Elusive Muse is pleased to share our exclusive interview with the amazing mixed media artist Ann Renee Lighter.

There are two things in my life that have been constant, no matter what: art and the need for unstructured time to play. I am a compulsive maker-of-things who believes that every day must have some time set aside to feed the creative spirit. This would include making art, looking at art, reading about art, experimenting/playing with materials, learning new skills, and general studio art-play.

To support my habit and spread the joy, I have been an art educator for 38 years. I have recently retired from public education.
I will try to share some of my adventures in both art and play here in this space.

~ Ann Renee Lighter


To learn even more about Ann, to purchase one of her amazing handmade books or to see more of her work, follow any of the links below:


  ©2015, All Rights Reserved, Ann Renee Lighter

…and now for our exclusive interview with Ann Rene

How would you describe your art ?
I’m a mixed media artist, who likes to explore a variety of materials and formats. That includes book arts and visual journaling as well as collage, drawing, and painting. My work is mostly 2D but I have also ventured into assemblage and digital work.

How long have you been an artist and how did you become an artist?
The short answer to that question is: Always, and by the gift of encouragement. Here is the long answer:
I can’t remember a time when art was not part of my life. When I could first grasp a crayon, my Mother encouraged me to draw and express myself visually. She was fearless in allowing me to use art mediums, and I can remember sitting in a high chair with a little set of watercolors and joyfully dabbing colors on paper before even knowing their names. These early discoveries and freedoms no doubt had a lot to do with my love of art. The only time I ever got in big trouble was at age 5 when I decided to paint the neighbor’s new concrete driveway with oil based house paints. It was just soooo inviting, but not well received in the end. My first really bad review, I guess.

In 4th grade we had to write a “what I want to be when I grow up” report, and I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be an art teacher. I received a lot of encouragement from my instructors along the way.

By the time junior high school rolled around, I was getting recognition from my peers for my drawing abilities. Also getting into a lot of trouble for drawing unflattering pictures of my least favorite teachers and inappropriate cartoons. I did “hard time” in the principal’s office for that foray into social comment.

In high school, I participated in a local public art show and was shocked and thrilled when I won an award for a painting.

Excited to begin a teaching career in art, I completed my BA in Art Education at the University of Northern Iowa and was fortunate to get a teaching job near home. This began what would be a 38-year career in art education.

Making art is my first love, but encouraging others to find their own artistic voice has always been my mission as an adult, and was my priority during the teaching years.

Now that I’m retired, there is more unstructured time to play in my little studio, but I do miss the shared energy that happens in the classroom.

What is your favorite medium and why?
So many possible correct answers to that question! Can I be a rebel and mention several? I can’t imagine life without paints, colored pencils, black pens, heavy papers, matte medium, and gesso. Acrylic paints are a constant, however, and find their way into nearly everything.

How do you make time for art?
When I was teaching, I always worked along with my students on the assignments. This was a good motivator for all of us.

Now that I am retired, there is unlimited opportunity to go up to my little studio and create. I also carry an art journal when I go out, to work in wherever I can.

Since making art seems to be my obsession, it is never something I have to think about. It’s the stuff like housework and other daily chores that require delegating time for.

If you could imagine the “perfect day” for yourself, what would it be like?
To awaken well rested, with no extenuating circumstances to worry about. To have the energy and unstructured time to spend the day doing whatever I choose at the moment. This would probably include a hike outdoors in the woods, working in my studio or journaling at the local coffee shop, having a great cheeseburger for lunch, visiting with a close friend, having a nice dinner with my husband, more time in my studio, and end the day relaxing with a good movie and a cat on my lap. Obviously, I enjoy life in the slow lane.

If you could spend 24 hours with one artist, living or historical, who would you want to spend the day with and why?
When I was in college at UNI, there was one very special instructor that had I admired greatly. Her name was Shirley Eliason Haupt, and she passed away at the young age of 59 back in 1988. She was one of the greatest influences on my career as a teacher and artist, and I think about her often. The conversations we had and the things learned from her still guide me. I would love to be able to spend a day visiting with her now and let her know what a legacy she left to the many students whose lives she touched, and how grateful I am for the time and interest she gave me.

Do you have any tips of advice for aspiring artists?
So many tips, so little time…..
Find your own authentic voice for your expression. Be fearless exploring different mediums, their characteristics and how to use them. Always keep learning and allow yourself to grow and evolve. Learn everything you can about the fundamentals of art, but don’t let rules limit your expression. Discover what truly inspires you and embrace it. Seek the company of other artists and share your work. Take constructive criticism for what it is worth. Correct your mistakes. Start over if necessary. Not everyone will appreciate your art. That’s OK. Remember that not everything is going to be a masterpiece. Get comfortable with that. Play and have fun, but also do the work and grow.