An Ann Sklar painting invites contemplation. Save for the occasional hint of an island or beach—her minimalist, evocative seascapes are all about the intersection of sea and sky. “I meditate, so I think that’s why my paintings inspire the feelings that they do,” says Sklar. “Especially now, with what’s going on in the world I can go into my studio and escape a bit, and that’s hopefully what my work can do for other people as well.”
It’s been a long and winding road to this peaceful place. As a young mother in Philadelphia, Sklar was immersed in printmaking, her art school major. To be successful in printmaking requires planning and adherence to a controlled process, which Sklar painfully discovered wasn’t for her. “I was working on a project, it was 12 o’clock and I had to pick my daughter up at the corner from the school bus,” she says. “I wasn’t paying any attention to what I was doing, and I took the Xylol (a solvent) and washed it all over my face.”
Sklar’s skin healed, but she left printmaking behind, and didn’t go back to making art for several years. When she did, “I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about painting and what kind of materials I would even use,” she says. She started with watercolor and gouache, painting detailed scenes from photographs. She entered one in a competition; it was accepted and won a prize. “I thought, ‘maybe I can do this.’”
When Sklar started spending part of the year in Maine in 2005, she still hadn’t completely found her artist groove. Classes with realist painter John Whalley further confirmed that making tightly controlled art wasn’t for her. “I’ve learned I don’t like to do traditional things,” she says. “Most of the time I’m not planning what I’m going to do at all.” Instead of an easel, Sklar paints on a drafting table, laid flat, and eschewing long-handled oil brushes, she still paints with the short, soft brushes traditionally used for watercolors. “Sometimes I’ll just go into my studio, and I won’t even look—I’ll just reach into my box of paints and whatever color comes out is what I’m going to start with as the base of my painting.” '
Despite her non-traditional approach, Sklar is thoughtful—even serious—about her work. “I always wanted to paint something fun, but it never seems to happen,” she says, wryly. “I’m working on a painting I thought was really fun, and a friend who’s a painter came over to look at it and said, ‘Oh, it’s so thought-provoking.’” In a subsequent morning meditation, it came to her that while she’ll always feel the urge to try new things, the horizon paintings are what feel right to both Sklar and her collectors. “I find that the best responses to my art are from people who get where I am,” she says. “They want something calm and peaceful, that you can live with and find inspiration from.”