The flowers I create in my studio with brush and canvas speak to me beyond their intricacy of form, color, ruffles and swirls. LIke everyone else they initially attract me with the way the color changes as the light graces their outer curves and when it delicately enters their inner recesses, their intimacy. The edges of petals dance like ballerina skirts bouncing in the breeze. Their edges are fluted, scalloped, curved and splayed defining their differences and embracing their similarities of purpose.
I love the architecture of flowers, not just how they grow on their stems, their height, their leaves and their unique outward appearance. I concentrate on the inner architecture of their center parts, the configurations of their pistils and stamens, their anthers laden with pollen. Quite frankly, these flowers are built to seduce their pollinators. The birds and the bees but also the billions of bugs who help by rolling in their pollen to feast and to share and to help create the next generation to grace the earth.
Flowers speak to me of our universe. Our purpose. Our endurance. Each flower is an individual with its own color, shape and form. It’s own choices of community, culture and companionship. It’s own needs for climate, food and water for sustenance. But we all share our need to survive, another season, another year, another generation.
Whether I am among the flowers in my garden or the flowers in my studio, I embrace our diversity and our commonalities. All these flowers in soil or on canvas speak beyond themselves, they’re ideas and thoughts beyond just the visual. They speak to the interior of our purpose and our minds. They are us.
My muse, is my garden. Other gardens as well, but my garden in particular. I move in it, feel it, and hear the breezes whisper through it. I watch the lighting during the day as it slides over and around the textured surfaces.
These Fire Flame Peonies bloom in my garden each year in May at the same time as the color matching azalea.
Lighting so different on days with sun and with clouds. Lighting in the spring with the bright yellow greens of optimistic new growth and lighting by the fall with ambers & tans of a lived life. Morning light offers tender ambiance while afternoon colors not only light the scene from a different direction, the colors are deeper and warmer.
My garden brings consciousness and meaning to me. It keeps me grounded. The ephemeral beauty of an unfertilized blossom studied up close with magnifiers and macro lenses is a representation of a miracle. The world of possibility. The beginning of a story I represent in my Art. I walk through my garden gathering ideas. Stories I want to tell. Suggested ideas I want to convey.
In my garden I spend time designing the landscape or I spend time closely and intimately with a singular specimen at a particular stage of growth. In my studio I may paint a vignette or a full landscape view of a part of the garden I’ve designed, or I may choose to paint a small portion of one flower that has moved me. The minute miracle. This is my work. Outdoors and indoors. These are the stories I tell. This is my Art.
In my late summer garden this dramatic combination of colors occurs when the daylillies bloom amongst the rudbeckia. The cultivar name is Frans Hals 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.
Frans Hals Daylilies with Rudbeckia 24×36″ Mixed Media on Canvas.
My paintings actually start in my garden. This is where I grow the flowers, shrubs and trees, which are a part of the workflow of my creative output. The sun and shade play a role in all my compositions.
I actually consider the creative work to be seamless whether at work in the garden or at work in my studios. The up close and personal view of the flowers when I’m weeding, deadheading, trimming and tending allow me the time to become intimately aware of each flower’s details. This is something I like to convey in my work.
Light Blue Iris Germanica
These light blue irises came to dance in the breezes in the front garden, which I can see through the French doors in my living room. Though short lived, their ephemeral character is part of the fun of capturing them in my Art.
Phlox stolonifera, ‘Sherwood Purple’ in front of a Karume azalea in the woodland walks.
The composition of this painting was created using elements from different areas of my garden. The woodland walks with their large hemlock trunks for the vertical accents, which mimic the verticals of the irises. The rare spots of sunshine in the front garden, which hold the irises and many other perennial sun lovers, give me many sources of inspiration during the seasons.
Mary Ahern is an artist member of the Huntington Arts Council. Much of her art is inspired by her garden, a piece of art in its own right that is constantly changing. Her husband, Dave, often comments that her plants seem to be on wheels since Mary is constantly moving her plants from flowerbed to flowerbed. She uses the texture and color of the plants to create beautiful works of art in her garden.
In Northport NY the peonies bloom in June
Walking through Mary’s garden and listening to her speak about it reveals how much thought was put behind each and every placement. Mary uses her plants to create artwork just as she uses oil paint. Each plant has specific colors or textures that can be used to compliment or contrast the other plants it is put with. Certain beds of flowers are based on the color of those certain plants, i.e., mixing deep reds with frosted greens. Others are based on the texture of the plant, i.e. small leaves, low ground covering, etc.
