Throughout the year I spend time immersed in my garden in the warm summer sunshine and the deep winter snow. The myriad of colored petals, the exquisite architecture of a flower’s anatomy, the subtle shifts of green inspire me throughout the seasons.
Here’s me in my spring garden with the camellias in bloom that inspired the original painting that is behind me in an aluminum print. The aluminum hangs outdoors all year long whether the camellias are in bloom or not. You can buy them on my website here.
There are seasons I’m with my flowers in the garden and seasons where they enter my studio as inspirations for my paintings and drawings. Each art form is dependent on the other to continue my seasonal shifts of creation.
All winter I paint flowers. The bright happy flowers of my summer garden follow me into my studio and surround me with their joy and inspiration during the short dark days of winter. In my studio, they help me to wind down the hectic whirlwind of gardening in the bright sunshine.
But each year the same joy of being in my studio creating my Art begins to take a turn into claustrophobia when the daffodils spring forth with their joyous yellow heads as they entice me outdoors. It’s the beginning of the push and pull for me to be in my studio or to be in my garden. Both are my creative forces. Both get my creative juices flowing. Without either the other would be that much the poorer.
The balancing of time subsides somewhat in the mid-summer when the heat and humidity drive me back to the cooler breezes in my air-conditioned studio. Another burst of art flows from inside the walls during those hot weeks of August. When the humidity subsides the gardening resumes.
Inevitably when the nights begin to provide good sleeping weather, the transition from new expectations of growth in the garden turns instead to senescence and the decisions of what to preserve commences. Choices of what to overwinter, what must be sacrificed take precedence. Mulching, raking, clearing debris marks the bedding down of my outside work.
Then comes the time in the fall when the garden is put to sleep that the joyful season of painting and drawing begins again within the walls of my studio as I create my winter garden of work surrounded by my summer flowers.
I‘m that kind of gardener. The one who opens the windows to inhale the smell of the soil in the morning mist. A day isn’t complete unless I’ve walked the woodland paths, seen the changes however small, what has begun, what has passed its peak of perfection. Which plants are inviting their cohort of pollinators, the array of the birds and the bees? This is the half-acre of land I’ve designed, planted and tended for over 30 years. The soil is rich in abundance, helped by the leaves I shred each year.
The garden constantly evolves with each season and each year as do I. Fall is when I gather the leaves and branches to shred and place back into the garden to keep the beds warm and covered from the winter winds. There is a rhythm to the garden as there is a rhythm to life.
For years I’ve had this chipper, its large, heavy and gunmetal gray. When the machine roars into life in its loud and vicious voice you know it means business. I use this to make my own mulch. Gather my garden debris to enrich the soil and feed it into the maw of this machine. Chip my own branches for the pathways I walk and contemplate.
Once you put the cord to start the engine it drowns out the sounds of life around you. There is an urgency to feed the beast. I have my piles of leaves at hand to be shredded to shorten the duration of this violent machine and return again to the quiet contemplative space I crave. This is the stage to move fast to silence the din.
And then the blades jammed. The engine pushed and growled. The whole machine quivered trying to dislodge the offending object. The squeal of the engine roaring deafened me demanding a quick solution. I felt my heartbeat quicken. A frustration and impatience entered my being. A demand for a quick remedy.
So I removed the chute which served as the feeder to the blades. There I could see the chunk of wood jamming the metal and in my mindless haste I reached in with my hand to unblock the shredder.
The searing pain was beyond description. More than I’d ever experienced in my entire life. Beyond childbirth, beyond car accidents. Beyond anything my mind could process. And I was alone. No one to call out for. No one could hear me. I just let my arm hang limply by my side. And I refused to look down. Not prepared yet to see what I was left with from what I knew was a defining event of my life.
I leaned forward against the railing of my deck, my mind emptied of rational thought. No plan of action arrived. My logical brain inactive, devoid of anything other than the pain. It gripped me. Wrapped me wholly. I was enveloped with pain. Just the thumping, throbbing, pounding of pain.
