Q + A with Mari Richards

Mari Richards of St. Paul, Minnesota is an abstract painter focusing on light, color, and nature. She holds an MFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. 

I was just looking at one of my grandmother’s paintings and realized the similarities. She’s definitely an influence.
— Mari Richards

1. You say, "The moment I try to plan a painting is the moment it stops working." We LOVE this! So what would your creative process look like to a bystander?

You know I suppose there are some odd moments; things that might surprise people.

I like to start by centering and grounding myself. This usually consists of 3 deep breaths and a moment to pause and get present.

I work in layers, so the first goal is to get the white canvas covered. It’s messy, fun, and usually rather ugly, but it’s also really freeing. It’s pure playfulness - and on a good day it gets me dancing!

I pull out a hair dryer to speed up the drying between layers!

There are lots of random pauses to listen to what the painting needs next. (These pauses may or may not include a head tilt to one side, like your favorite dog!) Sometimes “listening” is literally pulling out a tube of paint, holding it up, and then changing my mind repeatedly. Or stepping back and looking from a distance, sometimes stopping to take a picture with my phone. It always changes my perspective to see it in a photo. And smiles, and singing -- there’s lots of that too!

On the flip side, if I'm not feeling well, it’s sitting in my comfy chair with the extra soft faux fur throw on top, a blanket and my favorite crystals in my lap, and a quieter process at my table - but even then I end up dancing and singing just a little.

2. When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I think I’ve always known. Even when I was in elementary school kids would ask me if I was going to be an artist when I grew up. My grandmother was a painter and all-around creative muse, and my mom, though a musician, loved drawing with me when I was a kid. It’s always been there.


3. Are there certain artists who inspire your work?

I love so many different kinds of art, my MFA actually focused on sculpture so there is a long list of 3D artists. But with my current work, I am inspired by some artists for their perseverance through physical limitations: like Frida Kahlo or Chuck Close. I look to others for their work, like Helen Frankenthaler, Judith Godwin, or Kandinsky. I was just looking at one of my grandmother’s paintings and realized the similarities. She’s definitely an influence. Also, contemporaries including Ashley Mary, Whitney Turetsky, Faith Evans Sills and fellow collective member Taylor Lee!

4. What is the biggest struggle you face?

Finding the space, time and confidence to support this painting habit between being a mother and my health.


5. What's next for you in 2018?

I’m finishing up a daily series of 4”x4” mini canvas paintings. It’s been a beautiful process, but now I’m really looking forward to painting on some larger pieces again! I’m also exploring some new ways to spread my reach and share my work with more people.

Learn more about Mari here

Jessie ReynaComment