Living more than 7 years in Oregon, Washington, D.C., Florida, Paraguay, and Kansas City, I have absorbed many cultures that have informed my art.
I am currently based in Kansas City which allows me to travel to the most beautiful places in America to inspire my landscape and floral painting. People have always inspired me too, especially children and a variety of skin and hair colors. While in Paraguay, I sold over 150 watercolor portraits of everyday people.
I tend to learn a new technique in oils and then gravitate towards gouache. I love the spontaneity of water-based mediums that allow me to paint quickly and boldly. My technique includes a vibrant, translucent underpainting in fluid acrylics. I finish it with opaque soft body acrylics and gouache. I strive to use more paint and less brushstrokes with each painting.
What led you to decide to become a painter?
Maria: I never decided to become a painter, I was born an artist. When my family of 10 would have drawing contests, I would win even though I was the youngest. I would draw or paint every day growing up and took art classes at a visual arts high school in the D.C. area. I later majored in art.
What are some of the biggest influences that led you to become the painter you are today?
Maria: Light and color. I lived in South America for 8 years. The light and color there was so intense, it really inspired my art.
Your paintings have a remarkable feeling of light, yet vibrant that make for rich color harmonies. Can you tell us something about your approach to finding the right colors in your paintings? Do you use a particular palette of colors?
Maria: I see color differently than some people. So I paint what I see, exaggerating the color in neutrals because that’s what makes me happy. I’ve had a hard life and I can be a bit melancholy, so I balance negativity with joyful color in my paintings. I teach the most vibrant color palette in my online course at mariaportrait.com
How important is the process of observation to your painting?
Maria: Observation is #1 in priority for me. Once I observe form and value carefully and strive for accuracy in those areas, I am free to have fun and break the rules with color.
What are some considerations you think about in finding order out of the chaos and complexity of nature?
Maria: I find order in my painting, the same way I do in life — by eliminating the nonessential. It takes discipline and discernment to only paint what is important in composition and I’m still learning how to do that.
How do you strike the right balance between simplicity and unity on one hand and variety and contrasts on the other?
Maria: Variety comes when I decide which parts of the painting are at rest (big strokes, suggestions, less detail) and which are dynamic (the focal point, more realistic and defined). This brings variety. Unity comes in using one size brush for my whole painting and in repeating color and shape.
What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Maria: Focus and conviction. Before I was too divided in my loyalties and wasn’t sure of my calling as an artist. Now that I am convinced that art is my essential calling and my current priority, I have no problem making time for art. I also make it easy on myself by having a quiet, functional art space, and an easy process. The first few steps of each painting don’t require a lot of focus but build momentum and make me want to keep painting.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired your artwork.
Maria: Last summer, my son and I took a road trip to The Grand Tetons. We camped out and explored. It was wonderful for me since he graduated and moved to California after that. I’ve been practicing my landscape, especially mountains reflected on water, since that trip.
How has your style changed or evolved over the years?
Maria: I painted super realistic when I was younger. These days, I’m letting go of control and have more wisdom in simplifying.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Maria: The mothers who cried when I would present the portrait of their children. This reaction meant that I captured more than the likeness, I captured the soul in the portrait. I was a family photographer for years and rarely got the emotional response from photos than I do from my portrait painting. Interestingly, my florals and landscapes are starting to evoke emotional responses — usually excitement — which makes me happy.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about?
Maria: Yes, I’ll be teaching a workshop this month on the 14th and 15th of August in Greensburg, KS. Email me for more info at email@example.com Most people don’t live nearby so I recommend my online painting course where I teach florals, landscapes and portraits.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Maria: This month I teach art at a local university for the main purpose of mentoring and encouraging young people. Plans with my art include live event painting, selling originals through my website, selling prints through Etsy, and working on a limited number of commissioned pieces.
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