I like to paint the everyday scenes I used to pass by unnoticed. In coming to realize the beauty of the ordinary I realize nothing is truly ordinary, it's only our dulled sense of the world that makes it seem so. Educating myself to seek out the glorious, seemingly overshadowed by the current woe, refocuses my attention and clears my vision. I find peace and a rightness of place while I paint.
I told people when I was very young that I would be an artist when I grew up. I don't think I showed budding talent in my youth but I loved art. My only art education came through the public school system and my grandmother who maintained her own little china shop. I'm grateful for what I learned from those patient teachers. In the 1980's I became very interested in the realistic artists of the time. I checked out books from the public library and poured over the photos. I was in awe of the work. Over the past few decades I've worked in watercolor, acrylics, pencil and acrylic gouache. Just five years ago I began working with oils.
Working with pet owners has been so rewarding. There is so much love involved in the whole process of painting someone's animal companion. It's a thrill when someone tells me they see their dog looking back at them from the painting.
When I just take time to sit I study all that's around me. The reflection in a chrome bumper, the color of a body of water at any given moment, the glint in my dogs eye. It's all art to me.
My paintings can be found in private collections in Israel, France, Denmark, England, Canada, Japan and the U.S.
I might be a bit obsessed with detail. It's all in the details and I love that!
As seen in Good Bird Magazine! Volume 2-3 Fall 2006
Extreme Close Up of Freelance Artist Mary Hughes
Mary Hughes, a freelance artist from the Chicago suburbs has been painting what she calls “close ups” of birds for about a year now. Her lifelong love of birds and almost obsessive goal to achieve realism in her paintings has come together in this unique way.
The oil paintings on canvas measure 8” x 8” and are extreme close ups of the birds faces. Though she does as large as 24” x 24” on occasion. The primary subjects are tropical birds or companion parrots. (what in the United States we would recognize as pet birds, parrots of all sizes and species.)
She first came across the idea when she was looking at some digital photos of her own parakeets. Mary explains to customers who inquire, “The photos showed amazing detail I didn’t know existed. I was so blown away by the beauty of this detail I knew I had to paint birds this way.” While birds have crept into Mary’s still life, floral paintings and her wooden pendulum bird clocks over the years her deep love of birds has come full bloom in this new offering from her studio.
Mary explains “I didn’t have pet birds until I was an adult, but as a child I was fascinated with birds of all kinds. I had occasion to hold a robin in my hands when I was 8 and I’ll never forget the feeling of its tiny heart beating. The bird had been stunned and I wasn’t sure if it could fly, so I was quite happy when I put it on the ground to see it fly off. Many of my earliest childhood memories involve birds.”
“For decades now I’ve been fascinated with realistic styles of painting. I’ve appreciated other artists’ work and have come to realize that it’s not so much skill with a brush that makes the difference. It’s recognizing what makes a particular object or creature uniquely them. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a highlight in the right place. Becoming a good observer has been key to making progress in this direction. I won’t tell you I always get it right. It’s quite a challenge some days and it can depend on my focus on any given day. My dad was a big believer in practice and I’ve come to learn that it’s not just doing something the same way over and over again that improves your efforts but it can be the practice of learning to see in a different way.”
When asked why she paints in this small format she replies, “birds are so tiny that an 8” close up of their little face is absolutely huge!” She goes on to explain that SFA (stands for small format art that is 14” x 14” or smaller) has been around for a great many years in galleries, exhibitions, and art competitions. People who enjoy collecting art by particular artists or subject matter find this form of art an affordable way to collect and decorate.
Having no formal art training, Mary has drawn and painted in a variety of mediums and subjects over the years. She began china painting at 15 and has worked in pencil, watercolor, acrylic and presently oils. Her web site is a showcase for her talents. You can browse through a catalog of hand painted items on wood or canvas and see a wide variety of prints. Mary encourages commissions of personal portraits of customers’ birds.
Mary is quick to point out her inspiration comes with daily contact with her own sweet flock of parakeets and cockatiels. She also gives much credit to her husband Ron for his continual encouragement and support.
Mary, Ron and their animal children have moved from the bustling Chicago area to the more quiet and serene countryside of Michigan. “I plan to continue to paint floral still life and birds but I’m very inspired by my surroundings and am working on fish and wildlife paintings to be offered in the near future. “ Mary and Ron are proud parents of three and equally proud grandparents of three.