Friday, May 11, 2012

DPW Interviews: Mary Maxam

From Mary Maxam's DPW gallery page:
A native of Idaho, Mary Maxam finds inspiration for her paintings in the beautiful scenery and gardens of the Northwest. She is a graduate of Boise State University and has studied in many professional workshops, teaching art for many years herself. Mary's work has shown in many juried national exhibitions and has contributed both painting and written work for book and magazine articles on painting and design.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I've been drawing and painting all my life it seems. I started to focus more on wanting to be an artist and/or teach art while in high school. I always liked crafts too, along with all the materials and processes involved with the visual arts.

Iris Garden
(click here to see original image for sale)

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

When I first began teaching high school art, time was so hard to find. I knew it would be important to try to continue my own work along with teaching. That turned out to be harder than I thought. I sometimes just didn't have the energy for real development of work at the end of a teaching day.

However, I did over time, get into a pattern of evening painting, and tried to get in an hour or two of either painting or drawing on most days. Doing so helped me to continue to be an artist in my own right.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I painted in watercolor for many years and loved the variety of ways watercolor can 'look.' It was also a pragmatic decision, because I just didn't have a realistic space for oil painting. About 10 years ago, the galleries I were with began asking more and more for oil, which I'd wanted to explore myself. So, I took it as a sign to make a change and primarily work in oil.

I also have a larger and better space now for working. While teaching, I both experimented with and taught using a variety of mediums, but for for my own work watercolor and oil 'stuck'.

His Best Side
(click here to see original image)

One of the first words that comes to mind for your art is lush. What have you learned over the years about accurately reflecting the intense colors you're seeing in your subject matter on the canvas? 

I love that compliment because I do frequently have that reaction to the subjects I'm attracted to. I want to paint their lushness somehow. I think one thing I keep relearning is that sometimes less is more. If all the colors on the wheel are on the painting, they all compete for attention. If I make one or two colors the stars of the show, so to speak, then I can use compliments or analogous colors to help them 'say more.'

I've been recently trying to use more colorful grays to contrast with pure tones, I enjoy that a lot. Also, transparent color next to opaque color is something I love to contrast and it's effective for me.

Fabulosity and Her Court
(click here to see original image for sale)

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I rarely have a time when I don't want to paint, so I guess I'm lucky that way. I tend to have the opposite problem, jumping into a painting before I've considered my aim long enough.

When the issue comes up, I usually just go make panels or clean brushes - just getting into the studio or where the paints are helps. One things leads to another and I find myself with a brush in hand. I procrastinate more in getting the laundry or dusting or organizing done - ha!

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I use photos, sketches and plein air work to develop paintings. It's not as much the subject for me, as the way light or color catches a particular subject. My eye locks onto something and then I try to visualize an idea for a painting from that. I am usually able to find that spark with flowers, landscape or fly fishing figures on a stream, subjects in a natural setting.

(click here to see original image for sale)

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

I like to rotate several subjects, as my blog followers can attest to! When my work isn't engaging to me, I try asking myself, What do you want to see? (as opposed to what's in front of me).

When I work on a painting that has been freshly toned and the surface is still wet, the opaque color stroke that goes over the top of it, continues to be an interesting surprise. It's a stepping off point and not something that you can completely plan or explain.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I really need to pre-plan compositions more thoroughly instead of diving in too quickly. Especially, with larger works, which I have been trying to find time for! I'm still on that path to finding my own voice and hope to continue and refine that search.

Window Box Floral
(click here to see original image for sale)

What makes you happiest about your art?

There are those times when a painting just flows from brain to brush and there is no 'second guessing' -  it just feels like Aaahhhhhhh... so great! And when I have a painting that 'clicks' with people so that they feel I've caught something personal for them!

I like the constant striving and problem solving too - there's always another painting around the corner....

Thanks, Mary!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

Jennifer Newcomb Marine is the Marketing and Community Manager of Daily Paintworks. She's an author and blogging and marketing coach.

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