Interview: Artist Mary Roberson: Wildlife and Landscape Painter Talks About Her Inspirations

Alina Bradford: How did you start as an artist?

Mary Roberson: I started painting at age 10 after my dad had taken me to a museum in Los Angeles to see an exhibit. Upon seeing the paintings I told my dad that I knew the process by which each artist had done the painting and my dad immediately bought me some art supplies. I was soon commissioned (on behalf of my mom’s generous offer) to paint a mural, a landscape, for our local church. It was my first painting – a 14 foot mural – by the age of 10.

Looking back, I thought nothing of the endeavor and hadn’t a clue why the adults thought it was a big deal. It was as natural as breathing for me. Prior to that mural I had done hundreds of sketches from age 6, mostly during class and fortunately for me none of my teachers suggested that they were creative or for that matter even acknowledged them, but they mostly allowed me to sketch during class time as long as I did my class work, too. The point is, I do believe, had they pointed out my creativity, I wouldn’t have continued sketching. I had a fear that came with my talent, which I’ve spent many years overcoming.

AB: Where is your art shown?

MR: My art is represented by Kneeland Gallery, Ketchum, Idaho.

AB: What is your inspiration?

MR: My inspiration is non-stop. I am inspired by animals and water mostly and 99% of my paintings depict one or the other. I am inspired by knowledge and experimenting with different compositions and techniques and I am inspired by viewing other artists’ works, thus I go to galleries quite often of which I prefer the contemporary look. But I am also inspired by the run-of-the-mill “everybody paints like this” stuff. It inspires me to not paint like that-To be unique, which is in each of us—So perhaps my greatest inspiration is just listening to my heart – yes, that’s it! – I knew I”d eventually get around to it – just like I eventually get out of my own way and painting happens.

AB: Are you an artist full-time?

MR: My art is my occupation and other than my family: two sons, one daughter, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law , one granddaughter, and wonderful siblings, I devote all my time to studying wildlife and painting wildlife and landscapes. I camp in Yellowstone two or three months of the year, in the winter and fall months mostly, to observe, photograph and sketch the wildlife.

AB: Does smalltown life inspire your paintings?

MR: Yes, small towns and country life inspire me to paint – in fact I’m in the process of looking to move out of this small town and into the boonies, not far from my children, but at least 30 miles farther. I want to build a bigger studio; I’m in a residential area and have no room to expand my 350 square foot studio. As far as big cities go, when I visit my sister or go to a museum, I keep my eyes closed not – really – but I’m pretty much turned off by traffic and noise. I recently declined an all-expenses-paid trip to Disney World, but I’ll take off in two seconds to drive 600 miles to see a bison in Montana.

What I like best about Hailey (Idaho) is that I know hundreds of people and I’m close to some of the finest galleries in the US, in the Ketchum area – also fine music, plays, benefits, outdoor concerts, gallery walks and in general a high quality of sophistication in the arts, along with a great percentage of people who have a high regard for our environment. This community is more “awake” than your average “anytown, USA”.

AB: Do you belong to any art organizations?

MR: No, I don’t belong to any organizations, although I do my part in donating to the wellbeing of children and young folks, wildlife, animal shelters and the environment: my very favorite things. Organizations don’t work for me – just like forgetting to respond to interviews, I would forget to attend meetings; I wouldn’t be “present”. Anyway, I belong to the best organization of all: I follow my bliss. I pick up cigarette butts and stray dogs, I go to the aid of an injured squirrel or child who needs help crossing the street – and I get to paint, which is what I’m going to do now.