I'm working on another painting about the line between imagination and reality. This is something that has always interested me, but more and more lately I'm understanding what it's all about for me. I've come to believe that, if we practice thinking differently, we will see that the solid walls that form barriers in our lives, are actually bars that we can slip between.
As children, we're so connected to our imaginations. Magic is real, unicorns and fairies really do exist. We're filled with wonder about the world and excited because we know anything is possible. I'm reading "The Secret Garden" to my daughter and it's this idea, that there's something magical and secret lying in wait just behind the wall that I'm really interested in conveying in my art.
As we grow up, we have to learn the rules. We're taught the structure of society, the way things need to be, and we learn our place within that structure. Rules are necessary, of course, but we forget that all things are possible. The rules forms walls around us that we think are real and solid. We live with those wall surrounding us for so long that we aren't able to see any other way. They are our reality.
It takes a new kind of thinking to snap us out of our adulthood, to give us back our imaginations and to realize the rules are just rules, not walls. In fact, if we remember how to truly see the possibilities, how to follow our hearts, we'll find a key. If we listen to ourselves, deep inside, we'll find the door. We can get through the wall, to a secret place that was there all along, just waiting to be discovered.
Here's what I'm reading and listening to as I work on my current artwork.
The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens
Between the Bars by Elliot Smith
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Blackbird by The Beatles
This piece is now finished! After struggling with two title ideas, I decided to go with "Between the Bars". The original is available, prints will be available at some point. Contact me for details.
The idea for "Possibilities" came to me while I was on a walk. I was taking a break from another painting of this same girl, getting some exercise and reflecting on things.
I know how important it is to get outside, to free my mind while moving my body. I quite often discover a new perspective on a problem while I'm on a walk or run. So, when a vision for this painting popped into my head while I was walking, I laughed out loud, because how funny - it seemed so, almost predictable, actually.
"Possibilities" in Progress
I thought it might be interesting to show the progression of creating this piece. This is my largest pastel painting to date and it was, to be honest, a little brain-straining. I really enjoyed creating it, but I had to step back and take a lot of breaks from it so I could keep my original vision clear through to the end.
Material Honesty is a term I learned while studying architecture at the University of Washington, Seattle. They were very big on teaching us future architects how to be true to our building materials.
Although I'm not designing buildings now, I do think about material honesty quite a bit while I work. I've come to love the idea of hinting at my process and using materials in the way that works best for them.
Using the idea of Material Honesty in my art
If I'm using pastels atop a colored paper, then when I'm finished I feel that one should be able to determine that I used pastels and a colored paper for the piece.
Here are some ways that I accomplish the idea of material honesty with pastels, illustrated with details from my artwork "I Dare You".
Being expressive; not photo-realistic
For me, my art is about expressing a mood and getting at the heart of what inspired me in a subject in the first place. For the painting shown here, I had taken multiple photos of my model. In one of the photos, her eyes really drew me in. They seemed to be almost daring me, the viewer, to take her on. I absolutely love the strong, determined expression on her face. Of course, the gorgeous sunlit hair only added to my desire to paint the image.
I'm not interested in creating a photographic replica with my work. It's much more interesting to me to express myself and the media I'm using. For this piece, I used a specific set of colors and very expressive mark-making to get those original inspirations down on the paper. In the end, I do feel that I captured the ideas that prompted me to paint this image in the first place.
With each new piece I paint, I'm learning more and more about pastels and their specific abilities. I hope to continue to add to my list of ways to use them honestly.
Of course, the best thing about art is there are so many different ways to approach it! What do you think? Do you think it's important for artists to be "honest" with their materials? When is it fun to fool people by being "dishonest" with materials? 😄
Having a portrait painting commissioned is fun and exciting. The process shouldn't be stressful! If you'd like me to take photos for you, I offer a convenient photoshoot option for Standard Portrait Commissions. If you'd like to use your own photos, here are some helpful tips to make choosing a reference photo easier.
How to choose a Reference Photo for a Portrait Commission.
1. It is best to choose a photo where the subject looks most natural.
2. Look for a photo where the camera caught the subject unawares. A natural expression when the subject looks most like themselves is best.
3. Do not choose a photo where the subject is smiling "cheese!" for the camera.
4. Consider a photo where the subject is not facing the camera straight on.
5. An angled face, an interesting expression, and good lighting is great.
6. You do not need a perfectly framed head shot. I will crop your photo and change the composition.
7. Most importantly, be sure the subject is clear and in focus. Zoom in on the face to be sure that it is not pixelated or blurry.
Let me know if you have any questions about how to choose a reference photo! I'm happy to help. Contact me here.
Step three - and very importantly! - I've got to purchase a tent. It'll happen soon. I'm doing research.
Edina Fall Into the Arts
And so! This September, I'll be at the Edina Fall Into the Arts Festival. This will be my first ever outdoor art fair! I'll have a tent full of my new work in pastels, both originals and prints, along with a nice selection of my textile art work. I'm very excited. I'm hoping for nice weather and a great crowd!
