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A Visit to the Studio of Russell and Ann Jones, Eastern Shore Potters

August 14, 2015
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When you meet Ann and Russell Jones you are immediately drawn in by their enthusiasm, playful spirits, and love of artistic pursuits.  In this interview they discuss how they found their way to pottery, sharing studio space, and their upcoming exhibit.

Russel and Annie Jones in their ceramic studio.

Russel and Annie Jones in their ceramic studio.

Why did you choose ceramics and what is the most challenging (and best) part of working in your medium?

Russ: Throughout our marriage of 43 years we have admired and collected decorative pottery. Our exploration of various art forms has taken us throughout the U.S. and inevitably included at least one if not more trips to someone’s pottery studio.

Many years ago we thought we might be able to convert an old barn on our property to an art gallery and studio space. Although that venture didn’t come to fruition, during that time, we learned a great deal about the vast differences and variety of art mediums. I was interested in exploring pottery and Ann expanding into fiber arts, hand work and sewing which had been a hobby of hers for some time.

Ann: Discovering Seagrove, North Carolina over 20 years ago was perhaps a turning point for Russ. He’d taken other opportunities to watch pottery demonstrations but in Seagrove the potters had their studios and kilns adjacent to their homes. In 2006 after we retired Russ had the opportunity to take a class with Elizabeth Hunt, an amazing ceramic artist who lives in our town. The challenge was the frustration in the once-a-week scheduling of classes. It was difficult to keep the momentum going in the learning process with that schedule. At the time we were renovating our home in Onancock and decided to add a “project room” — now studio for each of us. My sewing machines have been safely tucked away after I also started working in clay almost two years ago. Once again, we find ourselves working together as we did for many years in business. Now, however, we simply walk out our back door and explore new and fun things about clay.

How does living on the Eastern Shore influence your art?

Ann: The Eastern Shore of Virginia has some wonderfully talented artists as well as several art organizations that promote their members. We have been supporting members of the Artisans Guild for some time. A number of years ago Russ’s work was juried into the Guild. The Eastern Shore Art League Gallery was the first to show and sell his pottery. Now both the Red Queen Gallery in Onancock and the Ellen Moore Gallery in Cape Charles carry both of our work.

This year the Artisans Center of Virginia helped to organize an Artisans Trail Network on the Eastern Shore. The kick off for the Trail will happen this year and will include the largest number of trail sites to date.  Since Russ is a juried member, our studio is a site on the Trail.

What does having a physical space to make art mean to your process?  Describe your studio space and how, if at all, it affects your work? How do you make your space work for you?

Russ: When we decided to change the plans for the renovation of our home to include our studio, it was more of a way to give us the luxury of having our own spaces rather than of necessity.  However, it has proven to be the best means by which we can explore pottery. The ease of having the space directly out our back door is invaluable. The wheel and kiln are in one room, a table for slab work in the next. It’s truly not an issue to work on something at anytime necessary. We have come to the point that we can “multi task” home chores while waiting long enough for something to dry so it can be trimmed out a slab to cut. Laundry and yard work certainly gets done in a more timely fashion!


Ceramics in the kiln.

Ceramics in the kiln.

Describe your working routine.

Ann: We find our work routine to be not as structured as it might be. However, this winter Russ organized a number of workshops with some other potters in Onancock. We explored surface treatments with slips and stains, spraying, and an especially fun barrel firing. This kept us a bit more structured. Now the summer demands have started and we find we are working more. Recently we’ve been in the studios each day. Russ usually works in the mornings and I head out to the studio in the afternoons.

What personal narratives are related to the work? What inspires you?

Russ: I named my studio Useful Pots and that says it all about my work. Functional bowls and dishes are the bulk of what is created on my wheel. For the most part, my pieces are named to denote their purpose. Munch Buckets and Pails are bowls with handles so that you can carry your snacks and drink outside with one hand. Batter Bowls have a handle to make pouring easy and Walk-Abouts are bowls with a handle that make hot foods easy to handle on the move.  Recently, I’ve expanded my repertoire to include pedestal pieces and free-form dishes.

