About mary

I am an artist living in Phoenix, AZ.

Inherent Traits: In Progress

Monica is working on a large anatomical drawing of her mother Elisa. I am impressed by her use of a warm orange background broken up with several areas of purple wash. The color palette is so inviting and she tells me that orange is the color of creativity and in Yogic studies it is associated with the pelvic area. These background colors appear full of emotion and the paper has also been coated with gesso and a very thin layer Golden Moulding Paste to give it a slight texture. I talk to Monica about how it is possible for her to work in direct contact with the surface of the figure. She explains that casein is a protein and as it is touched (she rubs it with a cotton cloth) it acquires a polished look.


Monica works directly on top of the drawing

In the drawing Elisa’s hands are clasped in front of her body and I understand that she is quite handy. She builds and repairs things in her home and has raised six children while working as a hearing and speech professional in the schools. Monica includes a drawing of the inner ear in the space next to her mother’s head. It floats as a symbol for her work.

inner ear

The inner ear


Monica works on the drawing ‘s inner ear detail

The compact organs in the chest and abdomen are depicted in strong vital colors and will remain visible as the work progresses. Monica has decided to omit the skeletal structure in order to make the organs an intricate, energetic focal point. There is a space where the gall bladder once was and because it has a very plant-like look and was removed in real life, it now exists on the ground plane.


Chest cavity and abdomen

Monica places the drawing on her upright drawing table so I can photograph her standing next to it –I am thinking about illustrating scale. Elisa looks directly forward and Monica stands beside the figure. I convince the artist to pose as the figure poses, hands clasped in front. It is the opposite of the way Monica usually stands with her hands together behind her back. Both women look forward, strong, direct, engaged and engaging.


Monica and Elisa, notice the gall bladder in the lower left.





It’s Called Monkey Balls or Osage Orange

Carolyn brought me a beautiful gift last week. It was this spiky pod.


A gift from Carolyn

A gift from Carolyn


I later photographed it and took it into Photoshop and Illustrator. I made it into what Adobe calls a symbol. It is a digital instance. I make them a lot, and then I sometimes use them in a layer or texture or I like to take these instances and make them into something out of context.

Pod as texture

Pod as texture

This pod will become some sort of hovering celestial body in my drawing of the moon and the Estrella Mountains and then become part of my user-defined library, my collection of digital instances.

Hovering Pod

Hovering Pod



Today was the first day of installation. I had seen the large mountain at Mouse Graphics a few weeks ago and I was so happy with the color and resolution. It is a relief to see work come out of my computer and become an actual piece. This is due to my background as a printer, I need a print. I think that I have a similar kind of joy for these commercial processes as the Pop Artists did for screen printing.

Proofing the print at Mouse with Brian.

Proofing the print at Mouse with Brian.

It was exciting to see that the sections of terrazzo looked very clear and the gradients printed up so nicely. Good printers! My comfort level was moving up and finally today the piece arrived at the art center.

mtn install1

Sean from Mouse Attaching the first piece.

Sean from Mouse Attaching the first piece.

The sections were attached from left to right and carefully matched up. The material looks like canvas or linen-it has a tooth to it so it is not shiny like other versions of vinyl used in large format graphics.

Section 2

Section 2

Section 3

Section 3

If you see this piece in person you will notice lots of fine line covering the drawing. Sean, the installer, mentioned that he did his best to match it all up. And he did match it all up.

Light Test

Before we delivered the show I had about a week of wiring and testing to make sure the suspended sculpture would work. Each piece is fabricated so that the electrical cord runs up to the ceiling and over to a LED driver which will also be mounted on the ceiling. The wiring process was interesting and Pere, our studio assistant, became better at fiddling with the drivers than I was. We celebrated every time one would light up which prompted Mitch Fry (we share studio space) to comment that we are cheap dates. He knows how to use electricity but for me it’s just that electricity is like magic-difficult magic.

At one point I had to call the lighting manufacturer to ask a question and he asked if I was a licensed electrician. I told him “no I am an artist”. In a somewhat huffy tone he told me that the first thing that should have happened is that I should have been connected to the entertainment division. He helped me anyway and it turned out they had sent the wrong drivers.

Everything worked we packed it up and took it to Mesa. Fingers crossed.

Testing the light at the studio

Testing the lights at the studio.

After testing the pieces were  wrapped to go to Mesa

After testing, the pieces were wrapped to go to Mesa.

Pere, studio assistant, with a finished sculpture.

Pere, studio assistant, with a finished sculpture.

The Work of Art

I speak to the work of making art. I incorporate different kinds of labor into my work and I enjoy going from one process to the next. For “Creature, Man, Nature”  I am finishing the components of “There Is a Mountain”, an installation including illuminated sculptural forms and digital drawing. In my last post I talked about fabricating the sculptural part of the installation and now I will show what it is like to build a computer generated drawing. The drawing is of South Mountain (in Phoenix, AZ) from the south east. This is a drawing about the texture, color and intricacy of the mountain but it is also about employing some traditional tools of landscape drawing and ignoring many others.

