The Secret Garden

Secret Garden, Mary Baker © 2017
Secret Garden, Mary Baker © 2017

The digital series “Big Skies” is finished, all 20, done in 2017.  I’m experimenting with new digital images. This one is called the Secret Garden, and the actual garden can be found at Maudslay State Park, Newburyport, Ma.

Self Portrait, New Digital Project — Doubt, Fear and Confidence and the Art of Waiting

Self Portrait © Mary Baker
Self Portrait © Mary Baker

There are very few photos of me on the internet. In 2013 I did this self-portrait.

I am of the firm belief that art is very much connected to the unconscious, and in some ways I think of art as the unconscious made manifest.

I created this self-portrait back in 2013, and I look at it now almost 3 years later and wonder what it tells me about what was on my mind.

At the time I had been experimenting with digital images for 3 or 4 months, and it became clear that if I was going to get serious about the endeavor that I had better get myself a very good digital camera.

The portrait was taken after the camera arrived, and maybe captures both my excitement, and fear about this new artistic beginning, and also a resolute determination on one level to explore it and have fun, and I think subconsciously on another level, a determination to make it work. A big investment in this undertaking — good digital cameras are not cheap.

As a professional artist I know that creating has a certain rhythm.  In the beginning it’s a lot like a love affair, everything is exciting, everything is new, nothing could possibly go wrong, the possibilities are endless. And then at some point reality sets in, relationships are complicated and have their ups and downs. It’s the same way with the artistic process. It’s  the same way with this new digital project now in its 4th year.

With every body of work that I’ve created over many decades I always run into a period where a) I don’t know if it’s any good and b) I’m not sure what to do next.  At that point I’ve always worked on something else and I’ve learned to wait. A friend once said to me, “If you don’t know what to do, do nothing.” As far as I’m concerned this applies to art in a major way. Wait, sleep on it, and sometimes — quite often, it’s a very long sleep on it, and sooner or later, I end up knowing exactly what to do. This has worked for me for well over 40 years.

So in this new digital project I am in the “a) I don’t know if it’s any good and b) I’m not quite sure what to do next” phase. And from experience, I know to wait. I can feel that I’m just about to figure out what to do and move forward, but the pieces haven’t quite fit together yet, but I’m pretty sure they will, because decades have taught me that they always do.

So I look at this self-portrait that I did 3 years ago and it tells me that yes there is a certain doubt and fear about this new art prospect, but also a confident determination that after a long winter of not knowing, the spring of artistic progress has always arrived, and that sooner or later the winter snows will melt and I will know exactly what to do next.

First Printed Digital Image with Colored Pencil – Prismacolor

I’ve been working on the printed version of the “Pig and Apple Tree” with Prismacolor, a beautiful waxed based colored pencil, since, yup, last October. I’m still working on the image, but I think that it is almost done.

Pig and Apple Tree, Printed digital image with colored pencil, © Mary Baker
Pig and Apple Tree, Printed digital image with colored pencil, © Mary Baker

The process is that I first work on the image on my computer and “paint” it in Photoshop.  The image is then printed on a beautiful acid free watercolor paper.  And after that, I take it back to my studio and work on the printed image with Prismacolor, the beautiful wax based colored pencil that I’ve used for decades as a “traditional artist.”

Pig and Apple Tree, the original image
The original image of “Pig and Apple Tree” that I started out with.

And this is the original image that I started out with.  I hope that the image helps to explain a little bit, how much work goes into each piece in this new digital art project.

For me, it’s a lot like the painting process that I have done for decades, where I start out with a photograph that I’ve taken, which gives me a starting point for the final realistic oil painting.  And for me it’s same subject matter in a different medium, and the process is both very different on one hand, but also very similar.

How the Digital Images Would Look Like in a Room

I’ve always loved the idea of medieval triptychs–paintings that are divided into 3 separate pieces. And I’ve always been intrigued the way Andy Warhol used multiple images that worked together.

