’m trying to create one place where people can find original silk art along with limited reproductions of my original silk art onto specials gifts. I also offer opportunities to commission a specific work too. For example, I have received commissions from people who love and collect orchids and they want their own special flower to be painted on a scarf or as hanging art. I’ve also received requests for a special bird to be painted for bird watchers.
My art is inspired by the flora and fauna of my home country, Costa Rica. I use my good memories that I retain from living there in my youth and from the photos I take during my trips back to use as a reference for my designs. I also get inspiration from our garden and yard here in the Woodlands; it’s my own natural studio.
I love to use real subjects, things that I have seen or touched before, to create my original designs. My principal objectives are to keep my designs as natural and original as possible. I do this by avoiding repetition using the digital art of the same design on a single project and painting from my own sketches and photos. Also drawing them by freehand helps me to maintain harmony and naturality that I desire. This is my way of offering an honest creation with more sensibility and realism.
Lastly, much of my art is represented by butterflies. They symbolize the metamorphosis of my journey as an artist.
What were you like growing up?
I grew up in a small town called Turrialba, Costa Rica spending most of my childhood in the countryside, surrounded by a volcano, many rivers, waterfalls and coffee plantations.
Spending time playing outdoors with my friends and family was my favorite activity. I was a very curious girl and I think a little bit mischievous too (probably still that way). I am the youngest in a family of six siblings, so I may have been spoiled just a little. LOL!
As a little girl, I liked to learn new things all the time, especially if they involved arts and crafts.
As a young woman, I spent some time living and working in the Caribbean Rainforest in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, a place filled with amazing plants and wildlife located on the Caribbean coast. The beaches are unique in that they provide the largest area for the nesting and hatching of the endangered Green sea turtles. Also, one can find the beautiful blue morpho butterfly there. Its common to see them flying along the natural canals and forests in this part of Costa Rica. I often use this butterfly in many of my designs.
Tortuguero has been a very important place for me and my art. A lot of my inspiration comes from that unique and magic place on Earth. Not to mention, that is where I met my wonderful husband!!