Anat Ronen isn’t sure where her art comes from, but sometimes it pops into her head at 4 a.m. while in bed, with her cats all around her, or while she’s stuck in Houston traffic in the middle of nothing and everything, going somewhere but getting nowhere. She’s inspired by nothing, and then again, by everything.
“It has to come from within me. It bypasses my brain. It’s weird,” said Ronen, a vibrant, unpretentious, 50-year-old, self-taught artist. “But I started so late in life, it all has been building up in me. … The images just pop into my head.”
Ronen’s Trinity Trail mural, “River Owls,” is a perfect example. When she saw the two round structures, she was asked to paint she thought – tree trunks! And who nests in tree trunks but owls, squirrels, raccoons and woodpeckers. Then, in her “impressionistic realism” style, Ronen used everyday house paint to create the critters until they seemed to be virtually poking their heads out to view passersby.
“They are looking at us, and we are looking at them,” Ronen said of her mural. “And hopefully we live in harmony, a symbiotic life, with all of the creatures because we’re all going to be gone in a minute.”
Ronen creates with a sense of urgency. A native of Israel, she decided to become a professional artist 12 years ago when she needed a “special ability” that would allow her to stay in the United States on a visa with her family. An art school reject with no diploma of any kind, Ronen turned a hobby into a career.
“What started out as a desperate act to stay here worked out. It was this or nothing,” Ronen laughed. “I still find it hard to call myself an artist.”
Clearly others have no problem calling her that. Ronen has been commissioned to do hundreds of murals, whether it be portraits of neighborhood children, rows of gigantic jars of candy, giant tiger eyes or a 40-foot armadillo. Some of her murals are done in a 3D style, allowing viewers to be a part of the canvas.
“I just create and have that sense of when to stop,” Ronen said. “I think it comes from not being formally trained. I have two brains in my head. One is a regular person and the other is a crazy artist.”