Imagine you are 10 years old. It is a perfect sunny day in Key Largo, Florida, and you awake with happy anticipation. Excitement builds as you slide out of bed, pull on shorts and a T shirt, flip flops and a day of bliss begins. You grab your bike and head out in search of your neighborhood friends to spend the day with. You can't wait to get started on the next adventure. Will the day bring a bike exploration into the back roads and trails of new or old familiar haunts? Or, will it be a day upon the turquoise waters in the little boat, forging into the back bay, through the mangrove islands, exploring, fishing, swimming? Or yet again, will it be snorkeling with the colorful schools of fish at Pennecamp Park?
While chattering with your chums, your eyes flit upwards and take in the blue of the sky, the puffy pink tinged clouds sailing by and the gulls soaring and circling overhead. There, among the sea grasses you see a Great Blue Heron stretching his neck to get a better view of prey swimming in the shallows... Your eyes continue to scan lower now, beneath your flip flops to the sandy crushed shell and coral earth; your eyes hunt for offerings from a bird, perhaps a perfect feather, the fragile remains of an oval egg shell from a long ago hatchling, or a complete lizard skeleton bleached pure and white from the sun. Your vision lifts, takes in the sparkling sea, the deep blue horizon and then closer, the gentle lapping shore and the swaying sea bottom near your feet. Your eye searches the sand patterns and ripples, the dancing sea grass where a delicate pink shell and a star fish hide, a hermit crab crawls pulling along his shell house, here and there are bits of branch coral and bleached wood. It is the entertainment of a never ending play, a continual drama, mother nature's actors always in play and never disappointing.
Then with the perfect day of bliss spent, the sun lowers into the horizon in a bath of fire and the race begins to be home before dark.
New Tower Gallery Artist Anne Schroeder experienced an idyllic childhood in the ecological wonder that are the Florida Keys. She was influenced by growing up in a small island community when in times past children were allowed and considered safe out on their bikes or boats in the neighborhood of both land and sea. From early childhood she has been a collector of the treasures of nature, the unique salvaged bits of beauty and curiosity from land and sea.
As a child she loved to draw and paint but art supplies were scarce. The local Purple Isle Art Guild held monthly meetings with art awards for children and gave art supplies to needy kids. For Anne, the opportunity offered her both inspiration and guidance towards becoming the artist she strived to be.
Nature photographs from her family's National Geographic magazines were her guide to how to form a spectacular image and capture nature in its varied forms. Anne used the National Geographic photos and the gorgeous orchids and bromeliads her father grew in the backyard as subjects to teach herself how to draw.
An art teacher in high school noticed her talent and urged Anne to apply for a scholarship at the Ringling School of Art College in Sarasota, Florida. She won a full scholarship at the young age of 16 with the goal to complete her high school curriculum on her own and take the GED exams while attending the prestigious art college. It sadly wasn't to be, since her mother would not consent to have her young daughter live so far away from home on her own, considering it to be improper.
Anne worked as a young teen at different jobs on the island, which were only the start of a series of jobs that ensued following the sudden death of her father. Despite suffering from sea sickness, she started working on the dive boats at the age of fourteen to help out at home. She never had any problem though swimming and diving in the ocean, where she learned more about sea life and keeping tourists entertained and safe.
In college, one of her teachers approached Anne about applying for a semester art study trip to Italy, a program offered in coordination with Florida International University and Miami Dade College. The competition for the scholarship was an essay which won her the semester abroad and she was elated to be able to travel and study the art and culture of Italy. She was awed at the glorious art on display, not only in museums but also in a small local church where she spotted paintings by the Renaissance artist Caravaggio. She loved the idea that such a treasure could be found hanging, not in a prestigious museum or well known church but at the center of the daily life of the local community.
Anne admired how Caravaggio portrayed light with such dramatic effect. She was also influenced by the works of modernist artists like Georgia O'Keefe and Salvador Dali.
She further developed her appreciation for many forms of art by working for twelve years as an art restorer, specializing in museum framing techniques.
As a professional artist, Anne wanted her work to stand out from what she would see in the art galleries and tourist shops of the Florida Keys.
Anne describes her painting on feathers: "First one must acquire legal feathers to utilize. This means birds that are domestic or exotics here in US. Peacocks, heritage breed turkeys, exotic pheasants, etc. Native birds & their feathers are protected under federal law."
"I start the painting with a fine brush and gesso to sketch the outline. Then I slowly build up that image with anywhere from 5 to 40 layers of gesso and paint. This acts to stabilize the surface and to bind multi feather pieces together. Working time frame can range from 15 hours to several months depending on the size and complexity of the piece. I have to say the process is a torment as I am not one to sit still, but i love the end result. I find feathers give an added dimension to wildlife images with their beautiful colors and patterns. Then I combine them with my old charts and found objects to create a unique shadowboxed focal piece."
Anne earned a blue belt and medals and practices the ancient martial art of Thai Tae Kwon Do.
As Anne developed her art she truly created a unique and beautiful art form, painting detailed and varied sea life. Whether an image of a stunning Lionfish, a Conch shell, or charming sea sirens, Anne brings her idyllic childhood in Key Largo and her nature treasure hunts into her work as a creative artist. Her art is so beautifully and delicately rendered. Also painstakingly detailed and richly wrought, her works snare the viewer's eye with their originality and craftsmanship. The essence of Florida, island life, the beach and sea life are represented in each of Anne Schroeder's collection of delicate Feather Paintings.