Then I looked up. The trees were swaying gently with the wind in their long and pensive manner. The leaves, dressed in their fall colors. were wiggling and waving at me beckoning my attention. Beyond was a brilliant blue sky, the most beautiful blue I’d seen in my entire life and I’d seen many. The breeze caressed me. It was a moment of indelible beauty. My world came to a halt. My garden surrounded me with healing calmness. Caressed me with its fragrance, its life. I was bodyless.
Now I understand more of why I garden. It’s not for me to show my friends my great expertise. To flaunt the rare specimens I collect. To boast in my selection of flowers for color balance and seasonal flair that I am able to coax into being. My garden is not an ego trip.
This garden is threaded through with paths, to walk through, to discover, to immerse yourself. The journey around my garden is for enlightenment. The senses heightened by the wisp of nuance seen from the side of one’s eye. It’s in a subtle awareness of the healing that we gather from the earth. The wonder of how interwoven we are with the natural world surrounding us. The fact that we are just another component of an incomprehensible network of living beings. It is humbling.
And if we listen, the garden also teaches us to ponder, to meditate, to slow our heartbeat down to absorb life. It teaches us to travel inside our soul to seek our essence. Gardens are about optimism too. The grand possibilities of our future. What profound truths will reveal themselves? What miracle will the world visit upon us graciously?
Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention, my fingers were not shredded that day.
Long ago in the way back machine, I grew some sunflowers for my young sons. You know which ones, they’re the 8-foot tall ones that excite every kid. So on the day the flower was pitch-perfect, I pulled out my pastels and tried to capture its roundness, its color. And then it was time to light the barbecue and make dinner for the boys so I put away my pastels and paper while planning to finish the work the next day.
We enjoyed our burgers outside in the garden under the towering sunflowers that evening sitting at the picnic table with the soft summer breezes and called it a day. The next morning when I gathered my chalks and half worked drawing to complete the art don’t I discover that a squirrel had beaten me to the day’s work. The center seeds were chomped and mangled. This was my clarion call to the ephemeral.
I learned that day the garden doesn’t wait. The passing of time can be in a split minute. A flower has another calling and it’s not willing to wait for me until I’m ready. It, like me, has a busy life with other goals.
These are some of my earliest paintings hanging on the wall in my studio. The Sunflower pastel is a reminder of the ephemeral garden.
So I committed myself to capture the transient moments in my garden. The inspirations in form and color. The visions and details that escape us as we hurry through and around in our busy lives. The moments that don’t wait for us.
And then I realized that my garden not only shows me its secrets, it also tells me its mysteries. It whispers ideas into my head. But those ideas are also fleeting. They come to me but fly away on the breezes too quickly for me to grab. So I’ve begun writing. Each time the garden sends a story I write a note of it down. I capture it on my keyboard or quickly with a pencil. At times I even have to catch it so quickly when I’m immersed in the midst of my garden that I can’t run indoors quickly enough before I lose it so I speak it softly into my phone. I’m building a library of stories the garden is generously sharing with me. This is one of them.
Sunflowers With Purple Asters. Prints of this artwork are available in various sizes on canvas, fine art paper, acrylic and metal in my online Art Shop.
Since the 1970’s I’ve been a collector, an observer and a thinker about round things. Currently, my garden is enhanced by round thing presences. Spheres of all colors and sizes. Sculpture with round themes. Round trellises. Round gateways.
This moon gate entry to my woodland walkways is just one of the pieces throughout my garden which inspires my art. These themes of roundness have threaded throughout my work for decades.
On my deck are round finials on the tops of the banisters. And large round concrete containers spewing forth their colorful floral additions all summer.
I have reflective spheres so as you walk around the circular pathways in my garden you see yourself in a distorted and accentuated way. It’s good to see yourself when you least expect it. Then your mind views you more clearly. It sees how others may see you.
