Mary James 3/1/2022
My Story, how I got started and how I got to where I am today.
I have been creative my entire life. Growing up on the plains of South Dakota, where population is sparse, I learned how to entertain myself by being creative. Working along side my mother and grandmothers I was always making something!
In college I studied Interior Design and I had a successful business designing beautiful homes and offices for 30 years. I worked across the United States and internationally providing me with exposure and a background in so many things. One of my favorite aspects was helping clients build art collections or the opportunity to work with their fabulous collections. Each project was fine-tuned with just the right fine art.
I continued to free lance in Interior Design for additional years, cutting back on hours of work, to raise our son. I decided that was the most important job that I could do! It served well as not only was I spending more time with him and his activities, but I also now had time to begin taking art classes! For years I took classes at San Antonio School of Art (then call Southwest School of Art and Craft). From ceramics to drawing, then on to watercolor, mixed media and painting. Also adding in workshops there in paper making, print making and encaustics! I also took many other workshops here and in Austin. All of this exposure reconfirmed my love for art and being creative. I knew when I stopped practicing Interior Design that I would take up art to fill the creative void! At that point, however, I never dreamed that I would one day be able to call myself an “artist” and even have galleries sell my art!
Has this been a smooth road? If not, what struggles did you have along the way?
As life would have it, I did have struggles. My son graduated from High School and my mother (who I cared for) passed away. Unfortunately, I was so busy taking care of everyone else I neglected myself. I ended up very sick with some chronic conditions that took away all of my energy and my ability to do the things I wanted to do. I lost hope. However, I am not one to give up! I started to research on my own to find doctors and other health practitioners that were the experts and could help me get to the bottom of what was actually making me sick. Blessing upon blessing I got to the right help and with much work and determination I did finally get better after about four years. While I was sick, I had a lot of time to think about what I might do when I got better…if I got better. I remembered how much I enjoyed studying art in college and then all the time I had spent learning under various artists. I decided that if I got better, I would pursue my love of art.
So that is what I have done. I have now studied under many, many acclaimed national and international artists. The last years during lock down for Covid has been the perfect time for learning online! I have worked hard and I am proud of the artist that I have become! My love of learning continues as I pursue additional studies as well as my art practice.
By sharing this part of my story, my desire would be to give anyone hope when the road gets tough!
What makes you happy and why?
I actually marvel at how little it takes to make me happy! I think that is because I am lucky to be doing what I love doing, painting. I manipulate color squeezed from a tube into something to be seen, experienced and contemplated. I am amazed at this phenomenon every day! I also get such joy from my two small granddaughters. Children bring such a joy because they are so authentic, they are so spontaneous and they love to be creative. All of these attributes make me happy! Of course, the rest of my family makes each day a treasure. Aside from that, nature makes me happy. I love observing my surroundings and taking time to stop to appreciate what nature offers, it calms me and grounds me. We see the full circle of creation in nature and I am always in awe. Much of my art is influenced by nature.
So, how does this all look now?
I am a full-time artist working from my home studio. My art is nonrepresentational abstract, also known as nonobjective abstract. I paint in an abstract expressionistic style. What that means is I paint without a reference in mind. I am an intuitive painter and what goes on the canvas comes through me, my paintings show free, spontaneous and personal emotional expression.
My paintings are about energy… (after once losing all my energy, this is very important to me) …so I begin most of my paintings with quick brush strokes and line work to get energy onto the painting. This also gets me familiar with the size of the canvas. From there I often explain my process as a dance and a conversation between myself and the canvas. Each step informs the next and I try to remain open to how my intuition is directing me, rather than forcing something into the painting. I apply paint, additional line work and after a few hours I move the painting to another room to evaluate it. What do I like in the painting, are my values there from light to dark, have I started to form a solid composition, are the colors harmonious, is my center of interest starting to show up? This process goes back and forth for many hours and days. During this process I am also evaluating what I might remove from the painting. A successful painting for me has almost as much taken away as added in!
The rhythm of painting slows as I get closer to the end, there is more time spent looking at the painting and evaluating then painting.
When a painting is close to being finished, I will put it in a place where I can sneak up on it to get a quick glance at it! These immediate reactions are very helpful for me in making the final changes in the painting. When I decide there is nothing that I can add or nothing that I can subtract from a painting to make it better, I declare it finished!
Where you can find my art?
I am currently represented by Art Gallery Prudencia and St. James Place in San Antonio. My paintings are in private and corporate collections in Texas and many other states. Please see my website for current work, pricing and exhibitions. www.MaryJamesArt.com
I am active on social media and would love to interact with anyone interested in my art!