However it doesn’t stop there. Each of these flowerbeds is incorporated into the garden as a whole and even the pathways that flow between each have been carefully laid out. The flowers that Ahern cultivates influence her artwork greatly. She likes to have samples of the subjects she is working on around her. “I’m not trying to duplicate what a camera can do. I’m interpreting in a realistic style how I see the subject.”
The Krinkled White is a single peony prized for its simplicity
When you step into Mary’s home and studio, it is as though the garden is continuing inside as well. Her art work adorns the walls and upstairs in the studio her love for the garden is transformed into pieces of art.
Mary was first introduced to gardening by her Uncle Teddy who was a gardener himself. “Every time we visited, I loved to help him in the garden and when I acquired my first plant at around the age of five, I made it very clear to everyone in my family that I was the only one allowed to care for it. Since I have always held a passion for the garden, it was only natural that it showed up in my artwork.”
Mary uses many different mediums to create her works of art. They include oils, watercolors, and digital painting. The amount of care and detail incorporated in each piece is absolutely astounding. She creates Digital Flower and Shell Paintings as well as paintings using Traditional media.
Mary has been digitally designing for over 25 years now. She first started at Chyron Corporation, located in Melville, working in Sales and Marketing Positions. Later, Mary began her own graphic design company called Online Design which, at that time, was one of the few to be 100% digital.
Although Mary Ahern has been painting for over 30 years now, as a young child she never really became interested in the arts. Music was a large influence during her high school years: she was in the band and even conducted, which was rare for a women to do during that time.
It wasn’t until Mary was in her 20’s that she became interested in art, when one of her friends gave her a book about the work of the artist, Georgia O’Keeffe This influenced her to take a class at the local Y and when she picked up the paintbrush she knew it was her calling. “The paintbrush seemed like an extension of my arm. Since then art has never been a hobby but a part of my life.” She went on from there and got a degree in Fine Arts from Queens College and has been creating ever since.
Four different background treatments of the Krinkled White Peony
For those interested in pursuing a career in the arts Mary’s advice is to develop business and marketing skills in addition to the skills you develop to create your Art. The web and social networking sites make marketing available to everyone. “Whether it’s a website, a blog and alsoTwitter, Facebook or a combination, it is important for potential buyers to see the artist behind the paintings because that also helps to sell your art.”
She believes that a career in the arts is a very tough “glamour” business and you must have entrepreneurial skills as well as lots of determination to be successful. Mary Ahern also states that there are not many things more rewarding then to have someone who has purchased one of her Fine Art pieces tell her how much pleasure they have received every day from seeing her work hanging in their home It makes her smile.
• To see some of her beautiful artwork, head over to her website,
I’ve just created a series of digital paintings of a Krinkled White Peony that was blooming in my garden this past June.
For my inspiration I chose an herbaceous white single peony that was introduced into cultivation in 1928. The plant grows to about 3 feet tall and wide. This year with all the rain it grew so very tall that I had to add a peony cage to one of them since it was so heavy due to the huge amount of flowers that it produced.
A single white “Krinkled Peony” which grew in my garden this June.
The petals are so delicate they remind me of crepe paper that I used to use when I made my paper flowers as a child. The golden yellow stamens add a dramatic accent.
One of the very rare sunny spots in my garden hosts the peonies.
I’ve been tending this plant for over a decade and a few years ago moved it from a rather shady location where it bloomed each year but didn’t flourish. Though most of my garden is in some percentage of shade I decided to divide and transplant this perennial into the sunniest part of my garden. Since then it has more than tripled the amount of flowers it produces.
In this series of work I’ve decided to augment the dramatic simplicity of the single peony with different colored backgrounds. Each of these pieces will work individually but they also work as a group.
Single White Peony series of digital paintings.
As with many of my other works, I offer these digital paintings in a variety of sizes and framing treatments. These Fine Art works are available on Fine Art paper and also on UV treated canvas either framed or gallery wrapped.
If a specific design plan comes to mind, I can also customize the color backgrounds to suit the creative intent.
I will be showing these Art Works for the first time at the Northport Art in the Park, Saturday, July 25, 2009 from noon until 5pm.
Hope you can stop by the show and say hello. If you can’t and you would like to find out more about my work, you can contact me on Facebook, Twitter, my website MaryAhernArtist.com and here on my blog by posting a comment.
My Garden and my Art work side by side. Both require me to make aesthetic judgements about composition, scale, color, texture and style. When I’m deciding where to plant the flowers I’ve hauled home on my endless trips to the nurseries it doesn’t seem that much different to me then when I’m deciding how to compose them on a two dimensional surface.