Examples of the work I'll have at the festival
I hope to see you at the Edina Fall into the Arts Festival this September!
Find more of my upcoming events here.
I find that I'm drawn more and more to painting people. I've been inspired by a number of photographs taken by friends and family and have used their photos, with permission, to create artworks. However, I believe it's time for me find willing subjects (my own kids really don't like getting their photos taken!) so I can have a variety of my own photo references to work from.
I'm looking for models!
Being a model is fun and easy. Here are some things to know.
If you, your kids, or someone you know is interested in being subjects for my art, please contact me via email at email@example.com.
I put the final touches on Jonah's portrait today. So, now my Portrait Project "Addendum" has wrapped up and my Portrait Project is officially finished!
Twins Noah and Jonah are a coordinated set of paintings, meant to be framed separately, but displayed together. I focused on capturing their two different personalities, while also having the pair of paintings still match. They are twins, after all!
I kept my mark-making loose and free with this pair. Preteen boys are endlessly growing and changing, and always active. I feel that this loose look showcases the idea that these paintings capture but a moment in time.
Thanks to all of my Portrait Project "Addendum" subjects!
The Portrait Project may be over, but I will continue with portraits. Contact me if you're interested in having a custom portrait painted.
If you'd like to take a look at all of the portraits together, see them in my portfolio.
I'm back at work on my Portrait Project, working on the twin boys! It's going really well and I'm having a wonderful time with them. I'm sure I've said it before, but I have to say it again - I never would have guessed that painting portraits would be something that I'd enjoy this much. But it's true; I love it!
I also finished another portrait in April! So, here's Addendum, Part 1 to my Portrait Project showing my in progress work on these final three.
Noah & Jonah
I should have an Addendum, Part 2 with the finished portraits in about a week!
If you want to find out more about having a portrait commissioned, please contact me or view my commission request page. I'm always happy to chat!
I made it halfway through my goal of 10 pastel paintings of my neighborhood lake before Spring hit me full on - and I took to my garden. :)
Five finished pastel paintings of Lake Nokomis. March 23 - April 24.
All winter I've been planning a huge DIY landscaping project to overhaul my backyard and it was time to start! I love to design, I love to grow things, I love to be outside, and my kids are now old enough to handle themselves for long periods of time, so not much could stop me from getting to it. And after I finished my work for my art exhibition "Orient, Disorient Repeat" - I couldn't focus on anything else but my garden!
Now I've finished most of the planned landscaping and the summer heat has set in, so I'll be back to this pastel project soon. I have three more photographs of the lake in my queue, which will bring my total to eight. Two images short!
These are the next three photos of the lake I plan to paint.
I had wanted to include a sunrise and a sunset image, but now if I do there will be a big gap between the dates. I haven't even been on a walk around the lake since May 20th due to my yard work giving me plenty of exercise!
Oh well, I may just take some photos for those two a bit later than planned. Then I will have my 10 view of Lake Nokomis.
What's new in my studio this spring?! While I've been a bit quiet on my blog lately, I actually have loads going on behind the scenes...
Pastel Painting Challenges
Last month I finished 6 pastel portraits in 6 weeks. When I finished that fun challenge, I immediately decided to start another! I zeroed in on one that would allow me more practice with painting landscape scenes. 10 Views of Lake Nokomis is the challenge I settled on; each week for 10 weeks, I am taking a photo of my neighborhood lake. Then, I paint the scene in my studio, using the photo as a reference.
I've completed views 1 & 2, but have gotten a few weeks behind on the paintings. Photos of views 3 & 4 are still waiting to be started! I will continue taking my weekly photos and I hope to eventually get to all 10 views. The 10 paintings will portray the transition from the beginning to the end of Spring.
Textile Art - Jerome Project Grant
I've been working on my Jerome Project Grant since last summer. Now, in 4 short weeks, the exhibition of my work will be opening! This grant has been a journey: challenging, joyful, confusing, boundary pushing. I feel that it has really gotten me to grow creatively and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to do so with this grant!
The exhibition, entitled ORIENT, DISORIENT, REPEAT, opens May 23. My work, along with two other grantees, will be on display at Textile Center's Mondale Gallery through the end of July. Find more event information here.
Mary Pow actively investigates the creative process through her methodical cut-and-sewn color block work where she explores the multitude of viewpoints contained within the world of humanity.
Mary Pow Handbags + Accessories
Good news! You'll be able to shop my collection of textile handbags + accessories at Textile Center's gift shop during the exhibition. I'm not doing many shows this year, so this is one of just a few opportunities to purchase my work!
Pastel Paintings - Recently Completed
I am continuing to love love painting with pastels! Here are some of my recently completed works. You can find more in my portfolio. I've discovered that commissions are one of my favorite things to do! Contact me if you have something in mind.
Thanks for reading!
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.