Russ's works in process

Russ’s works in process

When Ann decided to try making pots she quickly transitioned from the wheel to slab work. Her background in sewing and crafts formed the basis for understanding some of the construction techniques. Her pieces have a function but are rarely plain. Texture and decoration of some kind are on incorporated into each piece. Boxes are a favorite-each one different and distinct. Because she enjoys flowers and baking, vases and casseroles regularly come off her work table.

Ann's works in process

Ann’s works in process

The two forms compliment each other. We now call the studio Useful Pots – by famous unknown potters. We enjoy trading ideas and encouraging each other to try new techniques and designs.

How do you navigate the art world?

Ann: Since the business we sold in 2005 was a technology based firm with no link to the art world at all, navigating the art world is a rather new experience for us. Certainly the aforementioned Artisans Guild and Art League have been more than helpful locally as have the galleries that carry our work. In addition, we have attended a number of classes at the Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC. Taught by potters whose work we admire and often discovered in books and online, exposure to this level of craftsmanship is inspiring.

Is there something you are currently working on that you are excited about that you can tell us about?

Russ: We’ve been talking about collaborating on a few things. I’d like to make some bowls and have Ann “dress them up.” Recently Ann has been taking a class with Elizabeth Hunt in slab, coil and pinch pots. As a result, there are new ideas each week after class. Stay tuned!

What’s next? Are you involved in any upcoming shows, workshops? When and where?

Ann: We will be the featured artists at the Red Queen Gallery in Onancock for the Art Walk, 2nd Friday on August 14, 2015. In addition, each year the Artisans Guild sponsors a two day show on the weekend following Thanksgiving and this year our studios will be a featured site for that tour. Of course we are also very excited about the launch of the new Virginia’s Eastern Shore Artisans Trail. You can follow the progress of the launch at

What advice would you give other artists?

Russ: Just like Simon Leach says — “keep practicing!”

What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at which fuels your work?

Russ: We constantly refer to books we’ve accumulated. One Ann has recently gotten that has lots of great tips on slab building is From a Slab of Clay by Daryl E. Baird. Ceramic Arts Daily. Ceramic Arts Daily also is a great resource and has an endless stream of videos and books from which to choose.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Ann: Pottery is a relatively new part of our lives. We feel like it’s something we can do and continue to explore for many years. We love visitors and love to talk about the fun we are having in the studio. Please visit us at Useful Pots or come by to see us sometime in Onancock.

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Studio Visit – Mary Didoardo, New York Abstract Artist

July 3, 2015
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Mary Didoardo Studio Visit

Mary Didoardo in front of one of her recently completed paintings.

Mary Didoardo is a dear friend, former neighbor, and committed artist. Last week, I made a quick trip to New York for my grand nephew’s first birthday and a friend’s 50th birthday party.  Before she went on vacation and I headed off to my celebrations, Mary and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch and a visit to her studio.

Wow! It was obvious that she’s been hard at work making paintings and pushing to work in a larger format. I love her process and her finished paintings.

Mary’s paintings are complex, both in layering of information and in developing surfaces with line, texture and color. There is underlying evidence of previous stages of what she considers “failed paintings”.  What Mary calls “failed paintings” becomes the foundation from which the surface is built up through layers then scraped away. The process remains visible for the viewer to read.

She charges and coaxes the uniform lines by alternately working the lines within, around and through the surface. This process integrates and embeds the line and keeps it from being simply a design element. The lines draw the space enriching the final painting.

To see more of Mary’s paintings, stop by Kathryn Markel Fine Arts.  



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Hello Summer – Finding Inspiration Along the French Broad River

July 3, 2015
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Me in Asheville River Arts District2

Yours truly in front of one of the many murals in Asheville’s River Arts District (RAD). Photo by Lee Wolfe.

Summer is here! Hope you are enjoying the beginnings of the season. Even though it was cool and rainy yesterday, ceramic artist Lee Wolfe and I took a break from our studios to meet for lunch and visit a few studios. We had a fun time, catching up, taking lots of Instagram photos and talking to other artists.

