Capturing a Moment in Art
by Shaughnessy Anne McKenna Dusling
Classically trained painter, and Northport native, Mary Ahern, has spent the past twenty-five years studying and mastering digital painting and design. Mary’s interest in digital painting was stimulated when she was working for a company that created graphic technology for use in the television and production industry. Beginning as a salesperson in the early 1980’s, Mary began learning about the newest advances in this medium. As technology progressed, these high-tech digital systems became a practical expense for the small business owner and were readily available. In the early 1990’s, Mary invested in her own system and created her own graphic design company, Online Design. Her company was 100% digital which was unique at a time when paste-ups and mechanicals were still the norm in graphics.
In addition to graphic design, Mary has combined her interests and talent in painting to create her own style and method of art. Her digital paintings are created by using the computer as her medium. Mary trades in her paintbrushes and paints for a pressure sensitive stylus and graphic tablet. Directly on the computer, she is able to paint the lighting, the color, the depth and dimension of the whole, using such realism that the paintings could be easily mistaken for photographs. Mary has mastered replicating shadows, shading, and even the meticulous textures of her subjects. At first, and perhaps second and third looks, the realistic quality of Mary Ahern’s digital paintings are so superb that one can only think of it as a photograph. Who could capture nature so well?
Mary’s abilities as an artist are not limited to digital painting. As a traditional painter, Mary is very talented. Mary mixes mediums, such as watercolor, oil paints, pastels, colored pencils and graphite, to create her works of art. She has been doing traditional painting and drawing for over thirty years and her work reflects many hours of time and commitment to the art.
In addition to art, Mary is very devoted to growing a private garden. She spends many hours cultivating the soil, planting, pruning and nurturing her flowers. Not surprisingly either, she adds a degree in Ornamental Horticulture to her already impressive resume.
Finding something that inspires is one of the most important steps for Mary as an artist. Mary states, “It is very important that I really like the subject that I choose because I spend so much time with it during all the preparatory drawings and photography, the tonal work, the color work and then the digitizing of the images for reproduction. Not to mention framing them to enjoy around my own home. I wouldn’t want to be so involved with a subject if it hadn’t originally really grabbed for my attention.” Her dedication to the subject is perhaps the reason for the incredible works of art that she creates. Her energy is transcribed into the art.
Mary describes her process of creating her traditional paintings, “My working method always includes a complete tonal drawing before I begin any color work. This is where I work out the values and nail down the compositional issues. When I work in oils I use an underpainting of neutral tones as the framework for the color work to follow. This type of procedure is called Grisaille. I usually work on several pieces at once. I work with many layers of glazing when working in oils and each work is not always dry enough to work on it day after day. Working on more than one painting at a time not only allows drying time between layers it allows me time to live with the work for awhile. I judge the color balances on some while I work on composition and tonals on others.” If you would like to witness this process, you can visit her website and view her works in progress, in which she has photographed works at certain stages of their production. It is not often that an artist will allow you to see works in progress.
Mary’s clear dedication to her garden transpires into her devotion to her art. On Mary’s impressive and self designed website, you can visit her two blogs. One is devoted to art in general, touching on her visits to various locations, book reviews and her journey as an artist. Mary also has a blog devoted to gardening, in which she posts photographs of her beautiful plants as they grow and transform, and even shows the plants alongside her art that she has created in homage to the specific bloom. Mary is a very involved artist, travelling the country at various art shows and fairs. A schedule of her upcoming events is listed on her website.
If you would like to learn more about North Shoreian Artist Mary Ahern, her garden, her masterpieces or to purchase her work, visit her online Art Store.