By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — When Ann Munro Wood and her sister Roxie Munro talk about 50 shades of gray, they really talk about 50 shades of gray.
“We talk about color all the time,” Wood said. “Although Roxie and I are great friends, our conversations on the phone are about business and art.”
Both women have had long careers as artists, but their styles, subject matter and working speed are completely different. Wood, who lives in Annapolis, focuses on classic portraiture, which takes long periods to complete. Munro, who lives in New York, concentrates on brightly-colored illustrations of everything from buildings to space stations, and works much more quickly.
Yet they work well together. In their case, blood is thicker than paint.
“Artists, even in the same family, are influenced by different things,” said Cynthia McBride of McBride Gallery in Annapolis. “Ann just finds the beauty and personality in the person she’s painting. Roxie captures the personality of the New York she feels and sees. She makes it friendlier…. and fun.”
Wood and Munro’s latest collaboration involved touching up one of Munro’s old paintings on a visit to Annapolis a couple weeks ago. The piece, which depicts people at a bar, is now on display at The Annapolis Collection Gallery.
Wood has also been helping Munro with a series of giant illustrations called K.I.W.i. (Kids Interactive Walk-in Story Books). They’re scheduled to be launched next month.
The illustrations include everything from a space station to a rain forest. Munro did the vast majority of the work, but Wood assisted with some art and research.
“We can both adapt,” Wood said.
“We learn from each other,” Munro said.
Katherine Burke of The Annapolis Collection Gallery, which exhibits work from both artists, enjoys watching them interact.
“Their styles are as different as their personalities,” she said. “(But) they complement each other. Clearly, they love what they do.”
The K.I.W.i. books are Munro’s latest interactive project. She’s also turned previous children’s books into apps for the iPhone. “I like to embrace new technology,” she said.
Wood not only doesn’t have any apps, she still references telephone numbers written by hand in a notebook. Her studio reflects her classic tastes, with antique furniture, an Oriental rug, and lots of books. There is a computer tucked in a corner, but there’s also an ancient word processor on a chair.
Munro’s studio is much more modern and less ordered. Friends said she’s more outgoing than her sister.
Both worked as courtroom artists for a time, but Wood’s sketches concentrated on people’s faces and Munro’s emphasized backgrounds.
Ann and Roxie are in their 60s, but neither entertains thoughts of retirement.
Ann, the older of the two by three years, has painted businessmen as well as luminaries such as John Paul Jones and George Washington. Her portraits of figures from the War of 1812, including James and Dolley Madison and Francis Scott Key, were featured aboard a Coast Guard tall ship and in the House of Delegates earlier this year.
“Ann Wood is the best portrait artist on the East Coast,” said fellow artist and longtime friend Judy MacDonald of Annapolis. “The way the light hits the canvas, it’ so much like (John Singer) Sargent.”
MacDonald grew up with the sisters in Shady Side and went to the Maryland Institute College of Art with Wood. Wood studied in France, as well. Munro also attended the Maryland Institute, but got an art degree from the University of Hawaii.
Her works have appeared on 14 covers of The New Yorker, as well as in museums and galleries around the country. She’s written and illustrated more than 35 children’s books.
Both won art contests dating back to early elementary school, and their parents encouraged their interest. “My parents told me I should be an artist, and I always do what I’m told,” Wood said.
Munro didn’t start drawing to copy her sister. She just gravitated to art naturally — and never stopped. Her earlier work is more like Wood’s, though the color palate is different. And Munro has done more abstract pieces.
“People don’t realize it when they look at Roxie’s stuff that she can paint fabulous portraits,” Wood said.
She took time off from art to raise a family and always remained in the area. Munro, who doesn’t have children, moved first to Washington, D.C. then to New York City to pursue her career.
Besides color, they chat a lot about their work and how to overcome obstacles, such as “artist’s block.”
“Ann taught me something very, very good 20 years ago,” Munro said. “If you go in and pick up a brush and hate (the results), hang in, the flow kicks in.”
Both have had tough times, but support and encouragement carried them through. “What we’ve done together has been great,” Wood said. “You never know what’s around the corner in this business.
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)