Mary Jo Carew
From my early days as an art student I was inspired by the French Impressionists. In 2008 this inspiration extended to the Plein Air painters of California, from the turn of the century to the present. Experiencing nature’s wonders first hand, and then translating those experiences onto canvas with oil paint continues to inspire me. The changing light, color, and rhythms of the environment never cease to stir my imagination. Lately, I have also enjoyed painting landscapes in my studio, using my plein air sketches and photos as inspiration.
Whether plein air or in the studio, I employ several stages in producing a finished painting: I first draw several small sketches to find a pleasing composition. Then I draw the image on canvas with paint. After that, I paint in the large shapes of shadow and light, and continue to refine the shapes bringing in more and more detail until the painting feels like it is complete. I paint what the image dictates. Sometimes the painting is richly textured, sometimes not, but always there are areas of ‘lost’ and ‘found’ brushstrokes, moving the eye back and forth around the canvas.
When I moved to New York City in 2011, I continued to paint the landscape, but I also returned to my love of painting the figure. I found myself admiring the works of John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, and Celia Beaux. Thus, at this stage of my career I consider myself equally a painter of landscape and figure. Thus, in my figurative work, finding the “soul” of the person, bringing them to life on the canvas is truly exciting to me. Likewise, in my plein air work, having a scene come alive for the viewer is incredibly rewarding. And although I am discussing them separately, in reality, the processes that guide my landscape painting and my figurative painting truly inform each other.
The bottom line: whenever I have a brush in my hand, I feel truly fortunate to be doing what I love to do.