Thursday, November 1, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Mary Rochelle Burnham

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. 

To enter to win Mary Rochelle's painting, "Whip Cream Evening Clouds," go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing Mary's interview.

From Mary's DPW Gallery page:
"Like so many others, creating art is my passion. My inspiration comes from all that is around me. I am excited by color, light and form."
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I was in kindergarten and each day a student was chosen to paint at the easel. One day it was my turn and I secretly thought that when I grew up it would be so wonderful to be an artist. Somehow, in my mind, I envisioned that if I could paint something to look real, maybe it could become real and I would be happy. Well, in a sense, I guess I was right, because I'm so happy to be able to paint what I love and experience the very real feelings that the act of creativity brings to me!

Whip Cream Evening Clouds
(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the page announcing Mary's interview!

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

Yes, there have been some short-term detours. When I was 18, my first job was with the telephone company as an operator and then with directory assistance. I was chosen to do ‘in-house’ posters and other little art assignments. I was asked on numerous occasions, “Why aren’t you out there making money with your artwork and not working for ‘Ma Bell’?” I put myself through college and art school and the rest is history, as they say.

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 sold my first portrait at the age of eleven and began my career as a portrait artist. Later, that turned into encompassing caricatures at parties and events, as well as illustration work, courtroom sketching and teaching. I took in plenty of commission work and sold my fine art at every opportunity. I became skilled at pastel, oil, acrylic, gouache, pen and ink, watercolor, charcoal, pencil and color pencil. Now, as I am getting older, I am narrowing it down to mainly oils and pastel with the focus on my fine art.

A New World Opens
(click here to see original image)

There's such a wonderful sense of warmth and richness to your work. Are you classically trained? And if so, how do you manage to bring that extra something to your paintings?

Thank you, Jennifer. I attended Wayne State University, where I was in the Fine Arts department and focused on drawing and painting. I earned my BFA from the Center for Creative Studies, College of Art and Design in Detroit, my major being in Graphic Communications. Putting that something extra into paintings cannot be taught. The artist must have a passion and for me it’s the very act of creating art that lights my fire. I want to be good and I don’t settle for mediocrity. However, there is always room for improvement!

The Long and Winding Road
(click here to see original image)

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

I would be lying if I said that I never procrastinate. Sometimes, I will just sit and play solitaire... spider solitaire. That is when I am terribly anxious. It gives me a sense of mastery when I win. I fail a lot. But, if I keep believing that I am going to figure it out, I’ll find a way. I sense that every single game is winnable. It’s the perfect analogy for painting, for me. I accept that sometimes I get stuck, overloaded, or just plain tired. I give myself permission to just chill and be quiet with my thoughts. It’s a kind of mediation that not only calms my anxiety, it is fun and relaxing.

That being said, I probably put in eight to ten hours a day into doing art, marketing and paperwork. I definitely enjoy looking at other artists work, figuring out what I enjoy about it and trying to incorporate that inspiration into my art.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I take lots of reference photos and keep a morgue (reference file). I make sketches and manipulate images in Photoshop. I know that whatever appeals to me today, may not tomorrow. So, I keep everything in files on my computer or in a file cabinet for tangible items. When I feel moved to act, I do so quickly. If I lose the passion, I will put the piece away. I love working from life - the same applies.

The idea comes from what I feel compelled by; a feeling, an emotion, a memory. The idea is often the easy part, it's working through all the preliminary work that is a struggle and then the painting often seems to paint itself.

Red Pepper
(click here to see original image)

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

I have kept many irons in the fire over the years and I switch up to keep burnout at bay. If I don’t feel like painting, I give myself permission to draw. If I don’t feel like pastels, I paint in oils. If I don’t want to work on fine art, I’ll do caricatures or illustrations. It's all good! It all has merit, teaches me, as well as, gives me pleasure.

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

Easy... all about life... who I am and where I belong.

Letting Go
(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

I have made the most wonderful creation of all, my life as an artist, the joy it brings to me and the joy it brings to others! How cool is that?

Thanks, Mary!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine


  1. I first became aware of Mary on the shoe challenge. I thought here is gal I need to watch. Ever since then I think of her as the girl in the front row of class. The one who I secretly want to emulate.
    I have learned so much from shadowing/stalking her. She also has a keen eye. She gave me two suggestions that pushed my work to a better place. One was about the harshness of values. I had never seen what she meant before but once she pointed it out I never saw values in the same way. Some teacher.....Hooray for Mary and her paintings, spirit and openness.

  2. Mary, EVERY time I see your warm beautiful painting "A New World Opens", I fall in love with it all over again. It is exquisite.

  3. Lovely paintings, and I can tell Mary is excited by light. "A New World opens" is so, so sweet.

    Thanks for the interview!

  4. I enjoyed your interview very much, Mary and as I really admire your work it gives me a more personal understanding of the artist behind the pieces.
    I also play solitaire when needing a break. I am envious you can use Photoshop.
    Jennifer - thanks again for another interesting interview.

  5. Thanks, Julie! I was a little reluctant to tell about my stress reducing use of solitaire because it doesn't seem very 'professional', but, hey, its what I do.