Digital images over a couch
Digital images over a couch

One of the things that I have in mind for this new digital/prismacolor series, with large skies with landscapes on the bottom, is the ability to mix and match the images.

They could be used separately, they are 9″x 12″ unframed, which is a perfect size for let’s say between two windows.

Digital images between windows
Digital images between windows

However, they could also be placed three together, over a couch or mantle shelf.

So I’ve “imagined” how they would look like framed over a couch, and between three windows.

Body of Work, Digital Art Images–Printing

In 1995 I did an oil painting on paper called “Erin’s Airport.” It is one of my favorite paintings. The painting is  small, and what I call a “between the window” size painting, it is 9″ x 12″ unframed. When I finally decided, late in 2014, to create a body of work that I would print, I ended up deciding to use “Erin’s Airport” as my starting point.

Erin's Airport, painting © Mary Baker
Erin’s Airport, painting, Mary Baker © 1995

The printing of the images almost the terminated the digital art project.

I found someplace in Newburyport that would do a giclee, pigment print for not too much money, so that I could see what I had.  I had them print two images, fairly large, 18″ x 20.” The first printing was a disaster, the images were dark, muddy and a horrible yellow.  They had another giclee printer, so we tried that.  The digital images were just as bad–this time they were dark, muddy and had a horrible red hue.

I thought after 2 years of work that the digital project had come to a screeching halt, and I was beside myself.

What I found out to my dismay was that the printed image did not resemble what was on my computer in any way. And also, to my distress, I found that every printer was a little different, or very, very different.  This was not like painting, where what you created was what you got. It was a very big “Yikes!”

I called and talked to all sorts of photographers in Newburyport and elsewhere, because I figured they must have the same problem. And I got referred to Barry Kaplan at The Finer Image down in Danvers.  And Barry saved the digital project.

Pig and Apple Tree, digital image © Mary Baker
Pig and Apple Tree, digital image, © Mary Baker (DRAFT)

Barry spent a long time with me, and we printed off images and they were dark and muddy, and I was not happy.  And on a fluke, Barry printed one of the images much lighter, and I had another “eureka” moment.

The images are printed on beautiful, acid free, thick watercolor paper, and when they were printed lighter, I realized I could draw on them with Prismacolor (which is a waxed based colored pencil that I have used as a professional artist for decades), make the color exactly the way I wanted it, which is much brighter than the printed version.  And they would look very similar to the way the images looked on my computer.

The Prismacolor also gives the images depth, which they did not have just with just pigment prints (this is coming from a painter’s perspective) . The process feels more like creating a painting or a drawing than just a printed image.

And using the Prismacolor pencils on the skies also helps soften the banding, an issue that I had been working on, that was much improved, but that hadn’t yet been totally perfected.

Boston Road, digital image © Mary Baker
Boston Road, digital image, © Mary Baker (DRAFT)

I also changed the proportions and the size to be the same size and proposition as “Erin’s Airport” painted in 1995, 9″x 12″.  So, on this page there are two of the images.  THEY ARE NOT FINISHED, this is a work/project still very much in progress. These two images are just to give an idea of what the new images in this digital project look like.   I haven’t decided on the price, or how big a run (at this point I can’t imagine doing more than one, because they take such a long time). All of this is still to be determined.

And at the bottom of the post, is a photograph of 7 of the images that have been printed, that are lined up along my studio floor, so that I can get a sense of how they work together, and what images to create next. This is the process that I would use if I was creating a new body of work that were paintings.

And as of July 2015, that is the state that this new digital art project, that was started in December 2012. And I think I know where I’m going next, I hope that I can create 13 more images, and to try and have a cohesive body of 20 digital-prismscolor works of art.  But, after two and a half years, who knows–however, I am expectant.