We met in the River Arts District a/k/a the RAD, along the French Broad River. The neighborhood was once the industrial heart of Asheville. The district continues to thrive today but with a different creative spirit; one full of artists, musicians and restaurants and a micro-brewery.

After we stuffed ourselves with fish tacos at White Duck Taco Shop, we headed off to visit a few studios. Here are two that we enjoyed.

Andrew Kulish of Studio A is a vibrant artist and designer. She creates handmade lamps, pysanky eggs, mixed media art along with her graphic design work.

Studio A artist and designer, Andrea Kulish

Studio A artist and designer, Andrea Kulish

Many lovely Pysanky Eggs by Andrea Kulish

Many lovely pysanky eggs created by Andrea Kulish using traditional Ukrainian patterns as well as her own modern designs.

The rare Ukrainian folk tradition of creating pysanky eggs is a unique part in the mosaic of America’s varied cultural heritage. Andrea is very excited to share the making of the eggs with people and does live demos and workshops for those who want to dive deeper in the pysanky egg making artform.

When we walked into Pat Phillips studio she was in the process of adding a patina to links for her newest necklace. And, we got to watch the process!

Pat Phillips with creating a patina to metal links

Pat Phillips applying a patina to metal links

Pat Phillips'almost completed necklace.

Pat Phillips’almost-completed necklace.

Pat creates contemporary one-of-a-kind jewelry designs using silver and gold.

Both studios are located at the Pink Dog Creative. If you are in town, stop by for a visit. Andrea and Pat would love to see you.


Pink Dog Creative – Don’t you just love all these bright colors?

You know, sometimes its good to take a break from the studio, spend the afternoon with a friend, visit other studios and come back inspired. I know I did!

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Making a Painting

June 19, 2015
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Summer Sky, oil on panel, 6" x 6", Barbara J Hart

Summer Sky, oil on panel, 6″ x 6″, Barbara J Hart

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince.

To me, painting is alchemy of color, line and texture. It’s about discoveries along the way from the initial idea to the completed work. With each painting I open my heart to the experience on the canvas as I explore the process.

Each painting is the exploration of the unknown and each provides a new journey, an adventure, a study of light, lines, form and texture. How do I capture the feelings, the essence of a place? Painting is a non-verbal medium. The act of painting is not about a spoken language but I try to find the language that expresses my experiences; to record the brush strokes that produce the paintings. How do the speed of the hand and the pressure of the brushes on the surface affect the painting?  This is what I think about as I paint.

Nature inspires me and I hope you find peace in Summer Sky, a little gem of a painting, oil on wood panel, 6″ x 6″. 

 One of the great joys of making a painting is sharing it with you. Enjoy!




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In Conversation with Jack Richardson-Landscape Painter, Gallerist on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

June 19, 2015
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On a recent visit to the Eastern Shore I stopped in to see Jack Richardson in his studio/gallery. I met Jack in 2009 on my first visit to the Shore. It’s always a treat to enter his warm and welcoming studio/gallery and to see what he’s working on.

The open, rural and marine nature of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia has inspired Jack to pursue his interest in landscape painting, mainly done on location, while his studio/gallery allows him to explore his art and to teach.

Jack’s paintings are in collections worldwide and are featured in 100 Plein Air Painters of the Mid-Atlantic.

Jack Richardson before sketches in his studio.

Jack Richardson in his studio

Describe your creative process.

The creative process for me starts with the eyes. We are surrounded with such beauty in terms of color, light, texture etc. that I react to it in a visceral way in the need to document those feelings.

Describe your working routine.

Every place has its time. The most ordinary scenery can come alive with the seasons, time of day, conditions of climate, like covered with snow, early evening, breaking fog, sunrise etc.  As an artist it’s important to realize your muse and be at the right spot at the right time to let it happen. So the process starts when I respond to a scene and know what it is I am responding to. Next step is to capture it with my viewfinder which will tell me which proportions to use as a support for the painting.  Not every scene can be captured meaningfully, and the viewfinder helps determine that.  Usually I have an assortment of canvasses stretched and ready to go.  I primarily use linen as a support with the old- fashioned method of sizing with Rabbit Skin glue and top coated with Winsor & Newton oil ground.

