On permanent display at the Mallory Town Hall in Sherman is a brightly painted watercolor of a rustic, old-fashioned Town of Sherman sign. If one takes a closer look at this recognizable piece of artwork, there’s more than meets the eye. Mary Jane Magoon, a longtime Sherman resident and once a longtime New Fairfield resident, brilliantly incorporates a bouquet of ivy with beautifully colored pink blossoms bursting forth. One can just imagine green ivy climbing up the sign’s side post as its delicate buds and newly formed leaves face the sun on a gorgeous spring day.
Mary Jane’s signature style is apparent in all of her watercolors. She uses saturated colors and pays special attention to light reflection, which brilliantly adds dimension and intensity to her paintings. Her most favorite piece is a still-life of sliced watermelons and it’s entitled, “Sweet and Juicy.” “I like bright colors. Most of my paintings are done in bright colors. I just like it. I like the colors and the composition. I think this painting makes you happy and makes you want to bite into a fresh piece in the middle of a hot summer day.” She added, “I love light reflection. Living in rural Connecticut provides me with endless inspirational subjects. I am especially fascinated by the changing reflections of light and shadows on everyday objects. Reflected glass and windows are some of my favorite subjects to paint. The transparency of watercolor makes these reflections extraordinary and luscious.”
Many of her still-lifes, landscapes, and outdoor scenes have been shown at galleries and art shows near and far. Closest to home, art enthusiasts can see some of her pieces showcased at the White Silo Farm & Winery for four more days. She’ll be participating in the upcoming Merwinsville Hotel Spring Show in Gaylordsville in early May. The Sherman Library, Burnham Library in Bridgewater, Gallery 25 in New Milford, and The Loft in New Preston have also recently showcased many of her works at their shows.
Although Mary Jane has been a Connecticut resident for over 30 years, her roots are in Northern Michigan. This Upper Peninsula “Yooper” was born and raised in Manistique, and she makes frequent visits back to her hometown. She shows and sells her watercolors of local scenes at the Mustard Seed gallery. She and her family moved to New Fairfield in 1986 due to a job transfer. While raising three sons Mary Jane opened Artistic Surroundings in the early 1990s and ran it for several years before closing it once she moved to Sherman.
During this time, Mary Jane picked up watercolor painting and hasn’t put down her paintbrush since. She found inspiration in the artwork she was showcasing and selling. “I can do that!” was her defining moment. Mary Jane then studied art history at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and took watercolor classes at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Two great American watercolor artists she admires are Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent. She enjoys learning from other local artists, too.
A favorite pastime of hers is to drive in the countryside and take photos of things that stimulate creativity. Mary Jane often paints from her photos that hold meaning to her. Mary Jane shared some good tips for aspiring artists. With humor and an all-knowing smile, she cautioned painters to guard their glasses of water, paints, and artwork around pets. “My cat Manannan once walked through the paint and paper and I had to start all over again!” she said.
She also recommends taking the challenge and to stretch one’s limits because it’s highly rewarding. For her, one of the most challenging watercolors she ever created was of a white Iris. “Whites are a challenge because it’s never truly just white. Once I finished, the effort made it worthwhile, and I had great satisfaction when it was done.”
Mary Jane is brand-loyal and uses only Windsor & Newton paints and Arches 300 lb. cold press watercolor paper. “Buy the best quality paint, paper, and brushes that you can. It does make a difference,” she said. Her best advice to everyone is to “visit museums – any of them.” She has recently visited “The Met” and “The Frick” in Manhattan, and “The Barnes” in Philadelphia. “I think art makes people happy and it takes their troubles away. It puts you in a different place,” she said insightfully. Her favorite quote by Pablo Picaso, “art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life,” has become her life motto.
Mary Jane has other creative talents as well. She studied interior design at the University of Minnesota and received an associate’s degree in interior design at Post University. She also does interior design for her own clients. Plus, she’s a Color & Design Consultant at Rings End Lumber at the New Milford and Danbury locations and visits the store’s clients at their homes. Several of her paintings have been purchased by her residential and corporate clients in Connecticut, New York, and Michigan.
Mary Jane is an active member of the Northeast Watercolor Society, Kent Art Association, and Society of Creative Arts in Newtown. She is often a featured artist at their shows. She sells her custom-framed originals or giclee prints direct or at the shows. Visit: http://artisticsurroundings.com to learn more about Mary Jane Magoon.
By Alicia Sakal