Every morning, Anita Darling walks barefoot to her backyard greenhouse in Suwanee. She stands still, feeling the dew under her feet, sips her coffee, and prays—in order to align herself with God and nature before starting to draw. Looking at her intricate ink-and-charcoal images of flowers and seashells, her devotion is clear. It’s something she’s felt since she was as a child.
Growing up, Darling and her family moved around a lot, relocating nearly a dozen times. For her, the one constant was the beauty of nature. She was always artistically inclined but didn’t consider the field as a career until she was in her 30s. “I put being an artist on such a pedestal,” says Darling.
Instead, she attended interior design school, enlisted in the Air Force, and worked as a makeup artist. However, stumbling upon some old photos she’d taken of flowers as a teenager inspired her to take out some charcoal and draw the hibiscus and poppies in her backyard. That spark gave her focus—well, sort of.
In addition to creating art, she is a competitive bodybuilder, caters wine-and-chocolate events, and grows herbs. Having just turned 40, she has no intentions of getting old and boring—a sentiment partly inspired by admiration for her 97-year-old Japanese grandmother. “I want to be old and interesting as heck,” she says.
Nowadays, though, creating artwork is her primary vocation. She has discovered, “Art is the opposite of fear.” Darling mixes her own inks to get the most vibrant colors possible. She regularly shows her work at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville and Tannery Row Artist Colony, where her studio is located. Darling’s interior design connections have led to commissions by boutique hotels and private homeowners around the country.
“I genuinely adore what I do,” says Darling. “I feel like art [is an engine] to uplift and grow people. Bigger than that, people need to stop going to TJ Maxx to find their artwork. Go find your personality, and put that up there on your walls.”
This article appears in our Winter 2020 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.