Springfield Artist Anabela Ferguson Unveils New Art Show
At Huntsman Square Mall
By Justin Fanizzi Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Springfield resident Anabela Ferguson certainly knows the secrets of success for any blue-collar artist. She knows how to gain fans, impress critics and, most importantly, she knows how to earn a living. Ferguson, a T.C. Williams High School graduate, can only be described as prolific, constantly churning out beautiful landscapes, ocean views, flowers and more in myriad styles and media. Now, in an effort to expand her business profile, she has taken on new assignments, ranging from replicating photographs to custom framing, and has them on display at Huntsman Square Mall through July 19.
“I never stay still and I’m never finished,” Ferguson said. “Every day is a challenge for me. If I’m not painting, I’m at the library reading about art.”Ferguson, a native of Santiago, Chile, had a leg up on most artists from birth, as she was born into a family that had more than its fair share of talent. Ferguson’s grandfather, with whom she lived, was a nationally renowned artist. After studying in Europe (her grandfather) on an art scholarship, he became a professor at the Fine Arts Institute in Chile. While in Europe, her grandmother immersed herself in the Berlin, Germany art scene and gained recognition upon her return to Chile. In addition, her mother was a dancer for the Chilean National Ballet before Ferguson was born. “I lived in my grandfather’s house and we were always present at his exhibits,” Ferguson said. “We were always exposed to different kinds of collector and auction experts and we all picked something up.” In 1979, Ferguson immigrated to the U.S. to be with her mother, who was then a diplomat in the Organization of American States, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Though Ferguson attended an art conservatory in Chile as a child and in spite of her childhood experiences with art, Ferguson did not immediately jump into the professional art world, instead taking other jobs. Her foray into art in the U.S. began about 10 years ago, when she worked at Weichert Realtors in McLean. At the time, she was only painting for her own enjoyment, when an agent who knew of her hobby asked her to paint a picture of a listing that had sold, using a photograph. Ferguson accepted the offer, and the agent and client were impressed and pleased. Sensing that there could be a market for her work, she promptly left the company and committed herself to her art. After creating several works, Ferguson landed her first exhibition when the Fairfax Safeway agreed to let her display her paintings on two small tables. Though the experience was trying for several reasons, Ferguson’s instinct were correct, as she made more than $5,000 selling her work at that first show. “I was pregnant, and here I was loading all of my paintings and [display] panels into a little Saturn,” Ferguson said. “But I made $5,000, and that was the beginning of my art career.” Today, armed with the experience and knowledge gained over the last 10 years, Ferguson is attempting to expand her profile and attract more clients. She has expanded her business into framing, providing custom framing for just about any item including paintings, posters, photographs and more. In addition, she can be commissioned to do custom work, for which she will come to the client’s house and make her color choices based on the layout and scheme of the person’s home. “I try to study the market before I set up a show or do a painting,” Ferguson said. “I try to make sure I have paintings that appeal to all people. Here [in Springfield], I try to make sure I have enough on the conservative end and more traditional works.” Moving forward, Ferguson said that her main goal is to attract corporate accounts, because that is where she can gain exposure. She said that corporate buyers commission bigger, and also repeat customers. To achieve this goal, Ferguson has been thinking about joining Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, so that her work can be promoted on a bigger scale and so she can secure locations to display her work. “All of my paintings are my first loves. They’re like my children,” Ferguson said. “I only paint what I love.”
Talent and an impressive artistic lineage are just part of Anabela Ferguson’s formula for success. The Chilean-born artist also depends on guts, brains, hard work and innovation. Outfitted with two tables, some tablecloths and her plastic-wrapped paintings, Anabela made $5,000 during her first show on the streets of Fairfax outside a Safeway supermarket ten years ago. When a buyer asked if she could frame a piece, she admitted that she couldn’t but offered to learn how.
“And I did”, says the Springfield resident, who is now a sought-after framer and restorer of paintings. Anabela’s can-do attitude has always been part of her personality. She was born into a family of artists (notably, her painter grandparents and her ballet dancer mother), but it was her drive to learn on her own that created the distinguished and versatile artist she is today. Although she never pursued a degree, she immersed herself in the pursuit of artistic training. “It’s a lot harder [without a degree]. It’s like going to school every day. You have to go to the library and start opening those books. But the people who are bold and want to succeed can do excellent,” she says. In addition to painting, Anabela has had to learn how to market her work: “You have to put 60 percent into marketing and 40 percent into developing. Letting clients pay in installments has opened all kinds of windows for me.” Originally, Anabela’s creativity found its place in abstract acrylics as a hobby. But don’t try to pigeonhole her into one medium, style or genre. “You can’t hold me down to do one thing,” says the artist, whose paintings are mainly driven by color. “I needed to do portraits. I needed to do abstracts. I needed to do mixed media. But my love for the abstract has always been there. I think that was from my grandmother’s side,” she says. Growing up in Chile gave Anabela a unique opportunity to appreciate and enjoy the arts in her life, particularly painting. As a child, she was able to participate in her grandparents’ exhibitions. “If we weren’t attending my grandfather’s exhibits, I was attending my mother’s performances,” says the artist who, like many Chileans, also studied at a conservatory for the arts. “[Where I am today] has a lot to do with me being exposed to different art.” Although the nuns at her school did not approve of one of her earliest paintings, a nude, she didn’t find it offensive since her grandfather painted full [body nudes along with impressionist landscapes. “I was around that,” she says. “I almost because the common thing for us.” Anabela lived with her grandparents in Chile for six years before moving to the U.S. to be with her mother and held various positions, including a stint as a diplomat as the Organization of American States. Through the years, she continued to pursue painting as a hobby. Today Anabela strives to create images that evoke emotional reactions and feelings from the past. Though she doesn’t always title works, she hopes that patrons will be reminded of a particular place or time when viewing them. “My paintings aren’t about me,” she says, adding that she prefers to leave the interpretation up to the viewer. Her choice of subject and medium often depends on her own moods. “In a quiet time, I like my landscapes,” she says. “For color, I’m looking at my florals or acrylics. If I want detail, I look at my oils.” Everything from her upbringing and self-education to hunting expeditions with her husband influences Anabela’s subject matter. “I can’t just do buildings, people, or pets or animals,” she says. “I need things that are clean-cut but feminine, but I can do a hunting scene with a dead bird in someone’s hand, too,” she says. Anabela recommends that young artists surround themselves with the most important and positive influences in their lives. “What you do, where you live, the people you associate with has a lot to do with encouraging you or tearing you down,” she says. “You heave to surround yourself with the good things. Artists go through depressing years where they use the same colors, etc. [If you’re around the good], you’re happy, you’re great. But if you surround yourself in negativity, your personality will be, too [and so will your work]. Anabela believes that up-and-coming artists should break out of their comfort zones: “Young people, to me, are making the biggest mistakes. They never bloom. You need to bloom. You can make a living out of this. Everything is taught under one book, done by one teacher. No one has ever told them they can do it on their own. Their educators are teachers behind desks, not the ones going out there doing it, experiencing it. “Once you find out you have [talent], you have to work at it. You can’t just stay still. If you stay still, your light goes out,” she says. “[Success] is not only about talent and genes. Artists have to have it in their hearts and surround themselves with people who support them.” Permanent exhibits of Anabela’s work can be viewed at several venues, including: Georgetown art Gallery in Washington, Lindsay Lexus of Alexandria, Huntsman Square Mall in Springfield, the Pentagon and Navy Headquarters in Arlington and Rio Entertainment Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland. For more information, visit www.anabela-artist.com or contact her at 571-594-3717.
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