Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Feature: Mary Maxam

"Palouse Canola" original oil by Mary Maxam
 Hi Everyone,

It's time for another Friday Feature:))  Today I have the superbly talented Mary Maxam. Mary works in watercolor, acrylic and oil for her landscape and still life works. Her paintings are a response to familiar subjects, seen daily and discoveries that take place through the painting process.
Mary's work has shown in many juried national exhibitions, including Oil Painters of America, the Midwest and National Watercolor Societies. She has won signature membership in the National, Northwest and Montana Watercolor Societies, and has contributed both painting and written work for book and magazine articles on painting and design. Publications include "Watercolor Magic","Gray's Sporting Journal", and "Paint Mixing, the 12-Hue Method" by Rockport Press.  She also recently guest co-hosted Artists Helping Artists.

To see more of her works visit her blog and website

How did you get your start? 
I have been playing with art materials for as long as I can remember, and began using a lot of varied drawing materials, then watercolor, acrylics and oils. My parents gave me an oil painting set when I was about twelve, but I didn’t have much idea as to how to handle them and just kind of experimented until getting some instruction in high school.
"Hill Horses" original oil by Mary Maxam
What’s your artist journey so far?
Experimenting with varied materials has always continued and my high school art teacher encouraged that. He created projects that taught us a lot about paints, paper, sculpture and  the elements of design, and also how to choose paints and paper as part of the expression or idea. I went to Boise State and then taught high school art myself for over 30 years. All the while, I continued to paint on my own, experimenting with style, and for the most part concentrated on watercolor then oil. Over the years I’ve shown work in cooperative and commercial galleries and various shows.

Where were you born?
Boise, Idaho

If you could live anywhere where would you live?
I’d like to have lived on the east coast for a while as a comparison to being in the west. But overall, I think the Northwest has been great. Of course, everyone dreams about that second home, with the perfect studio, on the beach or at the lake somewhere - haha!

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?
Oh my….. you just had to ask, didn’t you!? It is one of my ‘issues’ that I enjoy painting too many different subjects. But right now I think I’ve got it down to northwest landscapes, figures (both fly fishing and costumed women) and florals. That doesn’t sound much reduced, but believe me, it is!

Could you talk about your painting techniques?
 I have so much fun with the contrast of transparent and opaque paint which I think started with watercolor. I could rarely get myself to work with transparent glazing alone, even though I greatly admire it.  I have transferred that to oil and frequently put down a wet transparent wash of color to work into. Then, I sketch with a brush to get the placement and proportion of the subject. I lay in the darks first and try to keep them transparent as well. Then the opaque middle and lighter values are put in and I go back and forth trying to balance it all out.
My second approach is to start with a brush drawing on white, then develop each area and blend edges as I go.
"River Talk" original oil by Mary Maxam

Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?
If I were a stranger looking at all my work together, I’d be saying “Wow, this painter really likes green!”  But, in reality I almost can’t paint without having alizarin or permanent rose to keep warming and cooling various color mixes. My palette is basically a warm and cool version of the primaries plus white. The exceptions are the yellows, which also include ochre and then transparent red oxide.

Do you have a favorite artist?
Too many to select, but Sargent, Sorolla, Degas,Van Gogh, N.C. Wyeth are all favorites….probably for the stories their paintings tell as well as the mastery of paint.

"Window Box Floral" original oil by Mary Maxam
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I think my mother, for both overcoming some struggles in her life, but also for her tenacity and kindness. She wasn’t a painter, but had an excellent artistic eye. I think she influenced me in my art more than I realized while growing up.

What have been some of your crowning achievements?
When I worked in watercolor, I achieved signature membership in the National Watercolor Society as well as a few others. In oil it has to be the inclusion of work in the national Oil Painters of America Show and more recently the OPA western regional to be held in Denver next month. And, I was recently contacted by Simon & Shuster with a request to use one of my paintings on an upcoming novel by James Burke. Those are all exciting ventures!
"Sunflower Field" original oil by Mary Maxam
What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)
To become an OPA signature member
A new house with an organized studio space and LOTS of built-in storage!!
A gallery show that is a sell-out ( hey you said dream BIG)
To paint with the Putney Painters for a week
It would be a hoot to have a very well known collector or ‘famous type person’ buy one of my paintings- I have no idea who that might be J

"Lemon Trio" original oil by Mary Maxam
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?
Line up all your work and look at it together. Determine your common strengths, those things that you continually do so well. Then, look at the weak points and list them separately. Keep building on your strengths and figure out a plan to work on those areas that need attention. And…paint as often as possible.

What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?
I don’t know whether it was specific advice or just an attitude engendered by my parents, teachers and friends…that art and creating things was part of my identity. So, if you feel that….there is no quitting, no putting down the brushes and pencils…. it’s just what you do and who you are, and you practice a lot!
"First Crop" original oil by Mary Maxam
Chocolate or vanilla?

Your dream vacation spot?
If you see the movie “Enchanted April” (5th question) - you’ll know the place

Book or movie?

Favorite author?
Nora Ephron

Favorite movie?
Enchanted April

Romance or comedy?
Romantic comedy…?

Favorite dessert?
Ice cream

Night owl or morning person?
I’d be hard pressed to choose either, since I get my best work done about mid-day!

Carrie, thanks you so much for the opportunity to talk with your followers. It’s been fascinating to think about the varied questions you’ve posed and it helps me to focus in my own work and goals as well!

Thank you, Mary for your fascinating interview.  



  1. A really interesting and inspirational interview,

    Thank you both.

  2. Carrie - What a wonderful feature! I love Mary's work! Hope all is well with you!

  3. I have been a fan of Mary's work for quite a while Carrie..I love her lovely loose brushwork and gorgeous colors. Enjoyed reading the interview...Thanks to both of you for sharing!

  4. Thank you Carrie and all those who've taken the time to read a bit about my work and be so generous in your comments!

  5. A wonderful interview with a very talented lady!! I have been following Mary for a long time and love her work...

  6. Great feature, Carrie! I love your work and these Friday features, and I love Mary's work, too! Win-Win all around!