“In My Studio, I Am…” By Mari O’Brien

With my first Open Studios Art Tour fast approaching, I am trying to finish up some pieces that need just a few small touches to be ready for matting, framing, or hanging during OSAT—so the name of the game in my studio right now is “Get Your Act Together, Mari!”

I describe myself as an experimental artist, and I just can’t get enough of trying new materials, processes, and techniques—of inventing new combinations and syntheses of approaches and methods that I have learned thus far on my amazing journey in art.  All this experimentation makes art truly joyful and satisfying for me.

What frequently happens, however, is that as I am attempting to finish one piece, I experience a sort of epiphany about some new experiment I could begin; about some new combination of colors or materials that might be interesting to explore; or about some new series that would be fun to embark on.  While I always write notes about such things, sometimes I am just so anxious to try something new that the painting I’m working on—almost finished—gets set aside (only for a short while, I always promise myself!).   It seems that my very active imagination sometimes gets ahead of my ability to conclude a current piece.

Sigh…

So here are a few pieces that are nearing completion for exhibit in October:

MariOBrien1This one will be called “Trelawney’s Red Necklace” (acrylic on paper).  There is a bit of her face that needs to be finished—as well as, of course, the “red necklace” (I promised myself that I wouldn’t paint the red necklace until everything else was finished)!   In this piece, I was experimenting with patterns, textures, and shapes.  When I paint figures, I often depict them in a sort of caricatured way or with exaggerated body parts.  Here, I wanted to suggest a sort of shy, ungainly, awkward girl so pleased with and proud of her jewelry that she seems oblivious to—and unembarrassed by—her perhaps less-than-comely demeanor.

MariOBrien2This painting doesn’t yet have a title.  I still have some areas to “clean up,” and the focal element is not completely defined—plus a few other refinements will happen.  My experimentation with this acrylic work on 300 lb. watercolor paper was to paint the entire thing with sponges!!  I hope to mount this on cradled birch panel, then varnish, so that the lovely deckled edges remain visible.

MariOBrien3When finished, this acrylic and collage piece on cradled birch panel will be part of my wabi sabi series.  (To read more about wabi sabi  click here.)  One way that I experiment is to create a complex, multi-layered underpainting, after which I spend some time considering what is happening on the surface; the painting eventually “speaks to me” and tells me where it wants/needs to go.  This painting is in the process of telling me, even as I write this. The white lines you see here (plus a couple more that I will add) are my attempt to work out a structure for this piece.  These white lines are temporary and will disappear once I have negatively painted around them to make the shapes emerge.

Mari O’Brien’s working studio is located in San Luis Obispo, listed as number 143 in the Open Studios Art Tour’s catalog, and will be open both weekends. To view more of her work, visit her website. She specializes in experimental watermedia, jewelry, scarves, and cards.

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