I was asked to do an informational interview by Misty Swan who is working on her college Art degree. Here are her questions and my responses. This interview was done via email.
- Please state your name, the name of your business, city and state you live in, and your profession.
Name: Mary Ahern
Business names: Mary Ahern Artist, Reimagined Memories, Fine Art for the Garden and ondesign.com, a website design business.
Place: Northport NY.
Profession: Professional Artist
- How long have you been pursuing photography and painting?
I began painting & photography in the mid-1970’s.
- What excites you the most about photography and painting?
Creating something out of thin air that no one else had ever seen in the same way that I had.
- How much training and education have you received in your field?
- I graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from Queens College in NY in 1980. During the 70’s, Feminist Art work was on the rise as was Photo-Realism along with many other avant-garde styles. Most of my professors had studios in SOHO, which at the time was the center of the NY art scene. We were encouraged to frequent the galleries, set up interviews with artists and critics and generally be involved in some way with the art scene.
- After college, and not wanting to starve, I built a career selling computer graphics platforms to the TV broadcast & production industries. In order to sell this technology I had to learn all the graphics & electronic paint systems . Training was provided on the job but I brought my Art background with me.
- Because of my love of gardens and flowers in 2000 I earned an AAS degree in Ornamental Horticulture exactly twenty years after my BA in Fine Art.
- To brush up on my drawing skills I returned to school for a 2 year diploma/certification in Botanical Illustration from the New York Botanical Garden graduating in 2004
- A week never goes by that I don’t take an online webinar in either painting, software or marketing. I have taken so many webinars & seminars over many, many years that it’s too hard to count. I believe in life-long learning.
- In 2015 I took a 1 year mentorship program in portrait painting from a digital artist like myself who is based in Louisiana. He pushed me out of my comfort zone to paint people. There is always more to learn, to grow, to expand.
- How did you choose your field of photography and painting?
I don’t really understand the question. Do you really choose a field of painting style or does it choose you? My work has evolved as I evolved.
- How has the field of photography and painting changed since you started?
This question is really answerable in a dissertation, but here is a snippet.
I believe that technology has changed the field of photography the most. With the introduction of digital cameras the access to photography has reached a greater cohort of people. Mobile phone cameras have grown the accumulation of images exponentially but not necessarily artistically. The bar has been lowered to what the general public assumes is Art.
The field of painting has been less affected by the introduction of electronic paint systems since they, up until now at least, are still not in general use. Also, all the same rules of painting apply to digital as to traditional. It is just another medium in which to work.
- What are the most important skills to have in order to be successful in this field?
I am a great communicator, a salesperson, a marketing person. If I didn’t have these skills my Art would accumulate in my closets.
- What do you dislike about this field?
I dislike that many potential clients undervalue our work since they have the insane belief that we paint for fun and relaxation. Those are the ones that don’t understand the difference between a Professional Artist and a person who paints as a hobby.
- What is your most interesting photo shoot or painting?
I am always drawn to my garden for inspiration. The closer I paint the flowers the better. The colors are rich, the forms are voluptuous, the textures challenging.
- What are the things that keep you passionate and motivated in your field?
I constantly reach to learn more. A week never goes by that I don’t learn something new or refresh my knowledge base. I read Art books, I take webinars, I read Art blogs, I go to Art Shows & museums. I am always in a learning mode.
- Do you have any words of wisdom for someone entering this field of work?
One thing I was never taught in Art school was how to make a living from my Art. I used my own mental creativity to zig and zag myself into a career in the visual arts.
It is very rare for painters and photographers to make a really decent living from just the narrow vision of what they view as their Art. I had to step outside of my comfort zone in order to support my family but because I did it creatively, I was able to maintain a career with a tangential relationship to the Arts & also maintain a working studio.
As Artists we are creative people. Living creatively doesn’t mean that one has to be a starving Artist. In fact by thinking creatively and widely, you can have a profitable & emotionally fulfilled career. Enjoy!
The only way for me to efficiently prepare for any upcoming Lecture or Art Show exhibition is to create a checklist of items I need to complete to make a successful event. These contain Marketing items, preparing to show the Art, inventory items for sale & display and the advance staging & rehearsal.
