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#ArtistFeature

  • Meet Copper Corners By Mary-Catheryn

     

    Copper Corners By Mary-Catheryn Artist Interview Meet Copper Corners By Mary-Catheryn

    First things first: Copper Corners is an actual place. “Our first house we bought together, that we brought our first-born child home to, was on a street [in Michigan] named Copper Corners,” explains artist Mary-Catheryn Baker, who goes by Mary-Catheryn professionally. In addition to the street she and her husband moved to, copper corners are also a calling card for the artist, since she adds them to her paintings.

    Although she and her family no longer live on Copper Corners, the concept of home is an important element of Mary-Catheryn’s professional trajectory, including her artistic family of origin as well as where she spent her early years.

    “I grew up in Paraguay, in the middle of South America, with missionary parents. I came to the United States at age sixteen,” she says. “It was kind of rough. It’s a pretty important age. I had watched all the American movies about high school, so I was terrified of Mean Girls [the movie and the real-life kind] and I was terrified of high school. I actually home-schooled myself.” Mary-Catheryn wanted to keep her Spanish skills sharp, so she eventually became a translator, doing medical translation for a hospital in Grand Rapids.

    Mary-Catheryn’s post-high school educational background is in business management, not art. That’s because she didn’t necessarily think of herself as an artist, since artistic talent was common in her family. “I have always been artistic,” she explains. “Everyone in my family is an artist. My grandpa did a lot of comic-type artwork. My mom is really good at drawing profiles and people’s faces. What happens in a family of artists, or at least in my family, where everyone’s good at something it’s not that big a deal. No one really paid attention to it. I never thought anything of it.”

    It was in decorating her home that she recognized the extent of her artistic ability, when her husband was transferred to Florida. “When we bought a house it had those huge, tall Florida ceilings and a whole bunch of empty walls. I looked and looked and couldn’t find any [art] I loved. I thought, ‘I’m going to do it myself.’ I went and got a huge canvas and painted a cow, which was exactly what I wanted and couldn’t find. Our neighbor saw it and absolutely loved it and insisted on buying it. And then my sister-in-law bought one, and my neighbor’s sister, and my sister’s friend from work, and it turned into something.” She laughs. “This is what I do full time now” in Grand Rapids.

    The cow, the subject of her first big painting, is a favorite artistic theme for Mary-Catheryn. That’s because when she was growing up in Paraguay, cows were a part of day-to-day life. “Where we lived, farming is very different than in the US,” she says. Farmers in the morning would open their gates and let the animals roam. You’d be driving down the main street and you’d have to stop because there would be a group of cows. I loved the cows and the horses that really weren’t my animals but were my animals, in a way. Most of my animal art is inspired by that.”

    Mary-Catheryn has a studio in her home and paints primarily on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when a sitter arrives to look after her young kids. She works in acrylics “because I have no patience,” she says. “It dries fast, so I can keep layering over and over and I don’t have to wait.”

    Although Mary-Catheryn might not have thought she’d end up making her living as a full-time artist, in retrospect it all makes sense. And as for her family, whose own artistic gifts made hers seem more run-of-the-mill than they actually are? “Family is funny,” she reflects. They weren’t surprised [I became an artist] but were kind of like ‘really? You’re gonna do art?’ [My response is] ‘yeah, and you should too!’”

  • Kristin Llamas Draws Llamas!

    Kristin LLamas Draws LLamas

    For starters, yes, this artist known for her soulful llama portraits is really named Kristin Llamas. It’s her married name, she’s had it for fifteen years, and it’s pronounced “yamas.” The name came first, then the art subject, and the whole llama-in-art endeavor is very name-based, she explains. Her series of llama (and alpaca) portraits each bears its subject’s first name.

    “[Depicting llamas] started as a fun play on words,” she says, “and I was curious about first names.” Specifically, since we are named before we have a personality, Llamas was interested in how much a person’s name serves to shape his or her personality. She put a post on social media asking followers to tell her their own naming story, whether they were named after someone or something, and whether they identify with their name. Her intent was to produce llama portraits named after people who responded to the post. “I was only going to do twenty-five for a gallery show,” she recalls, “and I got them all the first day. I had over one hundred [responses] by the end of the week.”

