Interview with Arts Whistler - January 2019.
Can you tell us a bit about Mary Pines, the artist?
I’ve been painting since I could hold a brush at 4 years old, but am relatively new to the professional art scene. I’ve been a career research scientist (cell & molecular biology, genetics) for most of my adult life. My love for biology led me to a PhD and 17 years in academic research, with a strong art habit on the side. I turned this habit into a career after some major life changes in my early 30s, when I realized that I need to balance my love of both art and science.
I paint and draw in a variety of styles, from realist to abstract, on wood and canvas. I love when people let me draw on their walls (mural) and enjoy live painting at events, festivals, and in the village for Arts Whistler.
What is your favourite thing about creating your art?
Seeing the joy on peoples’ faces when they connect with a piece of my work! That has to be one of the best feelings ever. I still can’t believe I can create things that bring joy to people I don’t even know!
It also just feels really good to just slow down and create. My hyperactive brain and body become very quiet and when I get into that amazing state of “flow”, I just can’t put the brush down and it’s fantastic! I’m not a night person, but sometimes I end up painting deep into the night, despite my 7am alarm, and it’s totally worth it! I run upstairs as soon as I wake to check on my progress, and if my schedule allows, dive right back in again!
What materials or techniques do you prefer to use when painting/creating?
I’ve always painted with acrylics, mostly because I’m impatient…when I want to create, I don’t want to wait!
I mostly paint from photos I’ve taken in the wilderness and rarely sketch things out first – I just go for it! I’ll often “underpaint” with wild, vibrant colours to create subtle but striking contrast and depth. (As you can see for “Singing Pass”, to the right.)
I also draw, mostly in ink, and have recently started creating digital art using high-resolution microscope images I collected during my years in research. (The “Cellular Landscapes” Collection on my website.)
What is your favourite thing to paint? (Either in terms of subject matter or style)
I often stare at something amazing in nature, like a snowflake or colourful sunrise, and wonder, “how does this even exist??” I ponder the forces at play or energies in motion, then play with those ideas on canvas. So much fun! Those pieces tend to be abstract (like “Coalescence” and “Creation”) and sometimes I’ll write poems or blurbs to describe them.
I love circles and curved lines, and they jump out at me when I’m looking at things, especially nature scenes. Highlighting them to the point of abstraction has allowed me to develop what I suppose is my signature “bubbly” style. These round shapes also speak to the subatomic and molecular structures that comprise everything in the painting, including the canvas and paints themselves…essential, yet invisible to the naked eye.
Can you tell us an interesting fact that people may not know about you?
For much of my adult life, my friends never even knew I was an artist. They would be horrified to find my finished canvases hidden away behind the couch or in closets. I never thought I was ‘good enough.’ Eventually, following a particularly grueling few years in the lab and some solid publications, I took a break and spent 7 weeks on Kauai, living in a tent on the beach and painting, one of the BEST decisions I ever made! Things went SO well that when I returned, I quit my job, packed up my life and moved back. That was a pivotal transition in my life: I let my creativity flourish for the first time since childhood, learned first-hand from incredible artists there, and gained the confidence I needed publicly display my art…and the response was overwhelmingly positive! My first piece, which wasn’t even finished, sold out of my hand as I walked into the first gallery on my list, palms sweating and terrified, to ask if the owner if he would have a look at my work. The couple speaking with him instantly fell in love with it, offering me amazing perspectives on its symbolism and twice as much money as I had suggested. The gallery owner asked to see my portfolio and immediately offered me space on his feature wall. In that moment, the universe was loud and clear: I was to make art.
I like drawing attention to life’s “everyday miracles”, such as the geometries that pattern nature or the invisible forces that govern existence (which can visualized with enough creativity). I use motion, contrast and bold colours to take people beyond the ordinary into the realm of the imagination.
Somewhat by accident, one of my specialties became custom “essence portraits”, which represent people or organizations, beyond what is skin-deep. This is incredibly rewarding work, as my clients are often profoundly moved by the process and outcomes. (You can see examples on my website.)
