21 Under 31 | Anna Bleker

WILLIE NELSON, ACRYLIC, 24 x 30.
WILLIE NELSON, ACRYLIC, 24 x 30.

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

BORN: Fairfax, VA, but moved to Texas 18 months later.

ART EDUCATION: A few high school art classes.

STYLE: Photorealistic portraiture with impressionistic flair.

MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT THE WAY YOU WORK: “Four in the morning is my peak time.”

FIRST ART SALE: “A commission to paint a horse on the inside of a closet door for $35 when I was 15.”

SECOND-CHOICE CAREER: Creative advertising.

OTHER PASSIONS: Playing the piano, Photoshop, and Almond Joy candy bars.

MANTRA OR MOTTO: “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

QUIRKIEST TRAIT: “I’m half Cajun and I can’t cook.”

BIGGEST FEAR: Worms.

FAVORITE STUDIO MUSIC: Muse.

BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “I was a naive 16-year-old and I was painting with really watery $3-a-bottle acrylics that I thought were great. A painting teacher at a workshop told me, ‘Try oil paint; it’s much better.’”

PET PEEVE: “Oil paint in my hair.”

FAVORITE ARTWORK BY ANOTHER ARTIST: Chuck Close’s BIG SELF-PORTRAIT.

PRICE RANGE: $1,000 to $3,000.

NEXT BIG GOAL: “Having a solo show featuring huge, compellingly honest portraits of people who have beautiful and eccentric faces—big glassy eyes, freckles, the works. And I want people to leave the gallery thinking, ‘Wow. I felt like those paintings were looking at me.’”

CREATIVE SPARK: “Speeding through the Texas Hill Country blasting music with the windows down. And espresso.”

I’LL KNOW I’VE MADE IT WHEN: “Justin Timberlake asks me to elaborate on my painting technique at a New York City art gala.”

GALLERIES: Art on 5th, Austin, TX; YAT Gallery, Keller, TX; www.annableker.com.

Featured in our annual “21 Under 31″ article in September 2008