Anna Duvall: Painting 21st Century Pinup Girls
By Autumn Steam
When Anna Duvall is not at her local watering hole, Momo’s, collecting research on the “colorful wildlife” she is painting women. She takes the idealized, soft, popular pinup girls of the 1940s and brings them to the 21st century. Her paintings are realistic portraits of creative women who make their living in the, “…seedy back-alley…parts of the city”. She believes in her art, the people behind the portraits, and is committed to her life in, Portland, Oregon. Living her bohemian life, by the moment, is Duvall’s way of gathering inspiration and being a part of her dynamic community.
Duvall is German born and grew, “...up as a haole (white) kid in Maui. [It] was a little tough to try and fit in and make some friends in intermediate school.” But after taking a graffiti art class at her local library she developed a skill for drawing graffiti letters. “I would draw graffiti letter drawings of people’s names. Soon people were actually paying 50 cents for them and saying ‘Anna can draw pretty good for a haole girl!’ By high school I had completely stopped doing any kind of art in favor of getting straight A’s, running track, and starving myself. I was miserable, hospitalized, taken out of high school in 10th grade and put into a different public high school, downtown. This is where I met the art teacher, Mrs. Sato, who saved my life and changed it forever. She taught me how to paint, had me entering every art contest under the sun, told me to get a job, and guided me through the rest of school with her awesome, no-bullshit attitude.”
After trying out an art school in San Francisco, California, for college, Duvall decided to transfer to the University of Oregon. “I spent the next four years partying my face off in Eugene OR, working at Dairy Queen, somehow graduating with a degree in Multimedia Design, and not doing a single painting.” Shortly afterward she, “…was off to Portland, to wait tables and paint large scale portraits of scantily clad women, which is exactly what I did.” She has been in Portland, since 2005, painting her pinup ladies. “I did go to college but I don’t recommend school if you want to be an artist...just fucking do it. Nobody graduates from art college and becomes an ‘artist’ unless daddy owns the MOMA or something!”
Duvall’s art is so distinct yet there’s no true genre to “label” her work. She says, “…maybe [it’s] the ‘Hot Women of Portland in Compromising Positions’ genre, which I totally made up! I really love the Suicide Girl, anti-Pamela Anderson ideal of beauty, that has blown up around here as of late and strive to capture this kind of alterna-hotness in my paintings.” Her style of painting is
a mix of photo-realism and cartoon. “…honestly I’m trying to paint realistically but I always end up exaggerating curves and color...I just can’t help myself. I try to paint in this consistent style
because I feel it’s important that people know what ‘look’ they are going to get when they commission a painting. I always say you don’t want to change the ‘swoosh’ on a Nike...if your style ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
Inspiration is not taken for granted when it comes to Duvall’s life. “I’m inspired by all my friends and the working girls around me. I’m inspired by a night out at the bar, tattoos, glitter, gloss excess, heavy eyeliner and especially strippers. I’m inspired by the seedy back-alley china-town parts of the city where people find really creative ways of making a living. ”She also uses Facebook as a tool to find photos of her friends for her next painting. In her latest paintings, “I have been much more selective about which photos I use and I only use photos of people I know as opposed to images from magazines.” Duvall needs to understand and respect her subject for the painting to flourish.
Duvall has never shown her art in a gallery but she has, “… shown it at more bars than I can count!” She also participated in the Sugar Art and Fashion Show. “I heard about the show through Swagathachristie, who linked me up with Timmery and the Sugar Show. I was amazed at Timmery’s professionalism, I’m used to the flakiest of people in the art scene, and had an awesome experience working with her to get the show up. The fashion show she put on killed the game!” But Duvall has not always had a warm reception for her art. “I’ve had women say my art would really make a feminist statement if I’d stop using so much glitter and diamonds on my pieces. At the end of the day I like sneaking around at the bar where my work is up and eavesdropping on what people are saying about my work...that is how you get a real unbiased opinion and those are the best kind!”
Even though Duvall is bad at setting goals and planning ahead, in the next 5 years, she would like to own a bar, “...where I could work with my friends in a non-corporate environment and have my art up on the walls. Kill two birds with one stone as it were.” She would also like to paint more but, “I have been slacking off as usual.” Her “Momager”, Sara and boyfriend Chet help, “keep my neurotic self calm and make sure I put down the bottle long enough to complete the pieces I’ll need for the show.” With her support system in place and her muses at hand, Duvall just wants to paint. “I’m sure I’ve offended a whole gang of stodgy folks with my art [but] I just want people to notice my art even if it makes them uncomfortable-- I want them to stop and stare at it instead of just breezing right past it.”