The magnificent wild animals and birds of the Northern Rockies are a favorite subject of observers, photographers and artists, including yours truly – but mostly by observation and photography on my part – and sometimes the animals even come to me (see photograph)! Artist Mary Roberson does far more than that, she “paints the talk” in her stunning renditions of that wildlife.
Altamira Fine Arts in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, hosted acclaimed Northern Rockies artist Mary Roberson on December 22, 2011, for a special exhibition of new sketches, a painting demonstration, and an art talk about her work.
Mary exhibited new work from 2011, including many new graphite sketches, including several with a conte wash. The sketches were all of animals and mostly profiles – her favorite pose for them – sheep, birds, bear, wolves, buffalo, elk and more! Also on exhibit were her painted works on wood and canvas.
We enjoyed a long conversation with Mary about the challenges and benefits of truly “observing”, “doing the work”, and life in general, particularly for artists.
Sometimes, her sketches are created after she has painted the subject, not before. She wants to learn more about that raven or bear, consider how they think, orient and react to their surroundings, and only then create a sketch that furthers her understanding of them.
Her work comes after long hours of observation in the wild without sketching or painting. This methodology allows her to absorb actions, form, movement, personalities and interactions with other animals or with nature. Too often, plein aire art can be very insightful and beautifully done, but miss a superior and enlightening comprehension and representation of the subject because of the distraction of the mechanics of painting or sketching.
Bears are her favorite subject, but more rarely seen than many other species. Asked which animal was most difficult for her to paint, she said elk, and particularly the peculiar shade of blue on their snouts! Her elk paintings are perhaps the most detailed and exact of her works, perhaps because of that extra challenge.
Her large works with a variety of bird species sometimes include subtle initials near each, “GF” at the golden finch, for example. That subtlety carries over into unique discoveries within the body of her work in addition to fine renditions of the central subject matter.
Her website, “Mary Robeson”, http://www.maryroberson.com/ , displays many images of her work. Better yet, observe an excellently curated ongoing presentation of her works at Altamira Fine Art (Jackson, Wyoming), Meyer Gallery (Park City, Utah) or Visions West Galleries (Livingstone & Bozeman, Montana, and Denver, Colorado).
Famed strategist John Boyd defined the “OODA Loop” , a well-defined method of how to arrive at the best action for superior results, in his case in military action, but essential for success in whatever field of endeavor you pursue. Mary Roberson, artist, certainly follows that strategy by first Observing, then Orienting to context, then Deciding on focus and approach, then Acting to create expressive and extraordinary art.