For my latest upcoming Art Lecture at the Long Island Horticultural Society, I worked from this list if items. I really enjoy drawing lines through each task as I complete it so I can move on to the next.
The list is fluid & with each event I have to make adjustments but this is a fairly good outline to begin with.
Lecture To-Do List
- Update my website
- Write blog post
- Write & send Press Release
- Create poster
- Email poster
- Create newsletter
- Email newsletter
- Post event to Facebook
- Post event to Fine Art America
- Post event to HAC
- Post event to NAC
- Print price lists
- Create & print handouts
- Create Planting Fields paintings
- Get portraits printed
- Paint mixed media paintings
- Inventory small prints for sale
- Inventory matted prints for sale
- Inventory note cards for sale
- Collect show-&-tell items
Staging & Rehearsal
- Update power point presentation
- Stage easels with lighting
- Stage & test presentation
The headlines herald the 25th Birthday of the introduction of Photoshop, the photo editing software that almost everyone has heard about and many have used. Photoshop was released on Thursday February 19, 1990, 25 years ago. I, however, began painting electronically years earlier on the Chyron Chameleon Paint System.
The Chameleon was a digital painting & editing system complete with dedicated hardware & software aimed at the Broadcast TV & production industry.. Primitive by our current standards but tremendously advanced at that time in the mid-1980’s.
In order to sell a paint system in the ‘80’s, since no one really understood the enormous creative possibilities of computer painting, I did demonstrations & lectures in order to sell this tremendously creative tool. It offered drawing tools & brushes, cut & paste, zoom, a removable hard drive, video outputs and 8 bits of color.
I have made a very good living using Photoshop, amongst other digital imaging programs, but I was able to apply my Artist’s vision first using the tablet & stylus of the Chameleon.
So I wish Photoshop a very Happy 25th Birthday but they are the young kid on the block. I have been digitally painting for 30 years.
In my late summer garden this dramatic combination of colors occurs when the daylillies bloom amongst the rudbeckia. The cultivar name is Van Gogh daylily so how could I not fall in love with it given my Dutch heritage. The rudbeckia is the classic variety named Rudbeckia fulgida and multiplies happily in this garden setting. I composed this painting in a classical pyramidal style for the daylilies then using the receding rudbeckia to open the … Continue reading →
I finally bit the bullet and bought a new car to replace my 1996 Nissan Pathfinder with 200,010 miles on it. I called her my gardening car since I could pack so many plants in her. She also carried my Art to many, many Art Festivals over the years. By giving her up I felt almost the same sense of mourning as I did when I lost 4 trees in my woodland garden to Hurricane … Continue reading →
The aspect ratio of a painting is the relationship between the height and width of the finished piece. In painting the most common aspect ratio has been 3:4. This means that for every 3 inches in the horizontal/vertical, there would be 4 inches in the other direction. An example would be a 30” by 40” painting. By reducing the size but maintaining the same 3:4 aspect ratio relationship you would have an18x24”, 12×16” or a … Continue reading →
Water World – cold, restrictive, uncaring, Sitting in it’s dark ——– just staring At the blackness. Blankness. Walls Without Windows. Screaming so loud that no one can hear In the isolation of my still infinity. Unmovable arms, muscles pounded by waves. Strength dissipated by the struggle. Each year another breath of water Engulfs my being, body and brain. Dying Alive. Dark Death. Arms at my sides grabbing for life. Rocket screaming energy propels me from … Continue reading →
Buy either of these Designer Prints and I will donate 20% of the Sale to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. I promise! Kansas Peonies: Purchase this print in any size at my Fine Art America store and I will donate 20% of the sale to Breast Cancer Research. Guaranteed! Bleeding Heart: Purchase this print in any size at my Fine Art America store and I will donate 20% of the sale to … Continue reading →
Artist Mother – Mother Artist One and the same. Complements in name. Work unending, always tending To seek the insights needed to know, to nourish – to form – to grow. Taken for granted, demands expanded, Desire for life on a higher standard. Creative, depletive, rewarding, absorbing. Continuous rebirth of the most generous kind. Writing by Mary Ahern Feb. 20, 1978 Sketch by Mary Ahern October, 27, 2013 … Continue reading →