Digital images along my studio floor © Mary Baker
Digital images along my studio floor © Mary Baker

Digital Art Images, New Work and First Technical Problem, a Possible Roadblock

By 2014 I had experimented with the new digital art images a lot. I was well into my second year on this project, the process was taking a lot longer than I had ever anticipated.  It was time to think about creating a cohesive body of work.

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed, so I just started. I always love the big skies over the Newburyport marsh, so I thought I would start exploring images with big skies.

Joppa 2 © Mary Baker, digital image
Joppa 2 © Mary Baker, digital image

“Joppa” is what is referred to an area in Newburyport’s historic district, that is in Newburyport’s South End on Water Street along the Merrimac River. It is where the clam shacks were once located, and it is where small boats and kayaks are launched; you can see Plum Island and Salisbury across the water, and at low tide, people have for centuries, gone out and dug clams.

“Joppa 2” is one of several digital images that I have done of that particular area, and I was intrigued by the color of the sky in this particular image, it wasn’t a color that I had ever thought of creating. It was another progression it this digital art project that was now well into its second year, and again another “eureka” moment.

Stack Yard Road 3 © Mary Baker, digital image
Stack Yard Road 3 © Mary Baker, digital image

“Stack Yard Road 3” soon followed. Stack Yard Road is in Newbury, it is a dirt road that goes through the Newbury Marsh and ends at the entrance to Nelson Island which is now part of the Plum Island Refuge. I had painted this particular place many times, and had gone back to it when trying to figure out the new digital artwork.

Tree and Pasture 2 © Mary Baker, digital image
Tree and Pasture 2 © Mary Baker, digital image

This is a second digital version of the tree and pasture,  This particular tree of “Tree and Pasture 2” is along Scotland Road in Newbury, MA, and is surrounded by a large, rural piece of land called the “Common Pasture.”  I have done many, paintings of this particular tree and that beautiful area (as have a lot of other painters and photographers).

But as I created these new images I started to notice something. When I paint a sky with oil paint, I  smug the layers of paint together so that the sky would gradually go from dark to light, from the top of the sky to the horizon line.  What was happening in these new images is that I was getting what is called “banding.”

Banding in sky © Mary Baker
Banding in the sky

Banding is when a transition is not smooth and you can see horizontal lines between the colors.  It was particularly noticeable to me when the skies became darker at the top, which was something new in these particular images (it didn’t happen as much in the early seascapes skies that were lighter in color).  And there are many techniques to work with this problem, but as a painter, none of them met my expectations. I thought I might have hit a major road block, and I was stumped.

For the first time I wondered if this new digital project had any hope of going forward.

New Digital Art Images–Creative Euphoria

I hadn’t had this much fun creating in a long, long time as I was having with this new digital project.  I had no idea where process of this new adventure was going to go, but I was definitely on it for the ride.

For me, often the excitement comes at the beginning of a new creative discovery, it was that way during various stages of my professional painting career, and it was certainly that way with the new digital art images.

I would sit down at my computer every morning and couldn’t wait to see what I could create that day.  In many ways it felt as if it was a creative rebirth.

Pink House 1 © Mary Baker, digital image
Pink House 1 © Mary Baker, digital image

This is the first of many digital versions that I have done of the “Pink House.”  The Pink House on Plum Island Turnpike is iconic, and is probably one of the most, if not the most painted and photographed location in the Newburyport area.  It has captured the imagination of hundreds of professional and amateur painters and photographers for years.

The Pink House sits out by itself on the Newbury marsh.  There are no other houses surrounding it.  It is run-down and unkempt, abandoned, but in spite of its neglect it retains a dignity and honor and an unspoken link to Newburyport’s past. People notice it and fall in love with it instantly.

Apple Tree and Field © Mary Baker, digital image
Apple Tree and Field © Mary Baker, digital image

The  apple trees  of “Apple Tree and Field” are on the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm, which is a magical place, a 230 acre site that includes a late 1600 manor house that once inhabited wealthy Newburyport merchants. It is open to the public, and more information can be seen about it here.

