Artist, Realistic Landscape Paintings

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“The Pasture”
Oil on Paper, 5.5″ x 22″
2007 © Mary Baker

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Along with being an artist, I am also very involved in the community that I live in, Newburyport, Massachusetts. So much so that I started The Newburyport Blog a little over a year ago.

One of the things that I’ve learned about as an artist, is how involved many of the people of Newburyport, MA are in preserving “Open Space” or Newburyport’s landscapes, something which as an artist, I had always taken for granted. Something I had always presumed would always be there.

I think paying so much attention to this fight for Open Space in Newburyport, MA is one of the many reasons that as an artist that I have gone back to painting landscape paintings.

The painting, the “Pasture” above is one of the many places that the people of Newburyport are trying to preserve.

As an artist it is a privilege to still be able to paint realistic landscapes of my home town, Newburyport, MA.

More of the “Open Space” realistic landscape paintings can be found at my artist website Mary Baker Art.

Mary Baker

Mary Baker–Painting, Realistic Landscapes, The Marsh, Newburyport, MA

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Marsh 2
Oil on Canvas
20″ x 30″
Mary Baker © 2006

Landscapes of the Marsh, Newburyport, MA

I’ve been painting the marshes of Newburyport, Massachusetts, a small New England seacoast city since 1983.

I always seem to go back to them. They are compelling.

Aside from the sense of wide open space, the vastness of Newburyport landscape, I keep wondering why I go back to painting the Newburyport marshes again and again.

Last year I found out something very interesting. I don’t know whether it is germane or not, but I am intrigued.

My ancestors farmed a large piece of land on Shelter Island. The land became a State Park.

Shelter Island is at the very end of Long Island, New York, in between the two forks at the end of Long Island.

I will reluctantly admit that I have never walked the land that my ancestors farmed so faithfully.

However, about a year ago I looked up pictures on the Internet of Shelter Island. And what I discovered was that the landscape is almost exactly like the landscape of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

So what I am wondering is if the landscape of Newburyport, MA and Shelter Island is somehow in the “hard drive” of my artistic unconscious.

Mary Baker

Art, Realistic Painting, Quirkyalone

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Day Lily
Oil on Paper
9” x 18”
Mary Baker © 2005

Can you tell I’m quite taken by this whole notion of “Quirkyalone.” I think it’s very cool.

So much of my life as an artist, for me requires being alone, and I often wonder if I’m just not odd. The art-incubation part of my own creative process seems to necessitate lots and lots of time alone. And it is so nice to find folks out there in web-land who have come up with this phrase and idea of “Quirkyalone.” I just love it.

Many, many of my paintings are about the enjoyable part of solitude. Take “Day Lily” at the top of the page. Now there’s your ordinary flower, at least in the Northeast in Massachusetts it’s an ordinary flower, but in the realistic painting it seems quite at home with itself.

And in this realistic painting, the “Day Lily” is transformed out of its ordinary state. It seems ignited in the darkness, with all its beautiful lines and veins shining through. Its solitude, if you will, is a beacon in the darkness.

“Day Lily” is another one of my favorite Contemporary Realism realistic paintings.

Mary Baker

Realistic Art, Painting, Flowers and Roses

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Rose
Oil on Paper
7” x 8”
Mary Baker © 2005

It all started last summer. I wanted to tile my basement floor, but it was too expensive, so I painted “faux” tiles and they looked great. I never “fauxed” anything, although I know a lot of my fellow artists are very good at “fauxing” all kinds of things. This was new to me, so I decided to try it out on my flower paintings.

I had been painting flowers with dark backgrounds to make them “pop.” But one of the things I found that was very discouraging, was that people were taking photographs of flowers, putting dark backgrounds on them in Photoshop, and then printing them on canvas. Doing them in short order and selling them of course for “peanuts.” (I have this love – hate relationship with Photoshop, but more on that maybe another time.)

It also seemed that everywhere I looked that summer, “spas” were popping up all over the place. People were building huge bathrooms and calling them “spas.” And in my little town there seemed to be new “spas” everywhere.

