Art has always been an important part of Anne Lewis’s life—whether creating junk sculptures as a child or working as an art therapist with medically fragile children. Thinking back, she can’t even think of a time when art didn’t hold a special place in her heart.
“My mom and dad were not big on extra curriculum activities but I do remember in the early ’70s, my parents took me to the local arts and crafts store and gave me $5 to buy anything I wanted,” Lewis says. “I would buy a bag full of supplies and that would keep me busy for a week.”
As she got older, she took supplemental art classes over sports or dance or any of the other activities her friends in St. Louis—her hometown—were taking.
When it was time for college, Lewis headed to the University of Notre Dame and received a degree in printmaking and art history. She followed that up with a Master’s degree in Art Therapy from George Washington University.
“I learned lithography (printing from a stone or a metal plate with a smooth surface), that was my specialty, and at the time it was done on a really heavy piece of stone,” she says. “It wasn’t really something that was portable that I could do easily in my home. Later on when I had time to get back into art, I decided to check out oils because you can bring them anywhere.”
It’s a decision that she’s glad she made. Today, the Arlington-based artist uses her oils to paint some of her favorite places in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia, and puts them on calendars and prints to sell.
“I take the photos first and then bring them back to my house to paint. I don’t have the time to stand there and paint what I see. Once I do that, I use the photos as a guide and I take artistic license with my paintings to make them more colorful,” she says. “My kids help me find places to consider, and so do my friends.”
For any calendar she does, Lewis usually chooses four or five places that anyone would recognize and then for the remaining months, she does some extreme close-up paintings to add some uniqueness and other months featuring places that people might not be familiar with, but which she believe very much add to the fabric of D.C.
Once Lewis takes the photos, she transfers them on to a canvas and then paints. Once the painting is done, photographer Greg Staley takes professional photos of the paintings and she can send the Tiffs to her printer in Richmond to make the calendars and prints.
Throughout the year, Lewis sells her work at art fairs, in some stores and on-line. The biggest surprise of her career was when one night, over a couple of glasses of wine, Lewis decided to send her images to the buyer of the Smithsonian stores, and one day later, she received a reply that they were interested in carrying them.
Her calendars can also be found at Politics and Prose on Connecticut Ave., in D.C., and a little store in Alexandria called Reunions.
Lewis loves that she’s able to run her own business while her three kids are at school, and can paint around their schedules so there’s always enough time with them.
“I came to this area in 1993 and worked full-time as an art therapist for about 10 years, until I had my third child,” she says. “This is a way for me to supplement my income.”
Once the kids go off to school, she works at the kitchen table and paints for hours while her dog sits at her feet, listening to everything from Van Halen to Prince to Vampire Weekend as she does.
If she gets stuck, she often calls on her 9-year-old daughter Claire, who Lewis calls the most artistic one in the family.
“There have been times when I have been stuck on a painting and I will ask her to come look at it and tell me what it needs, and she knows,” Lewis says. “She might tell me something needs to be more pink, or something needs more blue or this person needs to be in more detail, and she’s always right.”
Looking ahead, Lewis hopes to continue creating her calendars and prints and just see an increase in volume.
“I really love painting. I am a classic introvert so doing the shows is quite hard, and I just like to sit down and paint,” she says. “I would love to branch out more. I’ve done some paintings of Ireland, which I haven’t released yet and sometimes people will come to me and ask if I would do one for someplace like Philadelphia or Boston, but I don’t live there and know those cities well. Someday, I would love to do that.”
For more information about Anne or if you’re interested in purchasing her work, visit www.artbyannelewis.com.