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 space towards the background of trees and shrubs serving as a horizontal and vertical balance.
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 Sandy. This car had carried my Art and me safely throughout six states worth of Art Festivals
But it was time. The rust, the rattles, the pervading sense of being stranded somewhere if the trusty ‘ole car decided to bite the bullet. It was very hard to find the right replacement vehicle. I took tape measuring to all the dealerships in search of the perfect match. To my dismay I discovered that all the SUV’s have been pumped up on steroids since I was last in the market. Too many rows of seats and driving around in a McMansion didn’t hold appeal for me.
After much searching I finally choose a RAV4 by Toyota. It fit the dimensions of my large paintings but wasn’t too over sized for day to day driving. So I’ve downsized slightly in order to have a fully flat surface for transporting plants & Art. The back seat is a bench style while most of the larger ones have bucket style seats.
Oh, and I was able to get it in green. Not a color offered very frequently anymore. One of the things that was a big pleasant surprise since I hadn’t had a new car in decades, was all the new technology built into cars nowadays. The new toys helped with the sorrowful transition I felt on abandoning my old friend.
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 9×12” painting.
The aspect ratio remains the same regardless of whether an art work is hung in a horizontal or vertical direction.
This 4:3 aspect ratio is visually comfortable for most viewers and replicates the standard television format that was used until recently. With the advent of HD TV, the standards have changed to a longer screen and a 16:9 ratio is now the flat screen TV norm. This changes the shape or aspect ratio of the rectangle that is viewed by most people on a regular basis.
This change in aspect ratio is also reflected in digital photography and in paintings. This new TV standard has increased the popularity of the longer 2:3 ratio. The new sizes in paintings would represent: 8×12”, 12×18”, 16×24”, 20×30”, 24×36”, 28×42” and 30×45”.
Framers use these standard sizes for many of their ready-made frames which is a cost saving to the Art Collector.
I create all my paintings in standard sizes so custom framing is not necessary
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 a watery grave.
Into the Red-Orange Sky.
Personal Writing by Mary Ahern, May 15, 1978
Illustration: Oil painting with digital overlays in Photoshop.
“The Red-Orange Sky” is the first painting I ever made. It was before I went to college to study art. I was taking Wednesday evening art classes at the YMCA near where I was living in Queens Village. Circa 1974.
The Digital additions for illustration purposes were made in Photoshop November 16, 2013.
Buy either of these Designer Prints and I will donate 20% of the Sale to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.
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 Breast Cancer Research. Guaranteed!
Why I am making this offer.
First of all, I have too many girlfriends who have been afflicted by this disease. Neither age, nor healthy lifestyle choices seem to have deterred this onslaught.
I am angry and disgusted!
Why these two flowers?
As I traveled to various states doing Fine Arts Festivals over the years, I realized that an unusual number of women were buying these pretty pink flower prints for themselves, their sisters, mothers or girlfriends. During conversations I began to be aware of how many of my Pink Botanical Prints were being given as gifts to women struggling with Breast Cancer.
I decided to do something about it.
I will donate 20% of the profits from the Sale of either of these two Floral Prints to the Komen foundation to go towards research to help fine a cure for this dreaded disease.
When I returned to the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival a year after my previous visit, a customer stopped by my booth to tell me that she had bought a large framed Kansas Peony piece from me the previous year and that she had hung it opposite her bed so it would be the first thing she saw each morning during her challenging year.
I was so moved by this. I was proud to support her in her struggle.
Order either of these prints in whatever size you choose from my Fine Art America store and when I receive notification of payment I promise to make the appropriate donation to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
Wikipedia Information About The Susan G. Komen Foundation.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation gives so much help and supportive information to women at their most vulnerable time!
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is an organization supporting breast cancer research. Since its inception in 1982, Komen has raised over $1 billion for research, education and health services, making it the largest breast cancer charity in the US. Komen has more than 75,000 volunteers nationwide — 122 affiliates in the United States (47 of 50 states) and 3 in other countries.
Susan Goodman Komen was a woman from Peoria, Illinois who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and died three years later, in 1980.Komen’s younger sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, feeling that Susan’s outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment, and remembering a promise to her sister that she would find a way to speed up breast cancer research, founded The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Komen’s memory in 1982.In 2007, the 25th anniversary of the organization, it changed its name to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, created a new logo, and adopted the explicit mission “to end breast cancer forever”.
Additional Information regarding the The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
Grants and awards
Since 1982, Komen has provided funding for basic, clinical and translational breast cancer research and for innovative projects in the areas of breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment. In addition, Komen awards three-year postdoctoral fellowships to individuals working under the guidance of experienced cancer researchers in order to recruit and retain young scientists in the field of breast cancer research.In addition to funding research, Komen and its affiliates fund non-duplicative, community-based breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment projects for the medically under-served.ince 1992, Komen has also annually awarded work in the field of cancer research with the Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction.
Komen has dedicated nearly $1 billion to creating awareness and finding a cure for breast cancer, making it the nation’s largest private funding source for breast health and breast cancer. Since 1982, Komen has awarded more than 1,000 breast cancer research grants totaling more than $180 million. Komen adheres to a peer-review process that is recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).As of 2007, research grants are available for basic, clinical, and translational research; postdoctoral fellowships; and breast cancer disparities research.
Komen has taken the stand that scientific progress needs to be complemented by sound public policy. Komen works to influence public policy-makers at the federal, state and local levels to increase public investment in quality breast health and breast cancer care. As part of their efforts, Komen has established Komen Champions for the Cure, a structured advocacy organization that, through community involvement, contacts Congress, federal officials, state legislators, and other policy makers about breast cancer.
According to the United Nations World Health Organization, more than 500,000 people worldwide die from breast cancer every year, and breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide. Komen for the Cure states that its aim is to “reduce the burden of breast cancer on a global level”. Believing that no single approach to breast health will prove effective around the world, Komen works with local communities and organizations to develop programs for particular groups or cultures.
• Komen Race for the Cure — a series of 5 kilometer run/fitness walk foot races to raise money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, celebrates breast cancer survivorship, and memorializes those who lost their battle with the disease
• The Breast Cancer 3-Day — a 60-mile walk for women and men: participants walk 60 miles (96.6 km) in three days to help raise millions of dollars for breast cancer research and patient support programs.
• Passionately Pink for the Cure — a fundraising and education program in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
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