The wildlife of Mary Roberson
March 22, 2011
Wildlife artist Mary Roberson began drawing when she was in elementary school.
"I filled journals with drawings in school, rather than listen to the teacher," Roberson said during a telephone interview from her studio in Idaho. "I knew that I liked to draw. Drawing was and still is my favorite pastime more than painting."
Although no one encouraged Roberson, she continued to draw on her own until high school when she was put in an art class after not being able to take another elective course.
"The art instructor immediately asked where I studied and I told them I never took an art class," Roberson said. "So they put me in these special classes, which had me studying and painting the human figure."
She won awards and scholarship offers for her paintings that depicted various scenes near her neighborhood in Redondo Beach, Calif., and began making a name for herself.
However, Roberson wasn’t happy.
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"I quit art altogether because I didn’t like California," she said. "I put art in the back of my mind, got married and moved to Idaho."
After a two-decade break, Roberson felt the urge to pull out some of her old pastel crayons.
"I went out to do some landscaping when a herd of cattle walked past me," she said. "They were intriguing, so I painted them and I painted the cowboy who was guiding them."
A few weeks later, she went to Yellowstone National Park and found her true muse.
"I saw bison and elk, and that’s all she wrote," Roberson said. "I just had to paint them. The wildlife and the environmental scenes so took me by surprise that I had to paint what I felt about them. I knew then it wasn’t me choosing to paint, the paint was choosing me."
As she rediscovered her love for painting, Roberson’s formal training bubbled to the surface and helped her develop the pathos in her works.
"I think since I extensively studied human anatomy, I’m able to get the expressions in the animals’ eyes," she said.
Because of that aspect, her painting "The Mystic Forest," was purchased by the National Museum of Wildlife Art in 2005 and was accepted into the Artists for a New Century II exhibit in Jackson Hole, Wyo. She was also recently asked by the city’s Conservation Alliance to be their ambassador artist.
"It feels good that they really like me there," Roberson said. "I find it interesting that I’m doing something I love and getting recognition and making a living. It’s a pretty big deal for me, especially when painting wildlife isn’t difficult for me."
Taking the easy road is Roberson’s mantra, she said.
"I don’t think anything in life should be hard," she said. "If it is, then I’m on the wrong track."
Roberson also doesn’t like to take a lot of time when painting a new piece.
"I feel art shouldn’t take forever," she said. "I remember one time I went to the Tetons and saw four or five great grey owls picking up mice right in front of me, and I had to get back to my paints as quickly as I could or I’d go crazy."
Interestingly, while Roberson paints wildlife and nature, she’s usually listening to the modern-progressive rock of Muse or the punk-rock of Green Day.
"I can hardly paint without music," she said with a laugh. "My paintbrush dances across the canvas. Because it’s not as much the lyrics as it is the music that I like. There are a lot of the lyrics I disagree with, but they are reconciled through my creativity."
Sometimes the angry lyrics , help Roberson get through a creative block.
"I’ll be at a point where I won’t know where to go next on a painting and all of a sudden one of those songs will get me mad, and I’ll finish it," she said with a laugh. "Some of those paintings are my most popular because they seem so spontaneous."
The Meyer Gallery, 305 Main Street, will host a reception for Mary Roberson on Friday, March 25, from 6 p.m. 9 p.m. during the Park City Gallery Association’s Monthly Gallery Stroll. For more information call (435) 649-8160 or visit http://www.meyergallery.com.