Sometimes I will take digital images of the subject or make a small oil sketch on site to work up into a larger format.  Often I will take the larger canvas to the site and paint right there on the spot, returning sometimes over a period of weeks at the same time each day, and the painting becomes, then, a time study.  One, in particular, measured about 32″ x 48” and took about 6 weeks to complete.  During that time the prime motivator went from full bloom to nothing, but other interesting things were captured growing through the painting; a table and chairs were moved into the space, and they got recorded and sunflower spouted and grew to about 6 feet in height.  This wasn’t a problem because the joy observing and of painting allowed everything to be included.

What do you think is the key elements in creating a good painting?

The key element in creating a good painting is one’s heartfelt response to the subject and the technical ability to know how to make it happen.  This technical ability can’t be underestimated and comes from an understanding of your medium and work, work, work.  Every painting, sonata, pot, photograph etc. is a stepping stone to the next one and hones your understanding of your medium.  If you pay attention to your work, as well as the work of others, over time, your work will mature, and you will get more and more satisfaction from it.  One of the keys is to not negate what you have done, but if it doesn’t quite come up to what you aspire to, put it aside and start a new one.  Without all the lousy work coming forth, there will be no cleared ground for the fresh sprouts of good work to germinate in.  Acuna mattatta baby.

Jack RIchardson in front of unknown painting1

Jack in front of his painting “Salicornia at Assateague”, 40″ x 60″, oil on linen

How has your style changed over the years?

Over the years, I have realized that what I do is OK, no matter what it is.  After all, I do it for myself.  When I was in Art School, (before they invented rocks) lots of my fellow students were making ART, abstract art, intellectual art, organic festering art etc., and I thought I should do the same, so I went ABSTRACT!!,  even though I was a landscape painter.  It was not fun, because I had no idea of what it was I wanted to say.  After a while I gave that up and started painting portraits of my friends, the dog, the model, my visual stimulation. That was it.  Fun, rewarding, and even profitable as portrait commissions came my way. That year I won a prize to travel in Europe, one of the biggest prizes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Needless to say, I am still painting landscapes and the occasional portrait.

How long have you been an artist and how did you get started?

As a kid growing up in rural Maryland and working on a tobacco farm, I had no cultural influences in my family. Even though I loved the music of the church it was forbidden because children had to attend the children’s mass on Sundays.  Only God knows how those children got to sing in the choir because it was unknown in my family.  At around age 17, a neighbor friend showed me a painting he had done on a bed sheet, and I thought that was so cool, so I varnished a sheet onto a piece of cardboard and made a giant painting of a nude woman leaning against a wall. That was the beginning of painting, and later some drawing with another friend and painting on my own in the countryside nearby.  Mom, seeing all this activity, encouraged me to enroll at Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC.  That’s where I came in contact with real art students and real art.  The rest is still going on.

A view of Jack's studio.

A view of Jack’s studio..

How does living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia influence your work?

Living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia has its good points as well as some not so good points.  One has to like FLAT to live here, as it is that.  Either you can paint a horizon or not, and the loblolly pines get to you after awhile, but there is beauty everywhere.  My particular favorite spots are the streams that make their way through the woods with all the underbrush, reflections of sky and leaves and the sense that we all started in this primal wet spot on the planet. The Eastern Shore of Virginia also has deer ticks from which I have had my fair share of Lyme Disease, and still take Chinese herbs to keep it at a reasonable level. In order to paint on location with the tick in mind, I look for spots where I can work from the roadway or other paved surface.

What does having a physical space to make art mean to your process?  Describe your studio space and how, if at all, it affects your work?

My studio is located on a back street in the backwater town of Onancock, VA.  When I first came here, I used the front room with north light to paint in.  Passersby’s would look in the windows and eventually come in and buy paintings.  After a while, other artists wanted to show their work and I agreed, keeping a critical eye for quality, and eventually there was quite a group of talented artists showing here, so it became a Studio/Gallery.  At first it was disconcerting when visitors would make a bee line for someone else’s work, ignoring my splendid efforts.  But, if I admired what the other artists were doing, why would I object when someone else responded to their work?  Eventually I really came to enjoy living and working around all the art being shown in the gallery, and I think it expanded my thinking about my own work.  Through the gallery, I have made friends with a great group of artists and share the space on Friday afternoons by hosting a model for drawing or painting.  Also on Thursdays, I have painting classes in the morning and afternoon.

