Anna Magruder

December, 2011

Drawing Pretty Girls

Anna Magruder is best known for her meticulously rendered portraits in oil, often inspired by yearbooks and old family photographs. "I cannot stop painting faces," she said. "If there's not a face in the painting, I'm probably not going to enjoy painting it that much." For Anna, rendering faces has been a passion since childhood. "I was always trying to draw a really pretty girl," she remembered. "Girls and princesses. Pretty hair and their pretty shoes and dresses. I was very girly." Anna was born near Dallas and mostly grew up a little north of there in the smaller town of Allen. She excelled in art throughout school, winning many a best-of-show plaque at the Collin County Fair.

Switching to Design

After finishing high school, Anna went to the University of North Texas in Denton. She temporarily majored in fine arts, but, like many a sensitive soul, was discouraged by one unfriendly teacher. "I didn't have the self confidence at that time to really stand up for myself," she said. Put off by her painting teacher, Anna pursued a design degree. That's where most of her energy went for more than a decade. After graduation, she got a job in a small Dallas design firm that produced companies' annual reports. She spent a few years in Boulder, Colorado, where she met her husband, then moved to Portland, all the while working in design.

In Love with Portland

In 2001, Anna and her husband Sean decided to test out Portland, thinking they could always return to Boulder if it didn't work out. "Within a year, I was absolutely in love with Portland," Anna said. "We both are. We still really love it." Anna appreciates Portland's accessibility, especially after spending formative years in Dallas' sprawl. She enjoys Portland's distinct neighborhoods and the friendliness of the people. "I'm not a fan of the sun," she said. After Boulder's 300 days of sunshine, Anna was ready for some cloudy days.

Battling Perfectionism

Anna worked in design for 14 ½ years. "The last 4 ½ years I had my own little freelance design business going on," she said. "It was successful. But I did get burned out." She missed painting. At the same time, she struggled with her creative urges. "I had a lot of mental blocks around painting and art," she said. "I think I had the masterpiece syndrome where I was a bit of a perfectionist." She was so self critical that she found painting painful. "I wasn't allowed to make mistakes," she said. "And that's not conducive to creativity at all." Anna spent a few years overcoming her perfectionism. She took a workshop based on Julia Cameron's seminal book The Artist's Way. She learned to allow herself to make mistakes and to just paint over things she didn't like. She practiced lowering her expectations and working on very small goals, like just painting an eye or some lips on tiny pieces of canvas. "No one was going to have to see it but me," she said. "That pressure I put on myself before, I just allowed slowly to dissolve away."

The Company of Other Artists

When Anna was still working from home full time on her design business and painting in her spare hours, she realized both these activities could be lonely. "I wanted to get to know other artists," she said. "I really craved the company of other people." She wound up in two groups of artists: Art Club and the Portland Artist Guild. Art Club is Anna's own creation, a half dozen artistically inclined people who get together once a month in people's homes to share works in progress. "It's show and tell, basically," she said. "If they want to ask for critique or advice, we're happy to oblige. Otherwise, it's total acceptance and encouragement." Portland Artist Guild is larger, with up to 30 artists getting together each month for sharing art and networking. Anna has also become involved in organizing art shows and craft fairs. Last year, she and a few friends organized the Splendorporium's successful show of artworks inspired by tarot cards. For the past four years she has coordinated Siren Nation's annual craft fair.

Urban Art Network Calendar

This year Anna put her networking and organizational skills to work on the Urban Art Network calendar. Now visitors to the UAN website can find one of Portland's most comprehensive arts calendars. Anna also began showing some of her smaller works at the First Thursday Street Gallery this year.

See Anna's Art

Anna has a couple of noteworthy shows in December. Her show Family Fables opens Wednesday, December 7, at the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem. These paintings are inspired by a combination of fairy tales and old family photos. Anna is also showing at The Big 200, an annual show that keeps getting bigger. This cash and carry show features 250 artists who create 10 artworks each. The show opens December 10 at People and Settlement Galleries on the third floor of the Pioneer Mall. Come early, because Anna's paintings will sell quickly. For year-round information on Anna, check out her website and her etsy store:

Anna's Etsy Store

—by Teresa Bergen

Teresa Bergen writes about health, travel, and the arts, and is the author of Vegetarian Asia: A Travel Guide and the novels Killing the President and Madame Tingley’s Organ. Find out more about Teresa at