Interview Tanisha Parker
Photography Sarah Roberts
The moment I stepped into the quaint, but edgy, East Village apartment of Anna Lansdon, I immediately recognized a maturity that far belied the young artist’s age. The 20-year old artist and NYU student talks about her creative upbringing, her musical theatre aspirations, as well as her departure from the one thing she thought defined her. Anna also shares what’s next for her after graduation.
Tanisha Parker: So you study acting at NYU, but you’re clearly passionate about your visual art. Do you plan to pursue both?
Anna Lansdon: Well, all through middle and high school, I’ve wanted to be an actor. I did musical theater. However, I was raised on arts and crafts. Both of my parents went to art school. My mom is a graphic designer and now my dad does user interface design. Art was always there, but I liked performing. I went to NYU to further my musical theater career and NYU is the best school for acting; but being in the program made me realize that the money making parts of acting...are so unartistic, but you have to do them to survive. It made me realize that I wouldn’t enjoy 99% of my work. And theatre wouldn’t make me any money and that’s the part of acting that I like. It’s much easier for me to make money on the side with my art than it is to make money on the side with my acting. And I love art so much more than I love acting. I just wasn’t having any fun for three years of acting school. I was like, “What gives? Why am I not having any fun? Meanwhile I was squeezing in as much time as I could to draw on the weekends and the evenings.
TP: Was there a moment when you decided that you wanted to pursue art as a career?
AL:I never really had that moment. I always loved acting and once I found acting, nothing else mattered. That was all I wanted. But before that I wanted to be a teacher, or a lawyer, just random things that I picked out because I thought I’d be good at them. But it was almost like art didn’t seem like a possibility because my parents did it and struggled, money wise. They really emphasized that doing art for life is roughing it. I’ve never not done art so it didn’t feel like I was betraying art by not pursuing it as a career. Art is where I feel I have the most control.
TP: How would describe your art or yourself as an artist?
AL: My art is definitely a mix of illustrative and portraiture. I love to draw people. It’s more than design or typography. Currently, I’m really interested in becoming a tattoo apprentice. I’m emulating the traditional tattoo flash style in my art but I also try to make it unique.
TP: What do you think of these celebrity tattoo artists such as Bang Bang and Scott Campbell?
AL: I love them! When I saw the video you posted of James Jean...I am so star struck by James Jean. He is such a huge inspiration to me. I have a whole section of my notebook dedicated to James Jean. To follow these artists’ inspiration and even the colors that they use is so cool because even though you’re an artist that work off commission, tattooing other people’s ideas, it’s so cool because they get this canvas to work on and can put their vision on someone. It’s such a cohesion to an artist’s’ style. If you look at an artist profile on instagram, all of their tattoo art looks like it was done by the same person.
TP: How do you feel about artists who have become more commercial, such as Jeff Koons? Or even going farther back to Andy Warhol?
AL: It’s a weird catch-22 because any artist who has had the opportunity to commercialize their work has reached a certain level of success. That’s something any artist dreams of. How can you truly criticize any artist who took that opportunity? I feel like that’s the highest level of praise.
TP: So, what’s next for Anna Lansdon?
AL: I’m applying for tattoo apprenticeships. I want to be a tattoo artist. I still need to figure it out financial wise because I have a lot of loans to pay for. An apprenticeship involves probably a lot of unpaid work but it’s required to earn your stripes, so to speak. Ultimately, though, I would love to do it because tattoo artists are always in demand. I’ve also been so in love with tattoos since I really knew what they were. The idea of having people trust you enough to create a permanent piece of art on their skin; there’s something so cool and personal about that.
Anna will be presenting her artwork at January’s WIP event. The multi talented artist may even surprise us with a ukulele performance. Be sure to check out her work here!