What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at those fuels your art?

Music is a great love of my life and has grown from the warhorses to the esoteric.  I was recently at a concert in Philadelphia.  Where the program was 20th century French impressionist Albert Roussel; 20th Century Serge Prokofiev, Francis Poulenc, and Camille Saint-Saëns.  All these pieces were very exciting in ways I’ve never heard before (except the Prokofiev). As an uneducated listener, I’ve enjoyed the programming of WFMT in Chicago, as they have very enlightening  announcers with great comments and insights into the music they are playing and a diverse program.  Opera is also a great influence, and even though I don’t know the words, it’s as though through the singing and emotion, the words are not necessary.  I think opera is to painting as orchestral music is to drawing.

What advice would you give other artists?

My advice to other artists is “do your own thing”!  As the “T-shirt” said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” You will be influenced, how can you help otherwise; take what you can humbly use and turn it into your own statement.  Some say my sunrise paintings look like Turners, my water paintings look like Monet’s, etc.  Who cares?  It all started in the caves in Europe, and since then, everyone has been copying everyone else.  The difference goes back to one’s heartfelt response to the subject and the technical ability thing.  We have modern materials (which may or may not be an improvement on the past) at our disposal and the whole history of art to bath ourselves in. How can we not be saying something timely?

What’s next?

Next for me is more of the same.  When you’ve found the groove, why change, although I’ve recently been working in charcoal (like a caveman) from the model. I find that a very satisfying medium with great possibilities.  I’m also ready to go outside with the warmer weather and work on large canvases for long stretches of time.

Thank you Jack.

Jack Richardson studied at Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia where he was awarded the highest honor of a Scheidt Scholarship for Study and Travel in Europe in 1971.  He taught painting and drawing through the Division of Education at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before becoming Co-Owner, President and CEO of South Street Art Supply in Philadelphia. He sold the business to his partner in ’86, moved to the Eastern Shore, married, started a family, and continued to paint and to teach. Jack opened his studio-gallery in 2002 called Richardson Gallery located at 24 King Street in the rural, historic town of Onancock, VA.

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A Visit to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta

June 8, 2015
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Have you been to the High Museum in Atlanta?  Last week I took a road trip. It was my first time to Georgia, to Atlanta, and to the High Museum.   My time there was too short but here are a few photos that I thought you would enjoy.

 Los Trompos

Los Trompas (Spinning Tops) In the center of Woodruff Center Slater Sifly Piazza.

Los Trompos (Spinning Tops) In the center of Woodruff Center campus on the Sifly Piazza.

Los Trompos (Spinning Tops) is a large-scale, interactive design installation by contemporary Mexican designers Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena on the Woodruff Arts Center’s Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza.

On my way out of the museum the plaza had come alive with kids twirling around each top, climbing through the structures and running from one top to the other!


 A Painter’s Profile:

The High Celebrates Romare Bearden

Noah by Romanen Bearden

Romare Bearden, 1911-1988, “Noah, Third Day”, 1972, Collage and acrylic on board

Romare Bearden is one of my favorite artists. A Painter’s Profile is a small gem of an exhibit. Bearden (1911-1988) infused his work with themes central to the Black experience in America. For more than four decades, Bearden created a exciting and varied body of work that included collage, watercolors and prints. His strong Southern roots, spiritual influences from his youth, along with jazz along and broader art historical themes were strong influences in his work.

The exhibit runs through July 5, 2015.

 Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor, Untitled. Created in concave dish made of stainless steel.

Anish Kapoor, Untitled. Created in concave dish of stainless steel.

Untitled is created by Turner Prize winning artist, Anish Kapoor. Kapoor combines art and science. Using the concave dish and stainless steel he provides an engaging experience for the viewer –  there is a a sense of limitlessness with myraid fractured reflections within the surface.