Airstrip 1 © Mary Baker, digital image
Airstrip 1 © Mary Baker, digital image

I have done many paintings of the airstrip which is on the marsh along Plum Island Turnpike. Those paintings were in all kinds of art shows and are in art collections all over the United States.  I’ve gone back to that particular place over and over again for almost 30 years. “Airstrip 1” is the first digital art image that I did of that particularly, for me, beloved spot.

More Painterly Digital Art Images, Textures and Experimenting

After I found Jerry Jones, aka “skeletalmess,” aka “ghostbones,” of Shadow House Creations, a whole new digital image world opened up. I was able to figure out how to make the images more painterly and give them atmosphere and create a mood.  I was elated. And what continues to astound me about this digital process is that I can change an image in minutes, changes that as a painter would take me months, even years.

Garden at Maudslay, digital image © Mary Baker
Garden at Maudslay, digital image © Mary Baker

The digital image of the “Garden at Maudslay” was one of my first attempts. Another “Ah Ha” moment on this digital enterprise. It was difficult for me to comprehend what could be accomplished, and so quickly with this new medium.  The “Garden at Maudslay” has a ghostly quality that I wanted, that reflected that semi-abandoned area of Maudslay State Park. I’m not sure that I ever could have imagined painting this particular place this way.

Red Doors and Pansies © Mary Baker, digital image
Red Doors and Pansies © Mary Baker, digital image

I couldn’t believe what I could accomplish with “Red Doors and Pansies.”  The image finally had the painterly quality I was looking for, and captured for me, what Newburyport, the seacoast town where I live, looks like in the spring.  And it also made an attempt to reflect the charm of Newburyport’s historic district.  I never would have taken the time to paint this on canvas.  It would never have happened.

Stackyard Road 2 © Mary Baker, digital image
Stackyard Road 2 © Mary Baker, digital image

I painted a lot of versions of Stackyard Road in Newbury, MA as a painter.  Many are in collections all over the country.  So, I thought I would try and do some digital images. This is one of the first ones that I came up with.  And again, I was so excited, it was different than the paintings, but also interesting, and it had a painterly quality and a sense of texture in the sky that I would never have created as a painting. Another “eureka” moment.”

Boat, Newburyport Dock © Mary Baker, digital image
Boat, Newburyport Dock © Mary Baker, digital image

As a painter I painted boats like this that were “dry docked,” but never one in the water. And with the new digital art medium, I could experiment, and if I didn’t like it, it didn’t matter because creating the image took hours not months and years. I ended up liking this version of the “Boat, Newburyport Dock,” which was down by Newburyport’s waterfront, in front of the Firehouse Center for the Arts.

I was creating images that I had always wanted to paint, but was never sure if I could make the paintings work. It was a wonderful feeling and an exciting visual adventure, In many ways I felt liberated, and had a hard time imagining going back to traditional painting, when I could accomplish so many interesting pictures and experiments in such a short amount of time.

Digital Still Life Art Images

Pod by Window, painting by Mary Baker
Pod by Window, 36″ x 24″ Painting © Mary Baker

Another digital art image  “Ah Ha” moment.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I created a body of work called the “Pod Paintings.” They were shown at the Hoorn-Ashby Gallery in New York City, it was a very big deal, and very exciting.  An example of one of the “pod paintings” that was in a New York show is above.

Vase by Window, digital art image © Mary Baker
Vase by Window, digital art image © Mary Baker

I had the pod paintings in mind when I was experimenting with the new digital still lifes, I wanted to create the same mood and atmosphere that the pod paintings had. The first digital art still life image that I created was a small vase by the window.  I tried the Photoshop “spray brushes” (see earlier entry), and I even discovered “smoke” Photoshop brushes–I was so excited when I found those. But the digital image of the small vase just didn’t have “IT.” It didn’t create the atmosphere that I was looking for.