Why round things you ask? They are the feminine. The woman. The beginning. The Eve.
They are the mystery. No beginning and no end. The continuum.
Eve’s apple is the first sphere. It represents to me the essence of woman, the feeding, the nurturing, the sexuality, the sensuousness, the rounded birth belly.
With the apple Eve burst forth from the confinement of the “Garden of Eden”. The place made for her. To protect her but also to isolate her from life. The experiences. The experimentation. The adventure.
She broke free by pushing the boundaries. By saying that the world created for her was not enough. She found her way to burst forth and experience life. The sadness, the pain, the anguish, the tears, the disappointments, dashed dreams, hopes denied, the loss of loved ones, the curse of immortality.
Without which true happiness, peace and contentment could not be embraced.
My art is embedded with these meditations on life.
The OMNI Gallery show featured my round flower inspired oil paintings. This work is embedded with meditations.
ChromaLuxe is the leader in aluminum for a variety of industries. The thick gauge of aluminum and the brilliance of their color matching makes for a perfect vehicle for my flower and garden prints.
I tested many brands from various vendors and ChromaLuxe proved to offer the superior product for my work. Prints of my original paintings have been hanging in my garden for over 5 years now. They have withstood winter snow and summer heat. I wouldn’t sell something I didn’t trust.
As an appreciation for my testing and our collaboration ChromaLuxe created and distributed a full-color brochure of my Artwork on their exterior grade aluminum.
Recently I had the honor to present my art and the meaning behind my thought process at Slide Slam. This event was sponsored by the Patchogue Arts Council and hosted by the Haven Gallery in Northport NY.
The presentation by the 20 selected Long Island artists was to display a slideshow of 15 images and speak for exactly 5 minutes each about the work. Such a daunting task proved to be an interesting challenge. How do you get to the essence of your work succinctly in such a short span of time?
Important for me was to convey how critical the garden is to my work. It is in fact the beginning of my creative workflow. In the garden I feel the power of the interconnectedness of all that surrounds me; the necessary ecological balance of the earth, climate, water and nutrients, that sustain the cycle of life.
The communities of birds, bees, insects and yes, humans to pollinate flowers with the assistance of the wind of course. This cooperation is the main critical component of maintaining not just my garden but our entire life here on earth as we know it. Without fertilization the cycle of life would die for all living things, not just for the loss of our beautiful garden flowers but for all our food sources as well.
To me, the garden is just a microcosm of the universe.
The vast beauty of color, fragrance and the architecture of each plant is created to seduce assistance in procreation. Each flower has evolved its own method for attracting exactly the pollinator they desire. Long tubes for hummingbirds, open centers for nice fat bumble bees. Certain colors are more visible to different insects than others. Fragrance signals an invitation to specific species that the time is right for fertilization. The Brugmansia is most fragrant in the late afternoon since it would rather have an energetic pollinator just arriving on their evening shift than a tired one at the end of it’s working day.
Working in and studying my own garden for the last 30 years has given me the unique opportunity to watch dynamic change occur. When my oak trees fell in Hurricane Sandy suddenly the types of plants that enjoyed their shade began to suffer from too much sun. I dug them up and moved them and their scorched leaves to where they would be more comfortable and replaced them with flowers that thrive in the drenching sun. Over time this would have happened naturally but I was able to speed up the process.
Each day in my garden I’m inspired by the energy of life. I carry this with me right into my studio where I allow that energy to inform my art.
Tired of the browns and grays and whites of winter? So am I!
I’m looking to get a jump on some brilliant color outside. I want to see color outside my windows, outside in my garden and outside on my deck. I’ll bet you are too.
Bright splashes of color greet me when the trees are bare and the shrubs covered with white snow. It is so cheery to see in the dead of winter. Seeing color reduces my stress. It probably does for you too. That’s why gardens are so relaxing.
ChromaLuxe exterior aluminum prints hang outside in my garden all year long popping color when I most need it.