Twenty Plaster Surrogates

Twenty Plaster Surrogates by Allan McCollum, 1983-195

Twenty Plaster Surrogates by Allan McCollum, 1983-195

Created using enamel on solid-cast Hydro-Stone, Allan McCollum’s “surrogate” paintings are black voids. Surrogates points to the Hydro-Stone used as stand-ins for the paintings. He hangs the surrogates in the Nineteenth Century Salon style.

 Green Chicken  and Portrait of Jaime Hayon

Green Chicken by Jaime Hayon, Lacquered fiberglass with metal bass.

Green Chicken by Jaime Hayon, Lacquered fiberglass with metal bass.

So whimsical! Green Chicken makes me smile. Jaime Hayon explores the common chicken and creates a modern piece of beauty and utility – a rocking chair.

On the wall, behind Green Chicken is Portrait of Jaime Hayon, by Nienke Klunder, 2008. Pigment inkjet print.

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The Power of the Image …Looking and Seeing

June 2, 2015
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“Migrant Mother” Dorothea Lange”s 1936 iconic photo is inspiration for Marisa Silver’s novel “Mary Coin”

I so love Marisa Silver’s new book, Mary Coin. She uses Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph, Migrant Mother as the fulcrum for her beautifully written story about photographer, subject, a moment in time and how history is made.

Inspired by real life women, Dorothea Lange and Florence Owen Thompson, it is a fictional exploration of the story behind the iconic photo. Silver’s compelling novel incorporates biographical details of her subjects about that brief encounter between two self-determined women; one celebrated and one unknown (Florence lived in anonymity and did not reveal who she was until nearing the end of her life).

Mary Coin is the migrant mother with courage and determination as well as secrets. Vera Dare is the photographer with creative ambitions who chooses to leave her children to pursue her work.  A third character in the book is Walker Dodge, a present-day profession of cultural history who discovers family secrets embedded in the photo. Silver tells a compassionate story about family, love, loss and uncertainty.

The story also explores questions about the power of photography, the morality of art and how history is interpreted and preserved. Vera Dare’s portrait brought the plight of the migrant workers and rural poverty to the attention of the Farm Security Bureau but she also knew that it might not help Mary and her children. In the framing of the photograph, Mary’s glance is full of strength and resignation. She is rooted in time. But why are the children turned from the camera?  Questions of intimacy and distance are threads throughout the book.

One of the most famous images of the 20th Century, the photo has become dull with time. It has been exhibited, used to document the Depression and even placed on a stamp. We have interpreted the image throughout the decades and no longer see it.

Marisa Silver weaves a beautiful story that gives new life to this iconic photograph and shows how photography can capture the essence of a moment but the question remains; does it blur or illuminate history?

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What Matters? The Love of It.

May 27, 2015
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You can’t always explain why you love what you love. The why of it doesn’t matter. The love of it does. I love vistas and “Hidden in the Mist” is my attempt to paint the mists that shrouds the winding mountain roads and majestic peaks. With edges soft, it swirls and dances and fades away.  I love capturing that moment in paint.

“Hidden in the Mist” will soon be completed and it will be time to move onto another painting.  There is always so much to hold my attention in the studio; paintings in various stages of process.  I find it exciting and challenging.  When done it will be added to the my Landscape Gallery on this site and will be available for purchase. Please check back next week. Thanks for stopping by!


Work in progress

Work in progress


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Interview with Mary Farmer – Asheville Encaustic Artist

May 15, 2015
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Mary Farmer is an accomplished and passionate artist whose journey with encaustic painting began in the 1990s. I recently visited Mary in her studio.

Mary Farmer in her studio.

Mary Farmer in her studio.

Encaustic is a Greek word meaning “to heat or burn in”. It is the oldest form of painting in use today, and one that has always fascinated me.  Mary melts beeswax adds color pigments, creates a paste then when molten applies the mixture to a panel. Her command of the medium is evidenced in her luminous and sensuous surfaces and her seductive approach to color. She creates a sense of depth and texture in her paintings that is unlike any other medium.

