Mary Brooking says she enjoys testing the balance between reality and abstraction. She prefers to paint with acrylics, but her work is often mistaken for oil paintings because of their softness and tonal depth.
Mary also teaches acrylic painting in a wonderful space in Westbrook, Maine — Continuum for Creativity. Read more about what motivates Mary to paint and teach and to open her arts space for even more creative endeavors.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t remember what first interested me in mark making because it predates my verbal memory. Some of my very earliest memories are of drawing.
Where/when did you go to school?
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and earned a BA in Fine Art with a concentration in painting from Hiram College in 1978.
While I experiment occasionally in different media, I have focused on acrylic for almost 17 years now. When my children were babies, it was my choice for a fast, no-fuss, non-toxic medium, but in the years that followed it has become my first language.
Where do you find inspiration?
The natural beauty surrounding me in Maine never ceases to inspire me.
What is your process?
I classify my work as Expressionist Landscape. I build compositions based on the colors I see in nature and also, those I sense working beneath the surface.
I am influenced by Mark Rothko’s later color field paintings, the repetitions of Minimalist music, and the qualities of light and sky.
My technique combines simultaneous building up and reducing of the compositional subject matter through the use of multiple layers of paint.
I mix the colors I use from a bare minimum of commercially mixed primaries with black and white. I find hand mixed colors to be far richer and deeper than factory-made ones.
Where can we see your work?
My work is exhibited at Continuum for Creativity, my teaching space in Westbrook; Yarmouth Frame and Gallery; and Art3 in Manchester, NH; in addition to private collections throughout the United States.
Tell us about Continuum for Creativity
A confluence of things inspired Continuum for Creativity. I’d been teaching for a couple of years at the local community center and the adult ed program at a nearby high school. These situations were happy and successful. But when a storefront became available in the building where my studio is located, I realized how freeing it would be to have permanent storage for my supplies. I would also be able to completely control the times I teach, without needing to account for anyone else’s schedule except my own and my students’.
The local gallery, which had been next door, had also recently closed. Westbrook was saddened by its loss. I realized that I could also use the space for exhibits although a traditional gallery with business hours was not my goal.
From the beginning, I saw the space as a versatile arts venue. Early on I partnered with the community center for a fundraiser exhibit for the animal shelter, where the after school kids from the center painted portraits of pets. It was a great success!
There have also been a reunion exhibit of the gallery artists from next door, a plein-air festival, and an exhibit of my student’s work. Several more exhibits are planned. Along with exhibits of other people’s work, I exhibit my own. I have also started hosting private evening painting parties.
I wanted a bigger mission than just the visual arts, so I reached out to the local poets’ group to have their monthly readings. I have hosted a painting/writing workshop and more recently have partnered with an authors’ group to have monthly readings and book signings. Continuum is also a good space for smaller-scale musical performances, of which there have been a couple so far.
Other teachers are now coming on board: a landscape pastel painter, an art professor with a theory course, and two still-life painters. My own course is acrylic landscape painting, and I teach it at three different times on Mondays. My course is six weeks in length, and the next one will start in mid-to-late March.
I am amazed and thrilled that all of this has taken place in less than a year. I will celebrate Continuum’s first year in business next month (March 2016). It has certainly been well received in the community. I feel as though the creative energy was already there, and was simply waiting for a space and a little nurturing attention.
Do you have some words of wisdom for beginning artists?
My formal education taught me to see objectively and to question intelligently as well as how to handle a brush. But I feel that all artists are fundamentally self-taught based on chosen influences and the evolution of personal style. This is an idea I try to pass on to my paintings students today.
To see more of Mary’s work and find out what’s happening at Continuum for Creativity, visit her website.
If you know of a Maine artist you think I should profile or would like me to consider profiling you, please send me an email. Thank you!