Celebrating Magnificence: Ann Peters – Pastel Artist, Plus!

I really admire people who have highly developed themselves in a multiplicity of directions. Our devoted Feldenkrais student Ann Peters is such a person, as I’ve just had the pleasure to learn.

All that I knew of Ann before interviewing her for this article was that she had persistently attended classes throughout the course of her cancer treatment in early 2017, during which she had lost all her hair.  She kindly allowed me to pet her head while it grew back in, soft and curly as baby lamb’s wool!  If Ann could pass on one thing to you readers, it is not to despair: cancer is a survivable condition in most cases these days.

I decided to interview Ann recently after she let me know that two of her paintings would be in a November exhibit by the Pastel Artists of Hawaii. From that remark, as well as her photos of the pieces, I understood her to be an accomplished artist. Oh! Magnificence shining through!

As we spoke, I was startled to learn that Ann had begun working on computers at the remarkably early date of 1959. That’s only four years after I was born! I never saw a computer until my late twenties; I remember us getting a fancy typewriter for our wedding in 1979. By 1980, she was already writing and editing a book on an early home computer! She was an advanced techie before there were techies!

Having majored in Mathematics in college, Ann earned her Masters degree in Linguistics. From numbers to words – cool, eh?

What brought Ann to Hawaii? She came to Hawaii in 1966 from Wisconsin with her professor husband and got a part-time job at UH doing computer research. As a psycholinguist studying language acquisition, she used the computer to write programs to create dictionaries for Micronesian languages, many of which were just being given a written format for the first time.

To decipher the way children acquire language requires recording the child’s voice and then an intricate transcription process. Ann’s transcription, like others in her field, demanded approximately 50 hours of work for every one recorded hour. Her willingness and ability to go to this depth of study revealed to me the refined degree of Ann’s expertise in linguistics.

When Ann described her teaching to me, I realized how she had honed her skills as an educator. She made use of Meyers Briggs personality analysis to help her students understand themselves and each other better – not to mention her increased personal understanding! Based on what she learned about her students’ varying personalities, she grouped them together in ways to maximize each others’ strengths when they worked on collective projects. She also learned that she herself tends to be a big picture, intuition person, whereas she needed to also be able to present her topics to students who were more fact and detail-oriented. Sounds to me as if she was also a master teacher.

OK, so we’ve heard about Ann’s number, word, and teaching skills… what about art?!?

Ann only took her first pastel class in 2007, at the Art Academy. She claims not to be much good at line drawing or water colors, but pastels – that’s her thing. “I just love the colors! We get to paint with pure pigment.”

She admires her teacher Helen Iaea for instructing her students in the theory of color, “so that our pictures look balanced, according to the way we apply color”. As Ann explained some of that theory to me, I saw that this was yet another field of expertise that Ann had delved deep into.

By pointing out how her pastel box was arranged, Ann explained to me the concept of color “value”. Value means how intense a color is, and we can best perceive it by looking at a black and white photo of our pastel painting, for example, and seeing where the lights and darks fall, no matter what color they may be. A good painting shows a balance of values, which Ann says is a tricky thing to determine when she is working in COLOR, not black and white.

Another art concept that Ann shared with me is “atmospheric perspective”, which Leonardo De Vinci talked about and worked with so long ago. Ann explained that if you put a light coat of grey over your painting of a mountain, it looks farther away than other things in the painting, because it looks as if there’s a layer of atmosphere between you and the mountain. Ah! Brilliant. Such simple, clear explanations from Anne to me, someone who has no experience in art theory – her teacher side emerges again.

Ann volunteers at the Art Academy as a lending librarian. She informed me that teachers in Hawaii can borrow from the Art Academy any one of about 6,000 art objects from around the world: anything from toys or Christmas ornaments from other cultures, to Hawaiian implements. Ann helps to photograph, catalog, and lend out the objects,  to all the islands.

When Ann’s husband died about 5 years ago, Still & Moving Center became one of her little ‘families’, like her art family, her women’s group, and the HPR radio volunteer group.

One of the things Ann and I have in common is the love of interdisciplinary studies – as she shows in developing expertise in so many diverse fields, and I show in the variety of moving meditations we teach at Still & Moving Center.

I love having such a widely-experienced, well-rounded person as part of our Still & Moving Center ohana as Ann Peters.

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