There Is a Mountain

There Is a Mountain, digital drawing, 120 x 300″

I use the most basic landscape concept – diminishing scale. This is the observation that things appear smaller the farther away we get from them. In this drawing the plants on the mountain serve that purpose. In addition to the elements of the drawing, the sculptural forms shown in my last post will actually become larger as they physically move away from the mountain. The viewer will be in the drawing.

close up

The image above is a 10 x14″ section of the mountain. I used imagery from terrazzo samples as part of the terrain and some line similar to that used in  geological maps. Probably the best preparation I had for drawing digitally was printmaking because layers are an integral part of both digital drawing and traditional printmaking. I made a digital sketchbook of botanical images in order to populate the mountain. I then turned them into something Adobe Illustrator calls symbols and placed them on the mountain.

creasote only

sag 2 sm copy

sag 3 sm copycholla sm copy

Stay tuned my next installment will include electrical wiring.

Saguaro Interior/Exterior

This is a look at how I take drawings and translate them into sculptural forms.

Core Drawing, digital, various sizes for There Is a Mountain, CMN

Core Drawing is a drawing of a cross section of a cactus.

Cactus Fabrication

Cactus Fabrication is the exterior of the cacti with the blossoms falling away. I am reversing the order to look at the inside of the plant first -then the exterior.  The Saguaro’s method of reproduction, the flowers falling, is contained within the rib structure.

Sculpture fabrication

I want everything about nature to happen at once in my work and to represent the visual energy involved in plants and their environments.

Mountain Mesh

I have been working on the color and the shadow of the mountain. The gradient mesh is the way I create the softness of shading that is an integral part of my drawing vocabulary. I have zoomed in to show the anchor points and gradients which are dropped into each point. When I work up close like this the piece becomes abstract to me. It is intimate in the same way that hand drawing on a large sheet of paper requires me to be right up in it. If digital drawing didn’t offer this kind of visual exploration it wouldn’t be half as interesting. It is easy to get lost in it.

This is my digital workspace. I have noted what each part of the screen contains. Sometimes the space becomes too crowded so I hide parts of it. I took this photo last week when I was just starting this layer, it is now finished.

Hit “a” point click hit “i” hit color click, repeat, repeat….. build the drawing, point click -save.

digital landscape

This is a drawing I am working on for the January show. I photographed my computer tablet so you can see how I work. The part of the drawing that is red is the part I am working on for this post.

line layer

zooming in 200%

The scale is large 48 x 216″. As you can see, there is a lot of ground to cover. This layer is important because I will use it to create the color and tone in the drawing with live paint and the draw inside tool in Adobe Illustraitor. Because I know I want to use these tools it is important that I make each area a closed shape. That means no open forms.

zooming in to 400%

Notice all the open forms and overlapping lines-they were drawn as I was more concerned with building the form of the mountain. Now I am cleaning them up as a foundation for future manipulation.The whole drawing requires this kind of attention at this point so that I can push it farther as I continue to add imagery and drawing.

clean forms

Now the forms in this area are closed. I work back and forth horizontally across the picture plane.  It will take about six days to clean up the entire drawing. Because I do the first part of the drawing with the Wacom Pen using the pencil tool  it looks more free and loose and I like to have that as the base of the drawing -it does make the clean up a labor of love though.

Yes it is verifiable-I am a geek.

really, nothing is stasis

Monica in her studio, Phoenix

I am in Monica’s sacred space, her studio. It is a hot June day and we talk about the summer in Phoenix and how it is such a good time to be in the studio. There is first of all the light and then the air conditioning. I literally get down on my knees to photograph the piece she is working on today. It is a painting of a male torso, she has previously finished the female torso and I look at both. I want to know how she builds the painting. The richness in the painted surface is what she uses to build the form.
Monica approaches the male form in terms of the muscle and bone structure. As she paints she adds the other systems in layers but not in the conventional manner of medical illustration, or life drawing, rather by their importance. The systems such as the arterial will be faithfully accounted for and then covered by the next layer. If something conceptually important like the heart should become obscured –she goes back and delineates it again as the figure becomes complete.

detail of male torso in progress

The female form is begun with the soft tissue and the lymphatic system. Both male and female start in the center of the painting and grow outward. I ask her if it is important that we know if it is male or female and she acknowledges that it is the energy between the male and female that she is working with in this pair. I can see the difference but I so love the line and surface that for me, the pieces transcend their gender. As she says, it is the energy of the systems, male and female that exists, explodes and rewards my eyes.

detail of female torso

You will see what I mean in January. Carolyn had mentioned that Monica was kicking it with her new work and she is.
On a technical note she is applying casein and egg tempera using both long lettering brushes and Japanese brushes. Knowing how to use these brushes enables an artist to achieve a wonderful whip-lash line with maximum control. Monica likes control but these paintings have taken her to a new almost cellular level where chaos is her friend and really, nothing is stasis.

line brushes