Interview by Laura Bannister. Excerpted from Chairish’s first magazine.
We Zoomed with two Chairish painters at different stages of their careers — Joe Turner, working out of his bedroom in Birmingham, Alabama, and Anne Darby Parker, from her South Carolina home studio — to wax lyrical on color, creativity, and home playlists.
Laura Bannister: Where did you both grow up? And what are your first memories of being moved by an artwork?
Joe Turner: I’m from Birmingham, Alabama, born and raised. I’m still in school — an interior design student at Sanford. I’ve been drawing my entire life. I didn’t start painting until recently. As a kid, I was always daydreaming… I remember, around second grade, before a parent-teacher conference, the teacher looked inside the cubby of my desk and found it filled with drawings. She told my mother, “These are great, but he has to do better in math.” Art was always natural to me. It wasn’t something I was exposed to. The first time I went into Design Supply, [a gallery] about 10 mins from where I live, it was such a magical moment. Seeing art, talking to other college students, and being exposed to artists on Instagram has helped me develop my style.
Anne Darby Parker: I think all artists bumble and fumble, before we get where we’re supposed to be. I grew up in the time when art wasn’t appreciated, especially in the South. There were no classes. Finding an art teacher was complicated. And my mom was busy with five children! My grandmothers and mom were very much into needlepoint, embroidery, and knitting. I knit too. When I’m painting now, I often think about how the colors will weave together and connect.
In my former life, I was a black-and-white photographer. I went to photography school in Boston, and worked as one for 20 years. I started wanting to get physical with my images: painting on them, tearing and collaging them. As a painter, I think I gravitate to figurative work because of all those years photographing. When I’m in figurative mode, I’m connecting to a person more freely — catching their essence.
LB: How would both of you describe your relationship to color?
JT: When I began developing my style, I experimented a lot with color. Now, my colors are mostly pulled from interior spaces: a couch, a lampshade. I reference Mark D. Sikes’ book on color often. I also love an artist named Afro [Basaldella, an Italian abstract painter]. His color isn’t too harsh. It’s a watered down version of every color you can think of. I love his geometric approach to shapes too.
ADP: I’m very much like Joe, inspired by things around me. I love to go to the Met and just look at things that are thousands of years old. Seeing the tiniest crust of ancient pottery, the way green meets the red. A lot of my colors come from nature, from the island where I live.
My go-to artist is Picasso. He was always seeking originality. Our job is to wake up and be original. And that’s not easy! If I get stuck, I’ll look at his work, where he pushed things: a line that moved beyond the composition, a nose or eye somewhere unexpected.
I always tell people figurative work reminds me of a golf swing. It’s practice. It takes a lifetime to get the perfect golf swing. So a lot of times in the morning, I’ll do drawing exercises, replicating works on a 10-minute timer. I’ll repeat it, get it embedded in my psyche, so when I’m actually making art, some of these techniques will emerge in some way.
LB: Joe, do you have any studio habits?
JT: What I like is spontaneity: working with paper or canvas and letting things flow freely. Nothing pre-planned. When Anne was talking about originality, I thought about experimentation. That’s something I appreciate about abstract work: it’s very expressive. Some of my pieces were created out of frustration. Some I was eager to get started. I play with the same palette a lot, but everything I create is different.
ADP: Joe, I wonder if you’re inspired by Kandinsky?
JT: I don’t know him.
ADP: He was a Russian abstractionist. Your marks remind me of him. He wasn’t spontaneous—he was very meticulous—but it looks so easy and free. I’m looking at your Instagram, and I can feel the freedom, which is cool. If I were collecting your work, I’d love to go through your different phases.
What I like is spontaneity: working with paper or canvas and letting things flow freely. Nothing pre-planned. That’s something I appreciate about abstract work: it’s very expressive.Joe Turner
JT: Looking at yours, Anne, I like how it isn’t flat. You use a lot of different colors that are still in the same family: they’re complementary, but they have this depth to them.
ADP: I think the secret is… Let’s say I do a complementary ultramarine blue and orange. I’ll mix a good bit within that family, with white and maybe black. Once I get those shades right, I’ll add a more saturated layer of color notes. It may look like a lot of color is going on, but it’s mostly neutrals playing with each other. In the mornings, I really focus on color values, or my eye will get lazy. Someone told me once, understanding color values is like playing a [bigger] piano. It just adds more notes to draw from.
LB: What are you listening to while you’re working?
JT: I like background noise. Most of the time it’s a TV show, or a podcast. I listen to one called The Style Files a lot.
ADP: I went through a stage where I’d listen to the Queen soundtrack nonstop. Then Hamilton. Flute music. Around 5pm I’ll listen to comedy at happy hour. Sometimes I just open the doors and listen to birds. I think I’ve gone through all 10 seasons of Friends 10 times — I thought maybe something was a little off with me. But it’s just a comforting background noise. To be an artist, you have to be OK with really being by yourself.
As a painter, I think I gravitate to figurative work because of all those years photographing. When I’m in figurative mode, I’m connecting to a person more freely — catching their essence.Anne Darby Parker
LB: I’m interested in how long you’ve both been selling on Chairish.
ADP: I think I started in 2017. I was just starting out. I’d sold a few small things — then ended up having a solo show on Chairish.com. I basically started my career with Chairish! My most exciting day, I sold three 16×20 works in one hit. I did a little investigation, and found it was a very popular celebrity. I couldn’t believe it. I’m on an island — not a bustling city. Any connection to the big life is so exciting.
JT: I haven’t been on Chairish that long. Once I joined, someone told me it would probably take six months before my work sold. So I didn’t expect anything to happen soon. I didn’t even have notifications switched on. Maybe a month later, I checked to see if much was going on. All these people were sending me prices, trying to buy canvas pieces. A designer had included two of my works in their edit of things they loved on Chairish, and people wanted them.
ADP: I love that. Joe, It’s been such a pleasure meeting you. If I come to Birmingham for a show, would you have dinner with me?
JT: Of course.
ADP: Let’s tell the gallery we want to have a show together. How about that?
JT: I love it.