During the spring and summer, I coordinate the color of my plantings with the colors in my art. It gives me a very creative palette of colors to work with. It adds to the fun of gardening.
I hang my aluminum art on the garage so I can see flowers all year from the windows in my home, I hang the art on my deck where we entertain and select art that color coordinates with my outdoor furniture. As a garden designer, I’ve designed woodland walks around my home and studio and even hang art on the trees for when people wander around on my garden tours.
I tried a lot of products outdoors in my own garden on Long Island in New York where we get snow and ice in the winter and lots of heat in the summer. I found that not all aluminum is created equal since much of it warped in the extreme temperatures. Then I tried the ChromaLuxe brand of exterior grade aluminum. I’ve tested these prints throughout all the seasons and they have flourished in my garden for years.
In my video, you can see some of the ways I’ve displayed my art in the garden and also the gardens of some of my happy customers. Take a look and be inspired.
Then have some fun. On my website I’ve introduced a separate category for the indoor/outdoor metal aluminum art with an augmented reality feature. Now you walk around your space with your mobile device and see how my art will look in your own setting. You can also try different sizes to see what will fit perfectly for you.
Seeing this live takes the stress out of deciding what artworks for you. It is the ultimate in customizing your own living spaces both indoor or out. Try it now. No commitment to purchase is needed to see for yourself. Go to my online shop, click on the metal print category, select an image that intrigues you, change the size, try a different print, try a different space. Enjoy yourself now!
I have always dreamed about having my Art displayed outside around my garden and outdoor living spaces. And now the technology has caught up with my dream. I have my original paintings printed under heat & pressure to create these very vibrant aluminum prints. They can have a glossy or matte finish to them and I haven’t any particular preference since I like them all.
Sunflowers and Purple Asters aluminum print at the entrance to the home of one of my collectors.
The weather-resistant aluminum which I’ve selected for my Art is thick and durable enough to survive and flourish in my garden throughout the 4 seasons and has been doing so since 2014. Because I wanted to make sure that the quality was right and the color lasted I tested many fabricators before offering the metal prints to my collectors.
Sometimes I frame the pieces in simple aluminum frames but most often I just hang them outside, on the trees, on the fences and on the walls. What a delight to look out of my office and look at art instead of looking at my garage & thinking it needs powerwashing! Even better is looking out in a snow storm and seeing the brilliant color of summer flowers breaking through the white and gray backdrop.
When the birds decide to decorate the art, I just squirt the pieces with some window cleaner and using a paper towel I wipe them clean again. No problem.
The aluminum makes the colors pop whether they’re on a matte or glossy finish. Though these prints can be hung outdoors many of my collectors buy them for inside their homes. Either way, it’s a unique decor addition whether inside or out.
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.
The 57th Annual Art League of LI Member’s Exhibition is
November 11 through November 25, 2012
11-4pm each day
The Art League is located at 107 East Deer Park Rd. in Dix Hills NY 11746
Tom Stacey is the Coordinator of the show and can be reached at 631-462-5400
The ALLI website is www.artileagueli.org
The piece that I’ve submitted for the show is “Passion Flowers with Bamboo”.
“Passion Flowers with Bamboo” a Mixed Media Painting by the Artist, Mary Ahern
This painting is a Mixed Media piece created using digital and acrylic painting. The finished work is a 20×24″ gallery wrapped canvas with a 1/5″ depth. The purchase price is $549.
The original models for this work were some Passifloracaerulea commonly known as Blue Passion Flower. I grew them in my deck planters where they entwined themselves on a craftsman style trellis on the sunny outside wall of my home.
The bamboo is also from my garden and is Fargesia robusta ‘Green Screen’. It is a clump forming bamboo and is said to reach a height of 12-15 ‘ but it hasn’t done so in my garden so far. I have it planted on a berm just behind a Japanese maple. For a further description of this Fargesia check out www.bamboogarden.com.
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.