Walking into Mary’s studio is like walking into an alchemist laboratory. There is an eclectic mix of frying pans full of wax, tins ablaze with colored wax and harnessed with clothes pins; heat guns, many pounds of beeswax, hand torches and her in-process paintings.

How do you navigate the art world?

Mary: I actively participate with the galleries who represent me–I deliver on time, I keep their inventory updated, I have shows when asked, etc.

I love cultural events, plays, museum shows, and musical events. I went to Paris in February to see Sonia Delaunay’s long overdue retrospective and I plan see the Frida Kahlo exhibition that will examine Kahlo’s appreciation for the beauty and variety of the natural world, as evidenced by her home and garden as well as the complex use of plant imagery in her artwork at the NY Botanical Gardens. I have already been to her home outside Mexico City and seen those gardens.

Recently, I’ve decided to blog (had a very successful blog, The Steinberg Farmer Report, with Gail Steinberg in Northern California) again. It was fun, I enjoyed doing the research and I look forward to the new release any day now.

Not What It Used to Be, encaustic on panel, 38" x  30" Mary Farmer -Interlacing flowers are intricate. Pretty and highly feminine; they make me feel lavish, even special. They are also angelic yet slightly devilish what with all that twisting and twining. It gives a taste of what’s underneath but not the whole thing; that mystery is always a good thing.

Not What It Used to Be, encaustic on panel, 38″ x 30″ Mary Farmer – Interlacing flowers are intricate. Pretty and highly feminine; they make me feel lavish, even special. They are also angelic yet slightly devilish what with all that twisting and twining. It gives a taste of what’s underneath but not the whole thing; that mystery is always a good thing.

Describe your working routine.

Mary: The two questions I answer as I begin each painting are: what do I want to say or paint and how am I going to get there? Thus begins my studio day.

What (What?) am I thinking about? Is it pink tones of a beach sunset, dappled light in a forest, or fleshy light reflected from a firm rump? How will I express these thoughts in a well-executed piece of art?

Will I struggle? Will I engage in battle with the piece? Is it a fight to the death? Probably not, since as painters we are the luckiest of humans to get to paint and make art. How cool is that? It’s my job to paint. Each day I wrap my head around “Art is my job” as a guiding principle.

Then the process kicks in. Just how do I make art? Simply put, I am dedicated to my studio practice and embrace each step of my art making process. It all begins with solitude. It is my belief that arranging the mental space and accepting that I absolutely need time to think about my work is a major force in my creative process. Without it, I flounder and flop about.

When given proper time to think, ponder, question and debate, I tread a much smoother path to the How? Beginning, facing that bare panel or that white surface can be the most daunting of tasks (it’s almost as difficult as “Is the piece finished?”). As I begin, I shed any notion of where this will end; else I get tangled up in silly bits. This is discovery and I become willing to take the journey and find the outcome.

I do not preordain the outcome.

As I work new questions always pop up and sometimes, those queries require me to back up a few paces to consider what is being asked of me. For example: am I happy with the depth, do I need more going on between the layers, will a glaze work here and how’s the surface holding?

Then, you are speeding along, fusing with glee — and boom, you hit a snag. You slam right into some painterly quandary. Aren’t you glad you took the time, upfront, to think about the work on your table? This early prep always helps me overcome panic and sanely address the difficulty: is it too light, is there enough paint, does the passage work, is it stagnant, is it too floral, and is it not floral Enough and so on.

Yes, there is the occasional “accidental opportunity.” We all get a few of them in our painter’s lifetime. You cannot count on them to pull you out of trouble day after day. It won’t happen. Many non-painters believe that we do just that: go into the studio, sling paint and a masterpiece suddenly appears. You and I know it ain’t so.

It’s here where I take a breath, take some long looks at my painting and assess what’s going on. I begin to formulate answers to these questions:

  • What am I compelled to look at, where does my eye stop?
  • Why do I care?
  • Am I doing a proper job of executing this work?
  • Is there a construction problem with the composition?
  • Are my perspectives shifting appropriately?
  • Am I able to embrace the process or have I too tight a grip on the outcome?