Who or what has been the biggest influence to you in terms of your work? What drives you to keep creating?
Growing up, I was constantly creating. I’m thankful to have been raised largely without TV, with a pencil in my hand and temperate BC rainforests as my playground. My work reflects a deep reverence for nature that I’ve cultivated since childhood.
My creative process is also strongly influenced by years of passionate scientific study. I feel fortunate to have witnessed first-hand the stunning, fractal nature of existence and the surreal worlds of molecules, cells and tissues, which I now weave into my work as an artist. I’ve learned that truth is truly stranger than fiction and sometimes wonder if the abstract worlds we create in our minds exist as alternate realities in the multiverse. Probably.
In terms of artists, our local Whistler favorite, Chili Tom, has been a HUGE inspiration! Two of my favorite things are abstract landscapes and colour, and Chili excelled in both. As a teenager, he was my ‘art hero!’ I would spend hours gazing at his work on the walls of Sushi Village and around town, wishing one day to meet him. (I did! What a guy.) I also studied ‘the Great Masters’ in books and on TV growing up, touring Italy at 16 to study some of their works first-hand and learn their techniques. And of course, there’s Bob Ross.
The thing that drives me to keep creating? I’m passionate about life in ways that motivate me to create endlessly. Something indescribable stirs deep inside me when I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of something – a scene, object or idea - and I must recapitulate some element of that experience in paint or pen. It’s kind of like smelling a scent so good, you want to put it in a jar so you can pull it out whenever you need a boost. To me, art can be like that too: a bastion of joy or inspiration, especially when the world seems a little ‘flat’ or unimaginative. My hope is that my art gives people that sort of boost.
Out of all of your work, what made you choose “Callaghan Magic” as your Arts Scene submission? Could you provide a little background/detail on the painting itself?
I love when an artist leads me to see something in a new light, so I try to do the same for my viewers. I often observe subtle, repeating forms and energies in landscapes, so I accent them when I paint, offering the viewer a new ‘lens’ on the scene. In “Callaghan Magic”, I exaggerated the arcs in the rounded pillows of snow on the rocks and tree branches, completing them as circles and tying different elements of the image together.
If you could recommend some other artists’ Instagram feeds for people to check out, who would they be and why?
Ohhh, it’s so hard to narrow it down to just a few! I certainly have a few heros in the Pacific Northwest. In no particular order:
@katezessel – I love Kate’s style, and that she leaves room for the imagination to flourish between the lines.
@michelle_andherst – Biology illustrator turned full-time artist who combines objects from nature with geometric forms to make pure magic. One day, I will own a BIG, original Andherst.
@roseunfolding – Rose’s unique creations start with raw wood slabs, flow with the grain, are full of feeling and deeply moving. (She also creates the most gorgeous cakes ever - check out her insta!)
@simonhaidukart – Digital artist, painter and musican ( @heofonmusic ), Simon is an awesome guy who has inspired and helped me a lot along the way.
@autumnskyeart – Incredible portraitist, peaceful activist and brilliant, kind person who paints not just things of beauty, but things that make you stop and think.
@phresha and @jennbrissonart – Create beautiful beings and surreal worlds that make my imagination go crazy! They’re long-time friends who inspired me to take my own leap into the art world and supported me tremendously.
What do you do when you’re not doing art?
On a personal level, my modus operandi is to spread joy each and every day, sharing smiles and positivity as I move through the world.
I spend as much time as possible in nature, with friends & family, dancing, camping, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, practicing yoga, cooking and volunteering. I need regular contact with forests and connect deeply with plants, especially trees. I care deeply environmental preservation, and especially of forest ecosystems and marine life, and plan to donate as much as I can to their preservation over the course of my life.
I also peacefully advocate for change by living it. I wholeheartedly embrace decentralisation and decommodification. I respect my elders and hold family time sacred. I buy local, support farmers and take responsibility for my actions. I believe…