Centre County artist Anni Matsick has had a passion for art ever since she can remember – and she’s managed to make it her lifelong career.
“I was one of those kids who always loved to draw, starting out on the butcher wrap my mom would save for me,” the artist recalled, noting that her family encouraged her in artistic pursuits.
Born in Pittsburgh, Matsick grew up in Donora, Pa. She moved to State College when her husband, Lou, accepted a counseling job at Rockview State Correctional Institution in Bellefonte. The couple now resides in nearby Boalsburg.
Matsick earned her BFA in Painting from Carnegie Mellon University and started her career doing illustrations through advertising agencies and for various businesses. While not a practical training, the school instilled a higher aesthetic she now brings to assignments.
“One of my enduring pieces is the ink drawing of Hotel State College, still visible in their print ads and signage,” she noted.
For much of her career – roughly three decades – Matsick has been a freelance illustrator. A self-taught watercolorist, she became proficient in the medium because it is readily marketable for print magazines and books and has been using it ever since.
“It dries immediately and is easily scanned for reproduction,” she explains. “It’s also my choice when painting for my own pursuits and for gallery shows. I love its transparency and the ability to apply thin layers, and the flexibility for which many don't give credit.”
Matsick typically depicts figures and creates portraits, often using children as models.
The second floor of Matsick’s home serves as her studio, and she spends much time there. As a full-time, independent artist, she enjoys being able to set her own schedule and work in comfortable clothes from home.
While some people might struggle to keep focused in such a free-range environment, Matsick is disciplined and stays on schedule meeting deadlines. She specializes in illustrations for children’s publications.
If Matsick were to describe her artwork to someone who couldn’t be shown an example, she’d say the works present a realistic depiction using strong drawing skills and comprised of soft colors.
“In my paintings I try to keep the image fresh and stop when enough has been said,” she said. “The unfinished quality aims to involve the viewer in exploring and resolving possibilities with his or her own eye, always finding new interest.”
After years of dedication to her craft, Matsick's recent work has evolved.
“I apply watercolor with a wide flat brush, ranging from ¾”-3” but relying mostly on a 1.5" width. This avoids falling into the trap of too much detail. Minimal details and line are done using a miniature brush. My paper of choice is Fabriano Artistico, 140# soft press, which I stretch before painting,” she shared.
Asked about her experience prospering in the art world, as a Central Pennsylvania artist in particular, Matsick explained her beginnings and how she has thrived.
“At the outset of my illustration career I took a full page ad in the 1992 Graphic Artists Guild directory, one of a number of print ‘catalogs’ used by art directors at the time to find talent. An agent responded asking if I’d like representation. I signed with Cornell & McCarthy, now Cornell & Company, and we have had a long, profitable relationship,” she said, noting contracts from national educational publishers were prevalent at that time and she “rode the wave,” providing artwork for classroom books, texts, and other products.
She also got assignments for magazines from publishers like Scholastic and Highlights for Children, and illustrated the latter's “Goofus & Gallant” feature for nine years.
Recent picture books she has illustrated are: Dinosaurs Living in My Hair! by Jayne M. Rose-Vallee, winner of numerous awards, including the Mom’s Choice Gold Award; Duck Dreams: City Boy to Farmer Boy by Elizabeth Segel, which won a Purple Dragonfly Gold Award; and an upcoming release, The Boy Who Opened our Eyes by Elaine Sussman, published by Lightswitch Learning.
Matsick is currently working on the second book in the Dinosaurs Living in My Hair! series.
“It’s possible to live anywhere in the world and have visibility, particularly with today’s Internet, through websites and other online galleries,” Matsick said.
Some of her favorite artists include contemporary painters Ted Nuttall, Jeannie McGuire and Charles Ried; contemporary illustrators Lisbeth Zwerger, Chris Van Allsburg, Trina Schart Hyman, Floyd Cooper and Renee Graef; and painters Mary Cassatt, Gustav Klimt and Lucian Freud.
For roughly 15 years, Matsick has served as Chair of the annual Recycled Art Show held by the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania (AACP) and Rules and Jurying Chair for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
She believes recycled shows – which can encourage artists to get out of their element – are a great way to introduce people to art, as onlookers and artists themselves. In addition, she thinks volunteering for arts events is another good way people can easily become involved with and supportive of the art scene.
Matsick encourages artists interested in illustrating for children to become a member of the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). She also refers people to the annual publication Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market for up-to-date industry information or to find inspiration and a nurturing environment by enrolling in one of the many workshops offered by the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, Pa.
Matsick first learned of the CCAC and became a member after meeting CCAC President Steve Getz through the Art Alliance of Central PA. Her work was included in two group exhibits at the Station Gallery which she believes is an asset to the region.
She is also a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators (PSI), Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Pittsburgh Watercolor Society (PWS), and the Florida Watercolor Society (FWS).
When she is not busy working on her illustrations, Matsick serves as editor of the PSInside newsletter, a publication for PSI.
She and Lou have a son, Amos, who is a University of Scranton Business graduate, an Army Iraqi War veteran and is employed at the Lebanon VA. Matsick’s passion for art was passed on to Amos, who also enjoys working with his hands – creating wheel-thrown pottery and clay mono-prints.
To learn more about Anni Matsick and her artwork, email her directly, check out her website, or visit her PSI artist page or her Children’s Illustrators gallery.
Thank you to LaKeshia Knarr for volunteering to write this month's Local Artist Spotlight feature article!