Grandfather's Glasses, digital image by Mary Baker
Grandfather’s Glasses, digital image © Mary Baker

The next image that I tried was my grandfather’s glasses by the window. There is an image of the farm that he and my grandmother bought is in the background. But again, the image just didn’t accomplish want I wanted.

Bowl by Window, digital image by Mary Baker
Bowl by Window, digital image © Mary Baker

And then I had a wonderful digital art image “Ah Ha” moment when I created a bowl by the window, it had the atmosphere and the mood that I was looking for. It was another turning point in this new digital experiment.

My teacher and inspiration for this “Ah Ha” moment was Jerry Jones of Shadow House Studio, who has been an inspiration and an incredible teacher to 100’s maybe 1000’s of lovers of digital art and digital images.  Jerry’s Shadow House blog can be found here. Finding Jerry Jones, aka “skeletalmess,” aka “ghostbones,” gave me hope.  There were incredibly talented people out there who created gorgeous digital art. Finding Shadow House Creations was an incredible gift.

New Mobile Friendly Site for Mary Baker Art

Apple Trees, Painting by Mary Baker
Apple Trees © Mary Baker

I had no idea that mobile friendly websites were so important. I finally figured out what to do. I used a service called GoMobi, which is part of my web hosting package. I was able to create a web friendly site that looks a  lot like my Mary Baker Art website. To see the new mobile friendly version please go here. I use WordPress for the Mary Baker Art Blog (as well as The Newburyport Blog) and the theme I use is “mobile friendly,” so no worry there.  But the website is not mobile friendly, and now I am very much relieved!! Who knew that artists now needed mobile friendly sites as well as regular websites, not me. And I’d like to thank Hal Fickett of Hal Fickett and Company for making me aware of the issue, and helping me to think through what to do–awesome guidance from a smart and thoughtful person.

Digital Images, Painting with “Spray Paint” Brushes, and the First Digital Portrait

Gina, digital image
Gina, digital image, © Mary Baker

Somehow along the way on this new digital experiment that I had set out for myself, I discovered these amazing digital brushes. In Photoshop I could paint with “spray paint” brushes. Another “Wow,” “eureka,” “really??” moment. And I kept thinking of all that street art that I discovered (see earlier post), especially the street art by the South African artist Faith47, and maybe, just maybe I could incorporate some of those techniques, but in a digital format.

I took a photograph of my gorgeous daughter-in-law Gina, way before I ever knew that she would be my daughter-in-law, and I started to experiment with that photograph.

My thought was that I didn’t want the image to look like a photograph, and I didn’t want it to look like a painting, I wanted people to look at the image and think, “I’m not sure what that is?” And the portrait of Gina, done in the late winter of 2013 turned out to be another “eureka” moment in this digital enterprise, and another turning point, where I realized that this new digital medium had unbelievable potential. And creating in this new digital development became more exciting than ever. I could not wait to find out what could be next. It had been a long time since I was this excited and this curious about creating artwork.

The digital image below is of my son Hal and his new bride, Gina, on their honeymoon.  Hal and Gina took the original photograph.

Hal and Gina, digital image
Hal and Gina, digital image, © Mary Baker

Digital Images and Experiments, Landscapes, Seascapes, Skies

Seascape 3, digital image
Seascape 3, digital image, © Mary Baker

When I was experimenting with the birds (see previous post), in a serendipitous sort of way, Photoshop created abstract landscape backgrounds–one of those magical things that started to happen, experimenting with this new digital medium. It was a very fun, “eureka” moment, something that I never would have thought of myself.

Seascape 2, digital image
Seascape 2, digital image, © Mary Baker

So, I decided to start experimenting with creating my own digital landscapes, in this case, seascapes.  Painting backgrounds, i.e. skies, water on canvas with brushes and oil paint, would literally take me months and months, sometimes years to get it right.  Creating digital skies, seascapes with the new digital medium took hours. I was amazed, elated and completely fascinated.

