Self-described “wave artist” Anna Sweet has a deep relationship with art and nature. Following in the footsteps of her gallerist mother, Sweet immerses herself in her creative practice, which comprises underwater photography, photorealistic resin paintings of waves, and other ocean-themed work. In each case, she creates captivating works of art that unexpectedly pair a photographic sensibility with an avant-garde use of material.
This “craftsman’s approach” is particularly apparent in Liquid, a line of mixed media ocean landscapes. Strikingly realistic, these works of art look like aerial photographs. However, Sweet crafts each one entirely by hand, expertly applying acrylic pigment and minerals to wooden art panels. When coated in lustrous layers of resin, these materials magically transform into compositions that evoke “effects of lacing and webbing to mimic the serenity and life of the ocean.”
We recently had the chance to speak with Sweet about this stunning series. Read our exclusive interview to learn all about Liquid, as well as Sweet's technique, travels, and long-term love affair with the ocean.
Your series, Liquid, reinterprets the beauty of the ocean using resin mixed with minerals and acrylic pigments. When did you first experiment with these materials?
I have been working with resin for 8 years now, using it as a way to add life to my underwater photography. Over the past year and a half I have been slowly developing this new line of photorealistic ocean paintings. At first, I just wanted to use my knowledge of resin to create a surf-able board that would fit in seamlessly with its organic surroundings. Once I started experimenting with painting the ocean I couldn’t stop, I have literally been addicted to this line of work. Every day, I’m testing new materials and concepts. I want the viewer to want to reach out and touch the work as if they were touching the water right on the beach. People are beginning to ask what camera I shot them with and this makes me think I’m getting close to achieving my goal.
How do you manipulate these mediums to produce such photorealistic designs?
My main material is resin. Resin mimics water in that it is high gloss and can form an edge much like a wave on a beach. By mixing different ocean-like colors into this resin, I get a natural transition much like that of the sea. I finally add a white texture to the resin to recreate the foam that comes off the water when it crashes into the sand. This all results in a photorealistic painting of the ocean from above.
When you start a piece, do you have a composition in mind, or does it happen organically?
I always have a strong idea of what I’m going for and it almost never comes out as imagined. It is like I am riding an actual wave with my emotions each time I create one. I start with this amazing concept and I suddenly start to get very frustrated when its not coming out as imagined, then I’m shocked and thrilled once completed that each one ends up being more beautiful than I could have dreamed of.
In addition to crafting these seascapes, you also shoot underwater photography. Where around the world have you photographed?
I have traveled to many islands in the Bahamas and Caribbean in search of clear water. I’ve even experimented with the water in Mexico and the Keys. I live part time on the Big Island of Hawaii where there are some of the clearest waters for shooting, I’m always itching to dive back in.
How has your experiences shooting in these locations inspired Liquid?
Every time I plan an underwater photoshoot I have to scout numerous locations to find the perfect underwater environment. In scouting I come across so many beautiful beaches but am not able to capture them due to the special requirements needed for underwater photography (clarity, tides, temperature, light, etc). While conceptualizing my idea for creating an organic surfboard, I decided I wanted to draw inspiration from all of the dynamic beaches I’ve come across in my years of scouting. I wanted to create individual works that represented the unique beauty of each beach in my memory, this is how Liquid was born.
When did you develop such a strong passion for the ocean?
I’ll never forget the first time I went snorkeling in Curacao, a small island next to Aruba.
I was in my 20s visiting my parents who lived there at the time and I spent my days learning to scuba dive and exploring all the little nooks, crannies, and caves I could find. One beach I found had the most perfect coral reef just offshore. I have never felt more weightless and giddy—like I was a little girl all over again. This feeling is something that never went away. The wonders of the water pulled me in instantly and constantly. I spent the summer diving the most incredible locations with my friends and being continuously awe struck by the magic of the ocean.
I studied commercial fashion photography at art school in NY and ever since visiting the island of Curacao, began trying to discover ways to incorporate the ocean into my photography. This led to my series of underwater women which have been carried in galleries worldwide, featured in numerous publications and art shows, and have even been commissioned for entire building projects.
Do you have any other ocean-inspired projects planned?
I am constantly trying to figure out how to make a positive impact on our oceans with my work. I am working on developing more sustainable materials for creating my art while also giving back to reef relief and clean up efforts, including plastic removal from our oceans.