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Anna Doherty: There Are No Shortcuts to Become a Good Artist

May 9, 2009 by · 12 comments

Mariana Velichkova’s interview with the artist Anna Doherty

When and how did you realize that painting is your vocation?

Basically most people know within themselves what they are good at. The same goes for me. I’ve always been artistic, but I did not pursue an artistic career until later in my life. I did not know what to do with my art talent as a confused teenager and there seemed to be other more important things happening in my life.

It was not until my late thirties that I began to draw and paint with a serious desire to make a difference both in my own life and in the life of others. I still remember the day when it finally dawned on me that I had something within myself that I knew I would be able to express artistically. It seemed to me that I got this talent for a reason and that it was important to use it, so I went for it.

What is your main source of inspiration?

My main sources of inspiration are ancient Indian classics like the Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavatam, and the Bhagavad-Gita, as translated by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. There is a real treasure of spiritual knowledge in these books that has tremendously helped me to find a true direction in life, an inner peace and satisfaction.

Life is not all about becoming successful materially but also to understand something about whom we are and where we are going. I see internal images in my mind from reading these books in combination with doing my daily mantra meditation.

These visions are very pleasing to my heart and mind and I want to share these visions with others through the medium of fine art. Life, for me, is a spiritual journey more than anything else. Material pursuits are there, but I believe in balance and moderation. To place too much value in materialistic pursuits does not make for a very happy or fulfilling life.

Many of your works are connected to the ancient Indian philosophy. Tell us more about it please?

I am convinced that the ancient Sanskrit literature of India is the oldest source of knowledge and wisdom existing on earth. They are like a treasure house if you approach the wisdom with the right attitude. Transcendental knowledge is neither easily accessible, nor is it just something theoretical.

You have to practice yoga and meditation in combination with a pure lifestyle to be able to enter into the mystical tradition of understanding yourself and your relationship with God. Self realization is the main goal of this wisdom.

Your favorite themes and subjects are…?

I am a devotee of Krishna and I love to enter into a meditation on Krishna’s colorful and enchanting personality as described in the ancient scriptures. I particularly love the descriptions of Krishna’s form as a playful and charming adolescent cowherd boy in Vrindavana.

The pastimes Krishna enacts with his close friends and relatives are an ever expanding ocean of bliss. In Sanskrit this is called “bhakti rasa,” the sweet spiritual taste of loving devotion.

What is the next stage in your development as an artist?

Next stage? Well, the process of conceiving something in one’s mind and then the effort it takes to put it down on a piece of two dimensional papers is an ongoing challenge. There are no shortcuts to become a good artist. Like any other art, it requires constant practice.

There is never a point where I can say that this is it, I have reached my goal. My goal is always for excellence and there are so many more things to learn and improve. There is more than enough to fill a lifetime, even several lifetimes.

What is the message your art conveys?

I guess it would be nice if my art would inspire people to appreciate a more spiritual dimension in their life, a spiritual dimension which basically is free from the sufferings of birth, old age, disease, and death. Spirituality is something we cannot find in our external surroundings but it is the truth within our own heart.

I hope my art reflects that truth and beauty that transcends material conceptions, race, country, and organized religion. If someone appreciates my art it means it reflects something in their own heart.

What is the painting you are dreaming about but have not done yet?

My dream painting is usually the one I am working on presently. Since I like to work with rather complex and detailed compositions that are the product of my mind, I have to choose my subject carefully. The subject is something that comes to me from within, from my meditation and realization.

My dream painting will perhaps always be a dream. From the mind’s eye to my watercolor paper is a tremendous journey. I can conjecture, and I usually do a painting in my imagination but whether it will flow down on the paper exactly according to my internal vision is a very different thing.

The most valuable thing you are getting from your art is…?

I never thought about what value my art has for myself. It is just something I had neglected for a lot of years and it is something I needed to do. I guess that is a value in itself. It makes me feel like a whole person. It is healing. It gives me a sacred space where I can retreat and it gives my life a passion and purpose.

Your advice to the beginners in painting is…?

Many people are not enough self motivated to begin to draw and paint by themselves. Join an art club or take a drawing or painting class. There you will meet other people in the same situation as you, and you have an opportunity to learn from artists who are more experienced than you.

A good idea is to subscribe to an art magazine. I subscribe to Watercolor artist. This magazine gives a lot of information about many aspects of an artist, from inspiring articles of different successful artists, how to market your art and different websites that can help you connect with the art community.

Finally I would like to advise you not to invest too much money in art material in the beginning. It is easy to do that because there is so much art material on the market. To begin with you only need some good pencils, sketchpad and a soft rubber. I strongly advise a beginner to develop his or her drawing skills. Believe me, you will need it as it is the foundation for almost any piece of fine art.

For practice and studies you don’t need any quality materials. Later if you if you really get inspired and you want to do more serious artwork, it is best to use professional quality material. I always select acid free paper and colors that are permanent.

In one of my first paintings I used a very beautifully looking purple watercolor for some flowers. It looked very nice on the paper and I was quite satisfied. However, a few years later the beautiful purple color had faded and the flowers were white.

As a last word I would like to advise beginners with the three P’s – Practice, Patience, and Perseverance. Don’t become discouraged if in the beginning your drawing and paintings don’t look much to the world. Every journey starts with one step, so don’t give up on the way. Good Luck.


Anna’s art reveals powerful evocative images of the divine, sacred world. Her transcendental vision yields an immediate experience of the spiritual kingdom where there is a union of the masculine and feminine aspects of God.

Far from the material world and its attachments to lust, greed, and false ego, we get a glimpse of the numinous, spiritual world of eternal knowledge and bliss. Her art has its roots in the sacred mystical traditions of ancient India.

In Anna’s own words, she describes her art:

“All of my works are explorations of my own inner images. My inspiration comes during quiet, meditative states of consciousness in which I focus on the revealed truth of the Vedas. My intention is to create art that enlivens consciousness and inspires one into a higher awareness of servitude to God. This art will hopefully show people a way out of the traps of Maya, or the material world of illusion.”

Anna Doherty /aka Annapurna/, a devotee of Radha-Krishna, is a transcendental artist who has spent much of her life living with a spiritual community on a farm in Sweden. Through her intense spiritual practice, or sadhana, she has gotten glimpses of the sacred and has been able to illuminate for us, through her art, this world that lies beyond the physical plane.

Annapurna was born and raised in Sweden. Nine years ago she moved to the United States where she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband Len.

For more information about her artwork please visit here

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