Last week, we hosted a live studio tour of abstract artist, Mary Gaspar's beautiful, light-filled workspace on Instagram Live. Based in Chicago, IL, she painted at the Evanston Art Center throughout her youth, and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois. Her work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Domino Magazine, Property Brothers, and has been collected internationally. Read on for an inside look at her home studio and learn about her creative process. You can also catch our live tour and interview on our IGTV by clicking here.
Our Interview with Mary Gaspar
Where are you from originally and where are you located now?
I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois. We moved to the North Shore suburbs, where I grew up in Lake Forest. My husband and I lived in L.A. for 5 years but we currently reside back on the North Shore of Chicago, in a beautiful town called Wilmette, 15 minutes from where I grew up.
How would you describe your work?
Abstract expressionistic and at times minimalistic and gestural.
How did you get started with your current subject and medium? What inspires you?
My current abstract work started with my creating what I call 'Plant Cells.' They are gestural, minimalist, composition, and movement-focused pieces. They're derived from a post-baby fog…a reaction of pent up creative energy and a purging of the chaos in my sleep deprived and hormonal post baby body. They have evolved over time from simple watercolor black and white pieces on paper to heavily textured and multi colored, multi media paintings on canvas.
What is your artistic process (i.e. walk us through how you create a piece or series)?
My process usually begins with watercolor and paper. It’s a meditative practice that grounds me in the studio…standing at my drawing table and shaking out the creative energy through water, paint and sweeping brushstrokes. If I am creating a work on canvas I will usually prep the canvas with absorbent ground…a medium that converts the canvas to a watercolor substrate. I like to start with watercolor washes and wet media like gouache to create stains. Then I will build from there, adding acrylic and pastel, working intuitively, editing, adding and subtracting as I move to music.
Where do you like or tend to work?
I work from my home studio. We built this as an addition to our home 3 years ago. It has a balcony attached, large windows and is light filled and dreamy!
What is your favorite part of your creative process?
My favorite art of the process is both when I am starting a new piece…mixing the colors, prepping the canvas and such and about 3/4 of the way through the process, just when you get over the “messy middle” and you start to see how the painting is coming to life.
Is there ever a particularly challenging part of that process?
Yes! With acrylic there is always this ugly middle phase when everything looks wrong…I am always remembering that with acrylic you need to just keep going and layering. You have to work through the messy middle to get to the other side. I love the quote by Grace Hartigan, “A work of art is the trace of a magnificent struggle.” With watercolor, it’s more about considered choices, perfectly imperfect execution and editing as you go.
Are there any artists who have inspired you or your work?
Yes, the midcentury abstract expressionists…women who helped define that era. Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell and Grace Hartigan. I loved their boldness, willingness to try new media and just be plain weird.
In 5 words or less, what is your goal as an artist?
To create and share beauty.
What do you do in your free time aside from making art?
I have three young girls so lots of family activities with them and my husband. I love to run, garden, travel, read and see great films and theatre!
To shop all of Mary's original fine art, fine art prints, and now fine art face masks, click here.