So one of the things that crossed my mind was what kind of flower painting would be a “spa” flower painting? And I thought well, why don’t you try some of that “faux” stuff that you learned painting “faux” tiles on your basement floor on some flower paintings. That might be cool.

And they would be much harder to duplicate in Photoshop too, I hope.

So at the top of this post is a rose bud I painted with a dark background, which I love. And at the bottom of this post is a pink rose with a “faux,” “spa” background, which I think is pretty interesting. And the new “spa flowers,” as I am now calling them, are fun to paint, especially when I want to take a break from painting landscapes.

Mary Baker

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Pink Rose
Oil on Panel
8” x 10”
Mary Baker © 2006

(Editor’s Note: Please do not use any image that belongs to Mary Baker. It is a copyright infringement and it is against the law. I have found at least one image on another site, used without my permission, in a way that is unacceptable. The image has not been removed, and I am not pleased.

Unfortunately this forces me to put copyright information across the art images, which ruins it for everyone who would like to see the paintings. Mary Baker)

Art, Creativity, the painting zone, balancing art and life

Flipping into the art unconscious–not thinking too much

A friend once told me that we only use maybe 5% of the brain. When I paint, I go into what I call the “zone”, I flip into some part of that other 95% of the brain–the “art unconscious.” After all this time, I’m able to trust that that is when I do my best art work.

I’ve realized that when I think too much about what I am painting or try to analyze the painting that I am working on, I get into a whole lot of trouble.

However, I find that flipping into that other 95% of the brain is always exhausting.

Balancing art and life–getting on the art planet

I’ve asked writers and other painters how long they can actually work (the actual writing or painting etc.) in a day. These are artists that have at least published their second book or gotten through their second one-person show–artists that are in it for the “long haul.”

For artists in it for the “long haul,” who work almost everyday, who know that their art is their vocation, it is always a challenge to figure out the right balance between one’s art and the rest of one’s life.

These artists almost always say 4 hours (this does not include the hours and hours of “artistic incubation” that take place to make these 4 hours of actual writing, painting etc. happen, see earlier post on “artistic incubation.” Neither does it include all the time devoted to the “business” part of art, which takes a great deal of time.)

Most people would say 4 hours, well that’s ridiculous, that’s nothing. Actually it’s not. (Yes, I know, this is when most people, parents, loved ones, significant others start screaming, “4 hours! Get a real job!!!”…calm down, relax, start getting on the “art planet!”)

The drool stage

I find that 4 hours (not including the artistic incubation part, and the business part) is just right. If I work 5-6 hours, I’m exhausted, and any more than that, I get to what I call the “drool stage”, where I’m beyond exhaustion, and can’t do much of anything, except, sit, stare into space and drool! I hate being in the “drool stage.”

The trick for me is to balance my day, and to know when to stop right before I get to the “drool stage.” Sometimes I stop too early, sometimes I stop too late, and sometimes I get it just right. Love those days when I get it just right.

Mary Baker

Artistic Incubation, Art is not a Linear Process

An artist’s job differs from a regular 9 to 5 job in that it requires what I call “artistic incubation.” An artist can be disciplined and work a certain schedule, but an artist’s creative endeavor is not a linear process.

Our culture values business, whether the business is actually productive or not. Our culture does not value the internal process that must take place to create a work of art, which might look to an outsider to be laziness, but actually takes a great deal of hard work, and is vital to the creative process. The actual getting down to write, draw, paint, sculpt, dance, act cannot be adequately achieved without it.

If someone were to spend time with me they would find me wandering around my studio, sitting and staring at my paintings, pacing back and forth. All of that is part of my own “artistic incubation.”

I almost always get to a place in a painting where I don’t know what to do next. I’ve learned over time to just leave the painting alone, that great phrase, “when you don’t know what to do, do nothing” echoing in my head. And there comes a point, maybe days, weeks and even years later when I then know exactly what to do. Without that period of “artistic incubation” the painting would be overworked and ruined.

