Mary Leone

Mary LeoneMary was born in Carlisle and currently resides in Camp Hill. She has loved drawing and painting her whole life. In 2019, she received an MFA in Painting from the Marchutz School of Fine Arts at the American College of the Mediterranean, Aix-en-Provence, France. Prior to studying in Aix-en-Provence, Mary received an MA in Philosophy from KU Leuven in Belgium (2017), and a BA in English and Philosophy from Grove City College in Pennsylvania (2016).

Mary’s artistic practice focuses on painting and drawing from life and nature, with an attitude of continual exploration, disciplined attention, and openness. She primarily paints portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, as she sees all these deeply interrelated. She seeks to make every encounter with these visual experiences true to the moment of experience, rather than to traditional conventions. Her graduate work in painting and drawing explores color relationships and minimalist, expressive techniques. These serve the practice of painting from a “lived perspective,” which means trusting her eyes instead of the mind’s expectations. This has the sometimes unsettling consequence that she cannot know how a painting will look until it is finished: it is essential to her artistic process to seek to remove her own agenda, her own thoughts on what the painting “should be,” in order to paint with greater freedom, honesty to her experience, and care towards the world around her. Mary has painted in the fields of Aix-en-Provence (Cezanne’s home), hillsides of Giverny (Monet’s home), valleys of Switzerland, and the shore of Venice. She also loves painting portraits from life, seeking to express something true of people’s character in her work.

Mary has tutored students in drawing and painting, worked as a gallery assistant at Grove City College, and helped to organize and design the college’s Arts Festival. In graduate school, Mary was a teaching assistant for the art history course, “Crossroads in European Art”, instructing class sessions and leading a museum visit at the Musee Granet, Aix-en-Provence. In college, her art was selected as the cover art of The Quad literary magazine; Mary’s artwork has also been featured at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts Open Houses, Galerie ESDAC in Aix-en-Provence, GCC Arts Festival, and the Art Walk Exhibit in Grove City, PA.

Mary’s work is in private collections throughout the United States, France, Belgium, and Scotland.

Below is a Q&A with Mary:

Tell us briefly about your background & how you got started in your medium.

I loved drawing and painting my whole life. My grandmother was a watercolor artist, and would give me and my sister art lessons as children. In high school, I took art courses that explored a variety of media, but in college I fell in love with oil painting. I found inspiration from my art history courses, and felt that my artwork grew and developed the more I studied the masters, like Cezanne, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. But I felt that my paintings didn’t have the same freedom and life as theirs did, so throughout my graduate studies in painting I pursued that freedom. The challenge of painting from life and nature (en plein air) has strengthened me as an artist, and helped me see more deeply into the beauty and wonder of the world around us.

How does your medium inform your viewpoint? Or what do you like most about your medium?

Using primarily oil paints, I do an extensive amount of color mixing every time I paint. I may spend 45 minutes or so in front of the subject, simply mixing colors. I usually begin with warm and cool blues, warm and cool reds, warm and cool yellows, as well as viridian, and up to three different whites. I often experiment with new colors as well, and sometimes mix my own paints from the pigments. I
usually let the subject before me determine which colors I use or don’t use. The more I’ve painted, the more I see how “broken” (that is, containing red, yellow, and blue) colors are in the world, and how complementary color pairings are true to our visual experience. I seek to reflect those aspects of my vision in my artwork. Every color I paint with, I brake with all the primary colors, so as to be true to nature and our experience of it.

Who or what have been your artistic inspirations?

I love gleaning inspiration from the history of art. I’ve learned a lot from Byzantine era sculpture, in particular the bas-relief sculpture of St. Peter in the cathedral cloister in Aix-en-Provence, France. I’ve learned much from the color theory of the Impressionists, the precision and freedom of Vermeer, and the color relationships of Cezanne. I’ve greatly appreciated several authors as well, whose work
influence my art, such as Christopher Alexander, Flannery O’Connor, and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Three contemporary artistic inspirations are the abstract expressionist Makoto Fujimura, the oil painter Charley Neff, and the oil painter/watercolorist Christen Yates.

Do You Have a Favorite Piece in Your Portfolio?

One of my favorite paintings is the portrait “Nick.” I felt that this painting pinpointed Nick’s character and manner in a deep way. Throughout my studies in France, I painted dozens of portraits, and found portraits to be perhaps the most challenging yet invigorating type of subject matter. I painted or drew Nick, an artist friend and musician, around a dozen times. Musician portraits are some of my favorite to do, because I seek to express not only the character of the person, but the music itself in these paintings. Hearing the music, as well as seeing the musician, adds another dimension to my painting experience, and I find it really incredible to pursue. I hope to paint many more musician portraits throughout my career as an artist.

What would be your advice to artists just starting out in your medium?

Paint what you see, not what you think you ought to see. But true to the visual experience before you, and challenge yourself not to allow conventions, “tips and tricks”, or other techniques to prevent you from trusting your eyes and hand. Your eyes and hand may know better what the painting needs than what your mind thinks it needs. Study artworks—spend 2 hours sitting in front of one painting, and allow it time to open up to you. It’s incredible what you can find in the relationships of color to color, stroke to stroke, that may only open up after long waiting and looking. And as you continue painting, allow every painting you make to be a new experience, as if you’ve never painted before. As Shunryu Suzuki wrote, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Mary Leone’s website

1 Comment on “Mary Leone”

  1. Lynn draper

    I have a painting by Leone, trying to find out
    If this is Mary’s painting. It’s a girl in a field of daisies. Absolutely gorgeous and so peaceful. Bought it from an auction in Pine Bluff Arkansas

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