I think about what style I’m looking for, what colors will work together, whether the scale of the placement works for me. I think about the type of flower and texture of the leaves. I make decisions about the 3D composition of the garden much like the 2D composition decisions on a painting.
The garden adds so many additional layers of complexity since the artwork is moving in time with nature, the seasons, the elements, and time. The painting remains caught in a moment.
Capturing that ephemeral moment is so gratifying to me in my Fine Art. I control it, unlike my Garden which is usually out of control.
You can visit this Watercolor painting on my website in The Work or you can buy a print of it in The Store.
Grape muscari, otherwise known as Grape Hyacinths live close to the ground. For years I never took much notice of them except for the little spots of brilliant purple that bounced so nicely against the bright yellow daffodils they bloomed along with in April.
Then I got down. Hands and knees down.
What a surprise! How intricate the little flowers are. Little bells dance around a central stem forming a small pyramid. This inflorescence changes shape as it ages and can be more and less tightly knit.
The individual purple doesn’t seem to change on each bell but the overall purple varies when viewed at a distance based upon the tightness of the overall flower.
I enjoyed these 4″ bulbs so much in my garden that I bought a bag of them from Costco one year and low and behold the next spring the flowers that bloomed were very different from my originals. They were more blue then purple and had a more rounded then pyramidal over shape.
So I googled Grape Muscari and found a world of cultivars I didn’t previously know existed. That’s one of the things that is so much fun about gardening. You are constantly in a learning mode. You are in for surprises every year and every season. The knowledge and information you acquire just keeps on growing, along with your garden.
So now I know that so far in my garden I have Muscari armeniacum and M. azureaum. Next year I’m sure to have more.
When I made my Digital Mixed Media Painting of my Grape Muscari I was careful to recreate the basal growth of the leaves. It would not have been accurate if I’d placed the leaves higher on the stem. The painting would have looked like a plant Frankenstein. As a Garden Artist, that is not what I’m trying to create.
You can view this Grape Muscari piece in my Store.
Isn’t that a fantastic name? Dicentra spectabilis. It just rolls out of your mouth in a lilting singsong kind of rhythm doesn’t it? I love to say it quietly under my breath as I walk around my woodland garden in May. Not too loud so as to scare the birds and the neighbors (and myself for that matter.)
I love their color pink. I have some white ones, , but the pink ones are just so luscious. They reseed very freely for me and I’m able to reposition the offspring into springtime vignettes.
Dicentra spectabilis close-up
When I bought this property in 1989 there was one plant of Dicentra native here and I’ve managed over time to spread the wealth around my own garden and also with other gardeners. What a treat!
I don’t mind that they die back in the summer because it gives me another planting opportunity but some of the holes they leave behind can be very BIG planting opportunities…all the more opportunity for creativity to kick in.
I made a Digital Mixed Media Painting, which I call, “Dicentra Necklace”. I think of these joyful little gems in my garden, decorating the light greens of spring with their pink heart shaped “jewelry”.
I have a number of varieties of White Daffodils growing in my garden but I don’t feel that I ever have enough. Since I am over run by squirrels I try to focus away from crocus and my beloved tulips. (After all, both my parents were born in Holland!) Squirrels consider the bulbs as an entrée and the flowers, if they arrive, as delectable garnish but they leave my daffodils alone.
The abundant shade in my garden causes challenges to many of my daffodil plantings but I still crave the color in early spring. One of the fun parts of designing gardens is figuring out how to hide the declining leaves on the daffodils as they absorb the chlorophyll for next year’s growth.
I’ve been known to hide them using daylilies, Siberian iris and ornamental grasses. I’ve stopped braiding the leaves since it seems so demeaning to their dignity.
I created a Digital Mixed Media Painting from one of these white daffodils. I love the way daffodil leaves have a slight twist to them. One of things I kept in mind when composing the piece is that the stem is offset where it enters the back of the flower, unlike a tulip which is a straight up vertical.
Another issue is making sure that I paint the shadows different from when the “light” hits the round stem vs. when it hits a flat leaf.
You can see this Single White Daffodil in my Store. I created various sizes for purchase. I think it has a rather heroic feel to the composition.
My garden is often the source material for my Digital Mixed Media Paintings. Though I am not a Photographer, I like to use my digital camera to record the progress and changes in my garden from day to day and year to year.