    And so the llama portraits have continued, now number up to 250, and Llamas is taking commissions on her website from people who want their name, or a special person’s, interpreted as a llama. “I have a huge file of reference photos,” she says. “I follow lots of llama and alpaca farmers on Instagram. [For the record, she says that the two animals are often difficult for her to distinguish in close-up photos, so she acknowledges that an alpaca may slip through now and then into her art.] When I see a cool personality coming through I’ll put it in a digital file. When I get a name submitted lots of times I don’t even know the person or anything about them. But certain names give you a feeling. I’ll see a William as a strong and more traditional llama. Penny is a little bit more fun. I can’t pick just any name to go with any llama. The thing that takes me the longest is pairing a reference photo with the look and feel of the name.”

    Llamas the artist has come to appreciate llamas the animal for their individual characteristics. “I love the symbolism behind llamas themselves,” she notes. “There’s a feeling of community in the herd, and they’re loyal and strong, they can carry things on their back for a long period of time. But if you upset them they’ll spit on you.”

    Llamas, who lives with her husband and three daughters near Nashville and is building a second home in Colorado, draws many of her llama works digitally on a tablet. She also creates large-scale (non-llama-related) artworks on canvases, with acrylics and oils.

    As for the future of the llamas in her art, Llamas thinks they’re here to stay. “I love the llamas. I did not anticipate the llamas taking off so much and so quick. I’m just kinda running with it and seeing where it goes.”

  • Meet Alison Junda

    Meet Alison Junda

    Alison Junda always assumed that galleries were the best way for artists to sell their work. In fact, a local gallery is where Alison got her start. But the internet has opened new venues for artists, and it’s a change that has served Alison’s career well.

    “Growing up, I always just assumed that artists sold paintings through galleries and that was the only outlet, the only way to get your things out there,” she says. “But now it’s totally different, with online selling and websites. That’s been a huge game-changer.”

    Alison lives with her family in New Jersey. Four local galleries carry her work, she says, and three of those four found her via social media. She’s a full-time artist, which is not something she initially thought she’d be able to be. “I’ve always painted,” she says. “I took a lot of art in high school, like senior-study-type classes. I always kind of wanted to pursue art but wasn’t sure if that was the best career choice for me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it as an artist.” And so she majored in interior design, which seemed to be a better career move, she explains. But with the advent of social media, “I’ve been able to connect with people locally and throughout the country.”

    Alison’s artwork is heavily influenced by her surroundings. She grew up in Maryland by the bay and spent summers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, “so I really fell for the ocean by going down there every summer. I’ve always been inspired by--and loved--coastal landscapes.” These landscapes are right in her backyard, practically, so she brings images back to her studio. “I don’t usually do [outdoor] painting,” she clarifies. “It’s a lot to bring everything with me. I’m more comfortable painting at home. I go to the beach and take photos there. I sometimes work directly from a picture. But sometimes it’s an inspiration and I change things here and there, especially colors. There’s a neat blend of taking a photo and editing it, either via the computer or in my head, and pulling in different colors.”

    Alison, who works in acrylics, has recently added trucks and bikes to her subject matter. This is thanks to the first gallery in which her work was sold. “There’s a really cool nautical and vintage coastal inspiration for everything they sell,” Alison says. “They’ve been really good about inspiring me and suggesting things. The surf trucks and the bikes came out of inspiration from that store. I’ve always loved vintage trucks and jeeps. I thought maybe I’ll see how this goes, and they were really popular. I had a jeep wrangler for many years before I had kids and I loved it. I loved driving around in the summer. You see it a lot around here,” so the inspiration just keeps on coming.

    As for future inspiration, Alison does have some ideas, but she’s sticking to what she loves best. “I’ve thought about doing more landscapes in addition to seascapes,” she reports. “But other than that I really like what I’m doing now. I really like painting oceans, landscapes, boats, bikes, and cars, and if I stay in that area there’s plenty of variety.”

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