We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Alayne Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary Alayne, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Creativity is in my blood. I was raised by a family of artists in a haunted, pink adobe house in Santa Fe. I would run wild through the high desert landscape, while my parents created art in their studios at home. My father was a ceramic artist, and my mother hand dyed and wove Ikat wall hangings. We traveled everywhere, showing their work at arts and crafts fairs across the country. I spent my childhood wandering the vast and completely magical isles of the fairs. When home, I would sit at my father’s kick wheel, watching him knead clay or I would try to use my mother’s loom when she was out, tangling her weaving into a giant knot. Art was a staple in our home, a necessity and a way of life. That ideal never changed for me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I began to paint with watercolor when I was very young (16). I sold my first collection of paintings when I was 18, and I was completely unprepared for the euphoric feeling that accompanied the sales. Not only was selling my work concrete validation that my paintings might actually be good, but to see others connect with the artworks, and also with me, was unlike anything else I had ever experienced. When I was in my early 20’s, I moved to Seattle. I came to know a great deal of young artists, all in the experimental stages of early careers. Their work was very modern, unrefined, and felt new and exciting. It was at this time I was told about encaustic by a friend. The minute I dipped my brush into the honey scented wax, I was hooked. It absolutely transformed my watercolors, creating a mystery, an instant atmosphere, a three dimensional painting. The ethereal nature of the beeswax created the perfect dreamy window for my watercolors, framing an ephemeral moment. My paintings are, to me, little vignettes. Rather than having the painting appear to be a frozen image, like a still life or portrait, I consider my works to be scenes from a story. With them, I hope to invite the viewer into a larger narrative. I am consciously grateful every day for where I am now in my career, because there were very rough times on the road that lead to me being a full time artist. There were (many) tears, there were unpaid bills, there was no food in the fridge, but through it all I kept chasing the experience I had when I first sold my work. To feel like you may have actually accomplished sharing an idea, a feeling, an aura that was at one point only in your mind, is well worth any hardship encountered along the way.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Such a fun question to answer, since I live in THE BEST, most fun city there is. Whever I pick up someone from the airport, we immediately go to Dots, a bar and restaurnt in SE Portland, where the lights are ALWAYS low, the punk music is loud,the vegetarian food is amazing, and the frozen coctails are strong…. Then we realign our spirits with the endless trails through the rainforests of Forest Park, a 7000 acre sanctuary in W Portland. If they are lucky, we’ll see the magnolia grove in full bloom! And if they’re especially lucky, a family of barred owls. For shopping, Mississippi records for good tunes, and Flutter for gifts (for yourself…. and maybe other people) Antler Gallery has an amazing rotation of shows, with many of my favorite contemporary artists. To end the night, I love to go to Turn Turn Turn, probably to see local band the Lavender Flu 🙂
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My father Kenyon Thomas created art his entire life with immense integrity. His exampled showed me that this creative life, with it’s artistic challenges and rewards are actually attainable.