Springtime is such a hectic time since I’m always late uncovering the perennial beds. These jolly yellow daffodils came up in my entry garden and I was lucky enough to catch the early morning light behind them.
My entry garden is still in need of some tidying but putting the pansies into the pots and baskets takes my mind off the leaves from last fall.
Though I like to create gardens and like to create Fine Art using my garden, in the garden I get messy and dirty while my Botanical Art is clean and stylized.
This Digital Mixed Media Painting is a very popular piece that surprisingly sells all year long, not just in the spring as I would have imagined. People buy this Single Yellow Daffodil as an individual piece and also as a grouping along with some of my other daffodil Art Works. You can see them in my Store.
On January 5, 2008 I was featured in an article in Newsday titled “Dream Chasers.” The subject was the choices and sacrifices some people make when deciding to step off the corporate treadmill in order to pursue more emotionally or spiritually rewarding careers without regard to financial restraints.
The author of the article, Arlene Gross, wrote about the choices, decisions and sacrifices of five different individuals. The various paths we chose to explore in our second careers are as different as our paths in our initial and primary wage earning pursuits.
Noel Rubinton, the editor of the Act Two section of Newsday, however, hit on a different issue when he encouraged people to use the New Year as an opportunity to explore yourself even if you couldn’t at this time make the giant leap of a whole new career.
Noel wrote that, “A line that really resonated in our cover story came from Mary Ahern… finding that switch took work. ‘The hard part at first was trying to find inside myself what that dream actually was. You spend so much time marching forward and doing what you do, you lose the essence of yourself’.”
When my husband Dave gave me as a wedding gift, which coincided with my 50th birthday, the opportunity to re-invent myself you would think I would have immediately jumped into my studio. Instead I whined and anguished for a months over what I wanted to do with this great new vista open to me.
I was so overwhelmed with the immense possibilities I now had available to me that I suffered each day trying to make the right decision with this precious gift. I spent so much time trying to fathom what makes me tick, what intellectually interests me, what direction would support my value system, what new career would be feasible and sustainable for the next 30 or so years, what would not impinge on the home life that we had just found together and cherished so much.
I talked about it endlessly. I beat it to death. I’m sure there were times that Dave wished he hadn’t made the offer since I was so annoying in my pursuit of the “what if’s”. Massage therapist? Lawyer? Chiropractor? Quite frankly, I never even considered Artist.
I knew one thing for sure. I was tired of computers and wanted to become a Luddite. And then one Saturday morning, sitting on our deck, having coffee while surrounded by the gardens I designed and have worked on for decades, Dave suggested that since we loved the gardens so much and they gave such joy to people, why not design gardens for others.
Ten days later I was enrolled as a full-time student in the Ornamental Horticulture Program at Farmingdale. I knew I wanted to be a landscape designer and this was the best beginning. Two years later I graduated with my degree and a new career.
The art of drawing boots and shoes is taught in all college curriculums since it is logical to select subjects readily available to even the most cash strapped students. In fact, the older and more beat up a shoe the more character it has and sometimes that goes for humans as well. These drawing studies were created in the second semester of my Freshman year of York College in Queens NY, 1976.
My son Chris’ denim boots
The first drawing of boots, with the heel cropped on the bottom of the paper, either indicates an advanced notion of composition or the inability to judge the size of the paper. These were denim boots I bought for my son Chris and they made him the coolest kid in elementary school. The drawing is dated 3/7/1976.
This drawing was one of my first attempts at using a stick of Conte crayon. I had moved beyond using just the weight of the stroke to indicate dimension and had begun to include shadows and light source.
My Earth Shoes in a conte crayon drawing (without shoe laces)
Earth shoes were my footgear for most of the ‘70’s since they were comfortable and easy on my back. This conte drawing is lacking the completion the assignment probably called for but I was amused at seeing my shoes again for the first time in 30 years. In fact these shoes might be having a renaissance as I’ve seen them advertised in one of the flood of catalogs that show up at my door. This drawing is dated 3/8/1976, which makes it the day after the denim boots shown above and is probably the reason for their lack of detail.
Frye Boots in a wash drawing
The pen and ink study of Frye boots dated 3/11/1976 was a very early attempt at controlling an ink wash. The composition, in my mind, is more successful than the first two drawings since they utilize the format and dimensions of the paper with a greater sensitivity.
I have no recollection of whether these drawings were done in the classroom or as homework assignments. Given the length of time it would have taken for me to complete each of these drawings I presume most of the work would have been done on my dining room table after my sons went to sleep for the night.