At 86 years old, Ann Reeves still studies the same art books her mother gave her when she was 14.
They sit on a table while she talks about her life’s work, which is strewn all over her apartment, including that same table.
“Now I can do what I always wanted to do,” said Reeves, a resident at The Chelsea at Brookfield, an Assisted Living community in Belvidere, NJ. “Get up in the morning, get my paints ready and paint all day and not worry about a thing.”
She said she never dreamed of something like this when she was younger.
Born in Newark, NJ and raised in Parsippany, NJ, Reeves always considered herself to be creative; she started to draw at four years old and often designed posters for school events; she even designed clothes. When she was in high school, though, she began to paint – inspired by Claude Monet, his work in a book her mom gave to her as a gift.
“I love his work so much but I don’t copy his paintings,” she said. “I’ll take a bit from one painting and a bit from another painting.”
She said her parents were her biggest fans and they supported her passion however they could.
“They would brag about me to their friends,” she said. “I think that was good for me because it drummed that in my head, ‘boy, I’m great.’”
After graduating from Boonton High School, Reeves went to college for fashion design and worked in the business, but didn’t like it.
Instead, she returned to her roots, all the while raising four daughters with her husband in Hackettstown.
While her painting style and preference has changed over the years, she’s perhaps best known for painting towns in New Jersey.
“People would open their windows and call out to me, ‘Ann, don’t forget my house,’ and that made me feel so good that everybody in every town knew me,” said Reeves, who wasn’t able to recall how many towns she has painted, but was comfortable estimating “at least 30.”
One of those town paintings hangs firmly above her bed. She donated another to the social and activities room at The Chelsea at Brookfield.
“I didn’t want to make it look like a map, which a lot of people do that,” she said. “I wanted to make it look like a painting.”
Reeves’ work has been honored and recognized by various local, state, national and international organizations. She’s a member of the Warren County Hall of Fame.
Her art once toured in Russia and currently sits in the Deutsches Historishes Museum in Berlin, Germany.
Nowadays, she paints impressionist art, which focuses on the details of nature, with the help of Monet and the flexibility of time.
“This is the perfect place for me,” she said.