About Mary Mabry
After a career in the banking business and a doozy of a mid-life crisis, I was looking for a new career. An artist friend took me with her to a painting demonstration by Ted Goerschner at a local arts club. I was impressed by his demonstration and decided that I wanted to learn to paint like him and become an artist. Of course, I knew nothing about art and had never painted (except for the little gifts for Mother that all children make in elementary school). But I wouldn’t let a small detail like that stop me.
Being a logical person, I signed up for a painting workshop with Ted Goerschner. I didn’t paint much in that workshop, mainly because I didn’t know the first thing about painting. But I did know that I wanted to be an artist. So I said, “Ted, I want to be a professional artist. What should I do?” And he told me that I needed to go to art school and study life drawing. “Well,” I thought, “What’s this life drawing stuff he’s talking about? I want to paint landscapes—not people.”
Being fairly stubborn, but persistent, I said to Ted’s soon-to-be wife, Marilyn Simandle, “Marilyn, I want to be a professional artist like you. What should I do?” And she told me that I needed to go to art school and study life drawing. “But,” I said, “I don’t want to paint people. I want to paint landscapes like you and Ted do. Why do I need to study this life drawing stuff?” And, of course, she told me, but I still didn’t understand.
When I returned home from the workshop, I decided that I needed some more instruction—at least a couple of weeks worth—in order to get the basics of this painting stuff down so that I could get on with my career as an artist. So, I found a local teacher, Chet Collum, and I said, “Chet, I want to be a professional artist. What should I do?” And—you guessed it—he told me that I needed to go to art school and study life drawing. “In fact, Mary, there’s an old guy who really knows how to draw and has started a small school nearby. Why don’t you call him?” Stubborn I may be, but stupid I’m not. “Hmm,” I thought, “Maybe these professional artists know something after all.” I called the art school and made arrangements to visit for an hour to see a class in session.
I walked in the school, the proverbial art rube off the turnip truck, went up to the owner—a great artist and outstanding teacher—Fred Fixler, and said “I want to be a professional artist. What should I do?”And Fred said, “Well, you’ve come to the right place. Sit down and do what we tell you to do and we’ll see what happens.”
And I did sit down. I sat down at the California Art Institute in Calabasas, California for just over a year. I figured I had a lot to learn, so I drew from life from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. After a lunch break, I drew from life from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Then I fought the traffic on the L.A. freeways, went home and had dinner with my husband, and turned around and went back to art school and drew from life from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. I did this Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday I did household chores and practiced drawing from books of charcoal drawings by John Singer Sargent and J. H. Vanderpoel and from photographs.
Well, I learned a lot from Fred and the other fine teachers at the Institute. Mostly I learned how ignorant I was about art and how far I had to go to become a professional artist. I’ve never believed much in luck; I’ve always believed in working hard to get what I want. But serendipity is something else. After all, I was totally naïve about art and I literally stumbled into one of the best art schools in Southern California. And I studied under one of the finest artists and teachers I have ever known. All my life drawing work at the Institute gave me a basic framework from which to begin my art career. I’m just thankful that I had the sense to take advantage of that opportunity.
My last day at the Institute, Fred Fixler looked at the life drawing I was working on and said, “Mary, you have talent. But you must continue to study. And you must teach. That in itself will help you become a better artist.” I later realized that I was given a great opportunity at the Institute and, because of that, have an obligation to pass on what I learned there. So I conduct classes and workshops whenever I get the opportunity, in the hope that the artistic fire will be lit in someone else. And, on the very first day of every class, I always tell my students the story you’ve just read.
Since leaving the Institute and California, I have had the joy of studying with such great teachers as Harley Brown, Gregg Kreutz and the late Bettina Steinke. And I have had my award-winning paintings featured in juried shows in New York City at the Salmagundi Club, American Artists’ Professional League and Pastel Society of America, and other fine national and regional juried shows.
I grew up in rural Missouri, but spent over 21 years in Los Angeles. During that time I sorely missed the peace and tranquility of rural life. When I left art school I knew I had to find a refuge from urban life, and have finally found one in a small town in midcoast Maine where I have lived since 2005.
As you can see from the galleries on my site, I enjoy painting all sorts of subjects, from portraits to still life, floral art, landscapes and seascapes. But overall my paintings would be described as fine art realism regardless of the subject.