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Mary Ann Wakeley

Mixed Media Artist/Painter

Born 1961

Self taught painter --     painting full time since 2003

Art education

--life drawing at PA Academy of Fine Arts 1994

--life drawing and design at Philadelphia College of Textiles and
Sciences 1989

Musically inclined

--studied classical piano for seven years as a child

--a brief period of violin in the early 1990s

--favorites are stringed instruments especially the violin and cello

--paints to music

Other art pursuits

--steel and aluminum and mixed media
wire sculpture, mainly palm sized but
have also produced two life sized pieces

--mixed media papier-mache and clay
work (on-going, but mainly produced

-- Art Director/Curator of a new
international contemporary art gallery
here outside Philadelphia, Three Ravens

What inspires your art?

Music is my main inspiration. It draws the work out of me.
Although I am a visual artist, my perception of sounds and
vibrations in music are what gives my paintings their life
and emotional substance. It is a pleasant distraction that
sets the tone for what needs to be expressed. Once I
begin to get into the work, the music falls away a bit and I
become less conscious of it.
Color is also an inspiration but it isn't as if I see a color
and feel that I have to go and paint it. It is more a tool to
express what I am feeling.

What materials do you use?

Acrylic, pastel (chalk mainly but some oil), ink, and oil bar.
My supports cycle between unstretched primed canvas to
plywood to paper, and I recently worked on mdo board
which is resin coated plywood, the kind used in
When I first started painting, most of what I did was oil or acrylic on canvas. It
was fine but it felt like something was missing. I wasn't getting the impact I
wanted from the materials. I began to incorporate paper mache into acrylic to
give it texture, and from there started adding pastel and ink.

When did you start to use wood and why?

In 2007 I began painting on pine plywood and then changed over to the
sturdier surface of birch. I do not care much for the texture of canvas. Primed
canvas has an artificial feel to me and doesn't absorb the color. Unprimed
canvas takes more of the paint but I do not like the flimsy feel of it. Wood is
more versatile in how it interacts with the color and the materials. I will often
apply chalk pastel directly onto the raw wood or leave areas of the wood grain
visible. I enjoy the sensual aspect of working with wood and the connection
with the natural element. From the beginning I disliked the "bounce" of
stretched canvas. Wood offers a sturdy and smooth work surface. I take my
chances when it comes to wood and warping. Many people gesso the wood
on both sides to prevent warping, but it defeats the purpose of using wood as
a natural material. I prefer to use unprimed wood when using more pastel
than acrylic. Oil sits nicely on wood and I have done a few of those as well.
My larger pieces are on canvas for practical purposes. A 70x70 on
canvas is less cumbersome to hang and transport versus one on
wood. However, at some point, I anticipate doing some very large
pieces on wood. It is really a matter of space and time.

Where is your studio?

In my home. I work in what was once a dining room. It is small but
works for now. When I do acquire a larger studio, it will still be a part
of where I live.

Do you work during the day or night?

99% of the time I work during the day with the most intensive and
productive time being between noon and five o'clock. I am very
sensitive to the light and how it affects the colors. I prefer natural to
artificial light. On cloudy days I may overcompensate in my work by
using stronger colors, but this I feel, simply lends itself to what may be
perceived as the uniqueness of a particular work.
I will also note that I rarely wear glasses when I paint. I
have tremendous difficulty seeing things up close
without glasses, but I cannot wear them when I paint,
especially large works. It kills the spontaneity. When I am
working smaller or more detailed I will periodically put
them on to get a read on what I am doing but I try not to
manipulate the image too much.

I have been doing smaller works on paper in the evening
mainly to make better use of the time. I find it quite
relaxing to sit and work at night. I do not sit when I am at
work in my studio.

Have you always painted abstracts?
No. When I first started painting I was doing flowers
and ocean scenes. Never from still life, always from my
imagination. I still find ocean scenes very calming and
did a series of horizon line works on wood in 2009. I
am very much about what exists beyond the horizon. It
relates to the adventure-seeking side of me and gives
me the opportunity to explore a single line, something
that has fascinated me since I was a child.

I also painted portraits of people I knew and some
famous faces. I won't write off painting figuratively in
the future. I am very drawn to the figure and faces but I
tend to keep them separate in my own work. I have
been alluding to the human form in recent 2010
abstracts so I will be as surprised as anyone to see
where it leads.