Sylvia White has written an article where she addresses this issue. In the article she has this to say:

” It wasn’t until I really understood the process of making a painting that I realized how much of the work is in just looking…thinking…imagining what it would be like to do this or that. Mental activity that to the lay person looks like relaxation. I could accept the fact that slathering paint around was work…but, sitting and staring, that was hard for me. What I came to learn was that the “looking,” is the hardest part. It was kind of like hearing about the way Mozart wrote music. He wouldn’t write anything down until he could hear it all in his head first, then he would write it out perfectly in a matter of minutes.”

Please visit Sylvia White at her website, www.artadvice.com. Sylvia White has also graciously allowed me to reprint her article on my website Mary Baker Art.

Mary Baker

Highly Creative People–Painting, the creative process

I like the way it was described in the write up in the New York Times on Highly Creative People, that Dr. Barron “worked in a way that seemed to be casual and without any particular focus”; but Dr. Barron, a highly creative person, obviously had a great deal of focus.

For me, the creative process is a mystery. I wake up in the morning, and I have no idea what my day will be like or which painting I’m going to work on that day.

I often don’t know until I walk into my studio, which of the many, usually 9-11 paintings, will get my attention.

And if someone came into my studio, they would think I was wandering around aimlessly, doing things that have nothing to do with painting.

Usually it takes about a year for a group of paintings to begin to take shape and show some cohesiveness. After all these years I am finally comfortable with the chaos of that process, because I have been amazed, again and again at what emerges from it. Eventually what emerges in a year and a half to two years, is twenty paintings that are a consistent body of work.

I wrote a piece on my own creative process on my website, called Creativity. It explains in more detail the cyclical nature of the painting process.

Highly Creative People–Frank X. Barron

On October 13, 2002, I came across a write up in the New York Times of Frank X. Barron, known for his studies of highly creative people. When I have doubts about myself as an artist, I read it and it always makes me feel better, because– a) it makes me smile and– b) I feel like I’m not alone.

I’m passing it along to you:

Dr. Barron once described a highly creative person as “both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner than the average person”.

Dr. Barron found that highly creative people show high levels of ego-strength, a trait that allows them to channel their energy into creative work. They resist conformity and demonstrate a willingness to take risks.

And this is the part about highly creative people that I really like

Significant creative advances require a high tolerance for disorder and a preference for complexity, combined with the ability to extract order from chaos.

Dr. Barron’s own style reflected many of these characteristics. He worked in a way that might seem, if you hadn’t followed it for very long, to be casual and without any particular focus. But after a few years it became clear that there was an inner compass that guided him and continued to guide him for all of his life.

Artists–Highly Sensitive Souls

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Blue Morning Glory
Oil on Panel
12” x 24”
Mary Baker © 2004

When I found Jenna Avery’s article on Highly Sensitive Souls on the Internet it was such a relief. Jenna articulated things that I had felt for years as an artistic soul, but had felt that something must be wrong with me. After reading Jenna’s article and going to her website–Highly Sensitive Souls, I realized that all those things that I had felt were wrong with me, were actually good things, maybe even great things.

Sensitive artistic souls

Jenna’s article describes so beautifully what it is like to be an artistic soul. Artists do have powerful intuition and awareness; artists do have emotional passion, intensity and depth. As artists we are very observant of the subtleties of our environment and yes, to be an artist, it is necessary to be a visionary.

Artists do receive much more information from our surrounding than other people and can get easily overwhelmed. Artistic souls have an inner life that is just as complex as our outer life and private time alone really is necessary to feel replenished and rejuvenated.

For years I felt that I didn’t “fit in” with the people around me (sometimes I still feel that way!), and it was a wonderful feeling after reading Jenna’s article to know that I wasn’t alone, and that nothing was actually wrong with me.

Helping other people to understand what it is like being an artistic soul

Jenna gave me permission to print her article Highly Sensitive Souls on my website Mary Baker Art. People have told me that they have printed the article and given it to their husbands, their parents, their co-workers, their children and even their children’s teachers to articulate and explain to them who they are.

People have also printed the article and given it to fellow artists for encouragement, reassurance and motivation.

If you are an artistic soul you will probably enjoy Jenna Avery’s website, Highly Sensitive Souls. I think that you are in for an incredible treat!