Search This Blog

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mary Whyte Interview

I got this interview something half-a-year ago but then it happen that Mary considered that she is not participating my Interview Book project, so I am not sure if I can use her work images she sent me. For the illustration please visit her web page She is an extraordinary master!

Mary Whyte

Have you always been painting with watercolors?
I have painted in watercolor since I was a teenager.  Although I have studied many other techniques and mediums, my favorite has always been watercolor.

Did you have someone who influenced you as an artist?
I studied art at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and for a year in Rome, Italy.  Although I had many painting instructors, there really was not one that was particularly influential, because I could not find someone who could teach me watercolor.  I ended up having to learn watercolor on my own, by going to museums and studying the work of artists such as Wyeth, Homer and Sargent.

How did you come to the major subject of your painting?
I have always loved painting people.  Most of the people I paint live near where I live, and their familiarity makes them especially appealing to me as models.  In my recent museum exhibition called Working South I painted ordinary working people.  I found it exciting to paint people that I didn't know, and in environments that were unusual.

Do you always work with live models?
I believe the best way to paint is always from a live model.  However, working from life is not always possible, because most people do not have the time or patience to pose for such extended periods of time.   Therefore, I do have to rely on photographs, working sketches, and painting from memory in order to accomplish my paintings.

How do you work on composition?

I arrive at my compositions by first doing a series of small thumbnail pencil sketches.  Sometimes I might do as many as twenty small sketches before I arrive at a composition that I feel has the emotion and concept I am looking for. 

Do you finish a painting in one session?
I often do preliminary studies from life, which are done in one session.   However, most of my large paintings are done in my studio over a period of days or weeks.

Would you recommend to rather leave the painting unfinished than overdone it?

With watercolor there is little room for error.  Every correction takes something away from the painting's freshness, so I plan my paintings carefully.  I would much rather have a painting with an unfinished look than have a watercolor that is overworked.  Once a painting is overworked I tear it up and start over.

Most of your portraits tell a story. Do you believe that the painting might have a value only by it`s painting qualities?
My paintings are often described as being narrative, meaning that they tell a story.  I think every good painting should be engaging enough that it tells a story, but if an image tells too much, it becomes an illustration.  First and foremost, a painting must appeal to the senses.  Then the painting can tell whatever story the artist wishes.

What paper, paints and brushes do you use?

I use Arches 300 pound cold press paper.  My kolinsky brushes are of my own design and are made by from Columbia, South Carolina.  The pigments I prefer are M. Graham and Company.

How you can explain the new blossoming of the realistic Art?
Realistic art seems to be getting more attention these days.  When I went to art school in the 70's there was very little attention paid to drawing skills or to representational art.  Now there are dozens of traditional art school world wide, offering students a wonderful opportunity to study more advanced methods.

How we can keep the watercolor media in spotlight – your suggestion?
It has always been difficult keeping watercolor in the spotlight, because the medium has always been viewed as a "lightweight" compared to oils or tempera.  We need more schools treating watercolor as a serious medium, and more galleries willing to put works on paper on their walls.


  1. Thank you for the links, more interesting.

    Have a nice week!

  2. It is really interesting to know what the artist thinks about his medium, his creation,his techniques etc.One always learn something from others.It is always wortwhile. Thanks for sharing Mary Whyte's views!

  3. I love this kind of interview/ post, it's inspiring to hear another artist's take on things! Thanks for sharing!