As I explore the answers to these questions, I am able to rein in my wandering focus. No short cuts here. If I disregard any piece of this I’m probably going to fail. This means I’ll be scraping off layer after layer of wax because I would not fully engage, or sometimes I just feel smarter than the process. Again, it ain’t so. It’s so liberating to reject indecision and press on with the luxurious indulgence of moving the paint into a piece of work that makes you feel like, “I’ve done it.”

Is there something you are currently working on, excited about?

Mary: Yes! I have moved from my ethereal florals to a more impressionistic landscape. I have been stewing over my work for several months; it has to do with seeking protected and sheltered spaces. For a personal development project I’ve been mining the past and have discovered that my work revolves around the creation of a space that is liberated, unassailable and welcoming. I want the viewer to feel secure, seek sanctuary and know they are free from the daily fray in this space.

Endless Possibilities, Encaustic on panel, 40" x 40", 2015,  Mary Farmer

Endless Possibilities, Encaustic on panel, 40″ x 40″ , 2015, Mary Farmer

What advice to give other artists?

Mary: Make your own work, make the best work you can and continue to challenge yourself.  Make sure to show up everyday.

Why did I choose encaustics?

Mary: Initially, I thought oil painting was my calling. During my last year at Georgia State I was able to design my own semester (I had exhausted all the other painting classes) and wanted to develop my (you how it when you are sick of art school) work. During a final critique it was suggested that my painting was too good. I know! It sounded ridiculous to me, too. The committee wanted me to expand and grow, they felt I had reached a high level and wouldn’t challenge myself.

I had to find a new medium to explore and develop for myself. At that time few were working with encaustic. I’d heard about it, been introduced to it via a gallery friend and thought, “What the heck?”

So I set myself up in a studio to work out the details of painting with wax. I was so amazed by the depth, luminosity and fusing aspect. It hooked me right off; I had been glazing and thinning oil paint in an attempt to get the depth I suddenly was able to achieve with encaustic. It hits you like that – it’s like you’ve been put under the spell of Stupefyin’ Jones. Nothing would stop me from using this wax paint. That was 15 or so years ago and I’m still enthralled by encaustic.


Mary Farmer studio1



Encaustic tools



Wax on heater Mary Farmer studio

Mary’s studio table together with pans of wax pigments and a large fry pan full of beeswax.

Every time I teach I see the same thing – someone becomes captivated by encaustic paint.

It’s damn exciting to fire up a butane or propane torch and make art; knowing how much or how little heat to apply keeps me sharp. There is little margin for error when the flames are present. I can safely say, “Pfffftt! and your painting is lost.”

Mary’s painting journey began early 1990s in Atlanta GA where she studied at Atlanta College of Art and Georgia State University. Her final year at Georgia State, under the tutelage of Cheryl Goldsleger, is the turning point where Mary gave up oil painting and focused on working with encaustics. Upon graduation from Georgia State, Mary moved to Northern California where she became a founding member of West Coast Encaustic Artists (now IEA). Since her move to Asheville NC in 2008, she happily paints amid the majestic Smoky Mountains.

Mary’s work can be found at these galleries. And, you can follow her on Instagram.

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Landscape Paintings

May 15, 2015
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Inspired by nature. These serene landscapes are set against the distant horizon.

Along the Horizon, oil on panel, 6" x 6", 2015, Barbara J Hart

Along the Horizon, oil on panel, 6″ x 6″, 2015, Barbara J Hart. $90.00

ABOUT the WORK: “Along the Horizon”  is a small (6″ x 6″)  original oil painting on wood cradled panel (3/4″ profile) and ready to hang.  $90.00.

HOW to BUY:  go to Small Works Available for more details and shipping information.


Shoreline Memory-oil on panel-6x6-Barbara J Hart

Shoreline Memory, oil on panel, 6″ x 6″, 2015, Barbara J Hart. $90.00

ABOUT the WORK: “Shoreline Memory” is a small (6″ x 6″)  original oil painting on wood cradled panel (3/4″ profile) and ready to hang.  $90.00

HOW to BUY:  go to Small Works Available for more details and shipping information.

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