"Walter Anderson was born in New Orleans Louisiana in 1903. From his early years until his death in 1965 he spent the majority of his life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast observing, drawing, and painting the flora and fauna of the region. The artist found the undeveloped coastal region of Mississippi and the barrier islands, especially Horn Island, to be ideal for close interaction with nature. There, Walter Anderson would swim in the bubbles of alligators, dance with the terns at the approach of a storm and crawl amongst the tall grasses of the marshes. Walter Anderson’s block prints, watercolors, and ceramics have become iconic representations of the Gulf Coast and an integral part of the Arts and Crafts and American Contemporary Art movements." - from the Walter Anderson Museum's website.
Growing up the daughter of an artist, I was exposed to the work of many great artists as a child. Some resonated with me immediately and others I didn't really appreciate until I was older and was able to see them through more experienced eyes.
One of the artists that I paid little attention to as a kid but have come to admire greatly as a professional is Walter Inglis Anderson. My father hung an enormous Walter Anderson wood block print of a pelican in our kitchen which I don't think I cared much for as a child. I would imagine my lack of admiration was mostly because it's black and white and done in a simplified style. Color and impeccable realism was more interesting to me at that age.
(Large Walter Anderson wood block print in the kitchen of my childhood home. Sorry that the print is cut off in the picture!)
Later in life, returning from a family beach trip to Florida, my father insisted upon making a pit stop at the Walter Anderson museum and gift shop in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Game changer. At this point I am working as a designer in the New York corporate fashion industry and longing to make more of a career out of art. Seeing Walter's work opened my eyes to the possibility of making art commercially accessible without "selling out" or making "cheesy" art. His stylistic representations of gulf coast plant and animal life are commercially appealing, yet incredibly sophisticated artistically. His block prints (of which there are nearly 300) are timeless - continually reproduced to this day, hand colored by local artists and sold in the gift shop for as little as $5. He also made wood carvings and ceramics that he sold to tourists during his time.
(Walter Anderson watercolors of a blue crab (above) and 2 bitterns (below))
Most impressive to me are his murals and watercolors. They are composed with the eye of a designer and painted with the passion of an artist. His color palettes are vibrant and subjective, but never garish - giving the viewer the sense that they are observing nature directly even as it is being represented through the stylized lens of the artist, quite differently than it actually exists.
(Walter Anderson mural details...wallpaper inspiration, anyone?!)
Walter's work inspired me to dig in and set out on a path that would satisfy both my artistic passion and my practical desire to generate income independently. I would no longer shy away from painting nature for fear of being labeled a "Sunday painter". I could now see how such subject matter could be just as expressive as a surrealist painting yet appeal to a broader audience.
(a pair of Walter Anderson block prints that I hand colored myself and hung in my bedroom)
I envy the uniqueness of Walter's style and it inspires me to continue to work toward being more prolific and to let my own style evolve naturally. I'm so thankful to Walter for his priceless contribution to the cultural landscape of the Gulf South and the country - and to my dad for exposing me to his incredible work.