We had the good fortune of connecting with Anna Otaola and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Anna, why did you pursue a creative career?
I have always been creative – from an early age I loved to work with scrap wood and glue and then as I got older I moved on to pencil and charcoal and paint. When I was considering what I wanted to study in college, there was no other option for me other than to pursue Art.

After graduating college with a BA in Fine Art, life took several massive turns that led me away from any real creating for many years. Ten years later, I had a hard time recognizing myself and the life I was living, and even harder time to enjoying who I had become. So, I went to work. Not the work of creating art pieces, but instead creating within myself. I started to heal myself from years of being quiet as an artist and as a woman and the impact that both had on me. Out of that time of healing and inner work came the drive to pursue a career in art. When I dove headfirst, I found my voice in the Art that I was creating. I found that I am my truest self when I am creating – painting, drawing, building, anything that allows me to process the world around me through Art. Because for me, to be fully alive is to be creating Art. The pursuit of creative career is incredibly difficult and full of insecurity and inner struggle, but the alternative – going back to a life where I do not create – is an impossible life for me to live.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My journey to claim the title “Artist” has been a long and often lonely and painful one. I was raised in a family that seemed to value the rational and analytical side of life more so than the creative side. As you can imagine, that was hard for someone like me who was wired differently. I’m so grateful for my high school art teacher who not only saw me as an artist but was also the main force behind me getting the courage to pursue an undergraduate art degree. However, getting a degree in Art was an uphill challenge after my parents consistent warning that creating art is not a financially secure career path.

As I mentioned earlier, my post-college pursuit of art faltered and almost altogether disintegrated due to my fear of failure. The artist world is competitive and daunting and I let my insecurity, fear, lack of confidence or belief in my talent and passion diminish what I knew was true – that I am an Artist. It took me well over a decade after I graduated college for me to see how deeply I was in pain because I was not living into my identity as an artist. Ultimately, I found that for me to thrive as a whole person, I needed to revive the Artist within me. If she could soar, the other parts of who I am would soar and thrive as well. Since then, silencing the thoughts of my inner critic have become a daily practice. Believing that the stories I want to tell through my art, the healing I am pursuing through creating, and the beauty that comes out of me as I interact with the world around me are the pieces of my process I pursue fiercely in art.

Throughout my journey as an Artist, there are several pieces that I am extremely proud of – both from a skill or technical side, but even more so because of the way I have challenged myself to master my craft in their creation. At this point in my career, I am looking to challenge myself and my comfort level by leaving the size and techniques I have previously used and pursue bigger canvases that terrify me, and techniques I am unfamiliar with.

There is a Greek word “meraki” which means, to create something with love and soul; leave a piece of yourself in what you create. Like I said before, I am my truest self when I am creating. For me, to create and make art, is for me to be; it is my essence. Every piece I create, I pour myself into – I process through, learn from, struggle with, and reflect pieces of the world around me. As I engage in different personal stories and narratives at the same time as I participate in the greater world around me, I feel myself both expand as well as diminish. Every painting, drawing, or piece I build with my hands is an expression of my true self because I truly do leave a piece of myself within what I just created.

Let’s say your bestfriend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.  
I have lived in the Denver Metro area for the past 8 years and still feel like I am getting to know this amazing city and the surrounding beautiful places of Denver.

I would be sure to take her on a tour of several neighborhoods for delicious food and unique distilleries and breweries. We would walk down alleys and admire the ever-changing street art and murals. We would sit at the chef’s table at a couple of my favorite restaurants, and we would do progressive dinners through other favorite restaurants on other nights.

We would ride bikes along the foothills and sit on my patio with the view of the city skyline and drink wine as the sunset.

I would take her to the botanical gardens and sit in the grass an drink mate (Argentine tea) together. And then we would head into the mountains to a drive or a hike or to sit at a lookout and just talk in a beautiful setting.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My first shoutout goes to my High School art teacher, Mrs. Wolfe. Growing up, my artistic talent wasn’t nurtured very well by my family, and I didn’t have very much encouragement from them in my pursuit of this career. My sophomore year of high school, Mrs. Wolfe saw something in me and she is the one who encouraged me to pursue an art degree. If she had not seen me, and nurtured my talent, I don’t know how long – or if ever – it would have taken me to find myself in Art.

Since Mrs. Wolfe, there have been many people who have nurtured and encouraged me in this career. There are 4 people, that without their voices, I would not be the artist I am today. 1. My husband, Pablo. We have turned our world upside-down, multiple times, for me to return to my identity as an artist, and without his partnership and love, I would be a shell of myself. 2. My best friend since college, Asriel – without her gentle reminders and nudges to not only nourish and free my Child Artist, but to also just play in my art, I would have given up a long time ago. 3. Another best friend, and fellow creative, Moe. She understands my language of art and struggle of being a female creative as well as a mother and the unbelievable pressure of motherhood alongside creating. She is a safe place for all the big feelings of insecurity and inadequacy and reminds me of who I am and how I can do great things. 4. And finally, my therapist – without his encouragement to process some childhood Trauma through my art, I might not have gone back to creating, as well as pursued a deeper healing of that Trauma through drawing, making me a more whole person.

Website: www.AnnaOArt.com

Instagram: annao.art

Other: I am also a certified birth doula, and support birthing people and their partners full time. My website for that business is www.DenverEzerDoula.com and IG: EzerDoula

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.