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Meet Sonoma County Artist Annie Murphy Springer

Annie Murphy Springer, photo by Les Kamens

Annie Murphy Springer is a very colorful person. Not only in the way she paints—it’s how she lives her life. Annie loves to take her watercolors and brushes outside. You can easily spot her in the fields or hilltops painting landscapes and local landmarks, all the while looking like a butterfly in her colorful clothes and flowing scarves.

At a youthful 70-something, Annie is a learn-as-you-go artist. To discover new methods and share ideas she attends painting workshops and participates in numerous local art groups. But mostly Annie just goes out to paint, experimenting with new techniques or materials to see what works. This has given her a lot of freedom, allowing her to pursue her own style and do art in her own way.

While Annie’s paintings are generally based in realism, she uses expressive colors and form, and a bit of whimsy, to communicate the mood she senses about what she sees, stating that “I particularly enjoy trying to capture the ‘spark’, sensuality, or sweetness of a scene.” The color purple is a passion for Annie, it’s a signature feature—in her clothes, pens and paper, and of course her paintings; where it wouldn’t be unusual to find an orange hillside populated with grazing purple sheep.

Though Annie didn’t take up painting until later in life, she was always a free spirit, and her go-with-the flow outlook has taken her on many adventures. Annie grew up in Boston where she lived until graduating from college. From there she found herself in post-war Germany for three years working as a community liaison for the U.S. Military. Then, with a spontaneous decision she ended up in California employed by the City of Oakland to work with motorcycle gangs. There she met her future husband, geologist David Springer and the two eventually moved to Bodega in 1971. In the spirit of the times, they bought some acreage, cleared the land, and built a cabin by hand, where she still lives and has her art studio.

With her community management skills Annie got involved with the Bodega Volunteer Fire Department and, in 1979, she was elected fire chief, one of the nation’s three female fire chiefs at the time. During her seven years as fire chief, she and her husband developed and taught courses in fire service management around the country, which she still does.

Annie has been painting since the 1980s, but after her husband passed away in 2005, she took her art to newer and higher levels. With her combination of life skills and a love of painting it was natural for Annie to begin teaching watercolor workshops herself, especially to those who think they can’t. One of her most popular classes is “Watercolor for Guys”. If nothing else, Annie knows how to inspire people and to draw out the creative spark in anyone who’s willing. “What I bring to students is exuberance and the freedom and spontaneity of watercolor.”

But that’s not all. In 2012 Annie began developing an educational video series called “The Wonders of Watercolor”. Working with KRCB, the seven two-minute video art lessons were distributed to approximately 300 PBS stations across the nation. So what’s next? Well, she’s now working on a half-hour pilot video for the start of a longer series. All the segments for the new series will be filmed out of doors in Sonoma County. It’s not surprising to still hear Annie say “I love to travel the route least familiar and most risky . . . I welcome change and challenge, especially doing things I have never done before.”

You can view the PBS videos, find a list of classes and examples of Annie’s work on her website, www.anniemurphyspringer.com. Annie’s work can also be seen at the Artisans Co-op in Bodega, where and she and other artists do demonstrations each weekend. 

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