Exploring Abstract Painting

If you’ve been reading the blog for several years, you’re probably familiar with our friend and long-time contributor Mari Richards. Her thoughtfully curated blog posts and round-ups are a joy to explore, even now years later. So although you may already know that side of Mari’s creative mind, we’re excited to be sharing another facet of her design work today: these beautifully painted abstract pieces of art!

These new paintings mark her return to the studio after several months of illness and recovery. She came back to painting as a place of healing and hope! They’re filled with her favorite marks and colors – calming blues. Each is a variation on the theme of hope! In her painting studio, she finds a place to embrace color, marks, layers, and textures. As she says: “The moment I try to plan a painting is the moment it stops working.” Instead, it’s about intuition, instinct, and a conversation with the paint in front of her.

We’re excited to help share the news of her new series of paintings, which just launched yesterday! Each of the ten new pieces is 8″ by 8″ and available for $100 including shipping. And a bonus – if you’re one of the first two orders, you will also receive a free mini 4″ by 4″ painting! Take a look at the collection in Mari’s Etsy shop.

We also had a chance to catch up with Mari and ask her a few questions about what she’s been up to lately, the inspiration behind these new paintings, and more!

How did you get your start in design?

Art has always been a big part of me. And I thought that’s where I’d stay. But my first job out of college was at a sign shop, and the owner gave me all these design opportunities. Turns out I love solving a design problem, I was hooked! After that, I found my first job in toy design by accident – in the newspaper help-wanted ads! I knew it was the right fit immediately, combining my drawing skills and imagination with design problem-solving.

You design a lot of kids’ products – which are your favorite to work on and which are most challenging?

One of the best parts of designing for kids is tapping into that part of me that’s still a kid. So my favorite projects are the ones that my little kid self loves too: dolls, imaginary creatures, toys with a puzzle element to them. The biggest challenges are usually the projects with the least limitations – when a client simply says they need new ideas. But those big challenges also come with the satisfaction of finding the perfect creative solutions!

How long have you been creating abstract paintings? Does working on them vs your other design work feel different, and if so, how?

As an official thing, I’ve been painting for about two years. Though I was painting in college and a little in my early twenties. Then I shifted into design, and my MFA focused on a broader approach; mostly drawing and sculpture. I’ve always got my hands in something!

I discovered some time ago that I’m not happy if I’m only designing. By itself it can leave me too focused on market-driven solutions, other people’s bottom lines, lifestyle trends. So painting is the counterbalance. In my studio, I’ve spent a lot of time letting go of pleasing others and trying to just let the creativity flow. Part of that is letting go of the outcomes – such an opposite to designing! That release lets me just swim in what fuels me: the creativity itself..

Tell us about your new group of paintings and what inspired them.

This past year was a really rocky road of healing after a severe flare-up of a chronic illness. There were several months where I simply didn’t have the energy – mentally or physically – to paint. Coming back to the studio and creating these new paintings was an act of hope! Painting helped me find my way back to my center, and what makes my life, my life. It’s amazing how much the simple pleasures mean when you lose them. These paintings are the moments I began putting the pieces back together, of finding hope, calm, and relief.

What advice do you have for readers going through healing and looking for joy through creativity?

Create for yourself first. That may mean you don’t show anyone else what you’re up to. You can keep it just for you as you feel it out. You can literally plan to throw it away when you’re done – enjoy the process first and not the end result. I didn’t show anyone what I was painting for months, until I was sure I was showing them simply to share them, and not to find approval or acceptance. Listen to what you enjoy by trying lots of different things. Even if they seem silly or unproductive. Find some mentors or inspirations. There are some amazing online resources from other artists – creative exercises and workshops that will get you exploring your creative side. I’ve personally found that starting with a brief meditation and candles help me find the peace and healing while I paint. In the end, I think the healing comes from the letting go, and finding the joy in playing and listening to your inner creative self.

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