Seascape 1, digital image
Seascape 1, digital image, © Mary Baker

The three top images are some of the seascapes that I created during the month of February 2013. This new digital experiment was taking me places that creatively I could never have imagined going.  And what I learned doing these seascapes helped me later on, when things got a little more complicated.

Seascape 4, digital image
Seascape 4, digital image, © Mary Baker

And this last seascape, Seascape 4, is one that I created in December of 2013. By that time I had learned a whole lot more on this great digital adventure.

First Digital Images, Birds


The Long Walk, Digital Image
The Long Walk, Digital Image © Mary Baker, 2013

When I first started experimenting with digital images, I found a place that I could find images that I myself would never have taken photographs of, that allowed me to use them free of charge, it is a place called MorgueFile. And for whatever reason, I found a whole lot of wonderful images of birds.

Pelican 2, Digital Image
Pelican 2, Digital Image © Mary Baker, 2013

My first thought about this new digital enterprise, was that it would be a collaboration between me and photographers around the world on MorgueFile.  Having a global digital project seemed like a very cool idea. I contacted all the photographers whose images I had used, after I had experimented with a lot of the different bird images.  I only heard back from one of them. It would be difficult to have a multi-collaboration project, without the input from the specific photographers. And the images on MorgueFile were on the small side, which meant, if I ever wanted to make the images very large, I would not be able to do so. But, before I found all of that out, I created a lot of interesting and fun images of birds.

Flamingo 1, Digital Image
Flamingo 1, Digital Image © Mary Baker, 2013

The bird series reminded me of “old fashion” silk screen prints. All these images were created during the month of  January 2013.

Pelican 1, digital image © Mary Baker
Pelican 1, digital image © Mary Baker

Experimenting with the New Digital Medium, the Beginning

4 Herons, Digital Image, birds
4 Herons, Digital Image, January 2013 © Mary Baker

In 2012 I began to wonder if traditional two-dimensional art had gone the way of the “buggy whip” and the “typewriter.”  I wrote a blog post on the subject on The Newburyport Blog here.  And at the same time, I found myself drawn to the new things that people were doing with digital photography. People like Chris Crisman were creating photographs that had a very “painterly” quality to them. In fact, some of the photographs resembled the very detailed paintings that I had done in the 1990s.

The other art form that captivated my imagination was street art. Street Art News was, and still is, one of my go to places to find out what is happening in street art around the globe. The most famous street artist today is probably Bansky, and I also fell in love with the work of a South African street artist that goes by the name of Faith47.  My favorite series, when I first discovered Faith47, was “The Long Wait.”

I also felt that the painting that I was doing was getting stale and redundant, especially compared to what people were doing with digital photography and street art. So in December 2012, I decided to hang up my paintbrush for a while, and take a year to experiment with digital art. The process turned out to be a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting than I ever imagined. I haven’t painted since  December 2012. I’ve been exploring this wonderful new medium, which at times seems completely magical to me, since December 17, 2012–that was a while ago.

The first images to come out of this new digital experimentation were “the birds,” the digital image, “4 Herons” above in this post,  is an example, as well as “Running Bird” below.

Running Bird, digital image
Running Bird, digital image, © Mary Baker

Tree, Pasture, Digital Art Image

Tree, Pasture, Mary Baker © 2014, Digital Image
Tree, Pasture, Mary Baker © 2014, Digital Image

One of the “new” images.  “Tree, Pasture,” Mary Baker © 2014, integrated art image.

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

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


Same tree, same pasture, different medium.

Why the New Digital Media – Marketing Expert Hal Fickett

My son, Hal Fickett, who is a marketing and social media guru, with clients like best selling New York Times author Frank Schaeffer, is helping me to articulate why I’m so driven to try this new medium over traditional painting.

Hal Fickett
Hal Fickett, Mary Baker © 2013

This is a digital image of Hal.  Hal Fickett’s marketing website can be found here at