This week’s Studio Sunday feature highlights the work of artist Molly Mansfield. We’re so excited to be bringing you a closer look at her paintings and best tips for maintaining a creative practice. Read her interview below and then check out her two beautiful and affordable pieces that are currently available online with PxP Contemporary!
I live in small town Texas with my husband and two little boys. Working with watercolor, gouache, and oil paints, I use handmade pigments that are mined from the earth's minerals.
My childhood days were spent playing amongst the leaves in the nursery owned by my parents and running barefooted and wild on my grandfather's property. Nature and particularly plants have played an important role in helping me to cope with anxiety. Now as a mother, thinking about my children, I value its role even more. When encountering nature, so many feelings are elicited. There is the excitement of spotting a rare bird, the wonder of a spiders web, an overwhelming sense of peace when standing at the water's edge, and even fear when met face to face with a coyote. Nowhere than in nature are the senses so stimulated.
The fury of our fast-paced, productivity driven, consumer culture is often overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. I regularly feel the struggle to counter these pressures in my life and work.
My paintings are impressions of experiences. Abstractions of a memory seeking to speak to the benefits of interacting with the natural world. Nature beckons us to take time out of our busy schedules to pause and take in the beauty. I want my paintings to reflect that sentiment. My process is measured and intentional. There is a lot of looking and soaking in the experience. Each brush stroke is carefully placed to describe the feeling that I am trying to create. My hope is that when you look at my artwork you are compelled to slow down, maybe take a deep breath, enjoy something beautiful, and engage with the present moment.
When did you first become interested in art and what drew you to painting?
Like most young children I was always making and inventing things. My mom was always coming up with some new creative project for me to work on from bead making to sewing and knitting to designing container gardens. I loved the opportunity to explore and certainly benefitted from being able to look at art making through different viewpoints via playing with different mediums. Painting has always been there though, and it has always had my heart. It was elevated in my mind as a child by a few images I had seen of Van Gogh’s work, a thin paperback portfolio of Cezanne that we owned, and receiving postcards in the mail from my aunt, Jennifer Young who is a painter. This modest collection of paintings I had access to, was devoured by me. Every color and brushstroke becoming ingrained in my mind. But every time I came back to the paintings an overwhelming feeling came over me, the energy moved me, I was taken far far away from my present situation to something magical that I had never experienced before. The paintings couldn’t be memorized. The process of making a painting is very feeling oriented as well. I love the experience of guiding, sliding the creamy buttery paint across the canvas. I turn music on, my whole body is moving, I’m not thinking about what I’m doing I just know I can’t stop. I keep laying down brushstrokes boldly side by side, alone they are blocks of color but together they become something recognizable. Something that has meant so much to me and I hope becomes meaningful for the viewer.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your work and the series (or multiple bodies of work) that you are focusing on at the moment?
Imagine driving down a well trodden road, but you still can’t keep your eyes off the landscape. A line of cars builds up behind you , but you are struck with overwhelming beauty of whats in front. The grey stormy skies, the saturation of the well watered layers of fields. There is something new and exciting about the view and yet something familiar.
We moved out of Austin last summer to a small town near my hometown. It was an unusually rainy and cloudy fall for Texas. I was struck driving the road, FM 973, that connects my small town to Austin by the rolling green hills and grey skies. The landscape that you can see from this road is so striking because it is slightly higher elevation and open farmland with layers and layers of fields and crops leading up to the horizon line. I knew that I had to paint these views and I wanted to, focus on movement, shapes, and feeling, over details.
The collection, “Views From 973” is inspired by memories. Abstract & Fluid. Moments running into each other. Not about the fine details but about the feeling and emotion of the experience. Though these landscapes are inspired by a particular place, it makes sense that one might remind you of your own adventures. That’s when it becomes about human connection. Something that started as part of my own story, but then becomes yours.
This body of work has been the most intuitive work I have ever done. I look at so many of the pieces in this collection and think, “how did I even do that?!” The Brushstrokes, compositions, colors, none of it was planned really. I went into it with a feeling that I wanted to express and then let the process take over. This is work that I felt Inside of me and I knew I had to create.
Describe your current studio space. What is most important for keeping a consistent creative practice?
My studio sometimes is the kitchen table, sometimes my bedroom dresser, and always most of the closets in our house (for storage, not for painting in, LOL). I am beginning to long for a more permanent space to create in, but honestly working out of my home has served me well. I’ve been painting (almost) every day for the past five years. Most of that happens in the evenings after my kids are in bed and I clean up my mess, packing everything back into closets when I’m done. I am very energized to work in the evenings, however homebody that I am, it is the last time of day that I want to leave my house. I have loved creating in the center of my home near the energy of my family and the comfort of my tea kettle.
Here are a few things that have really helped me in having a consistent creative practice.
1) Just start making. Its that simple. If you can, organize your day so that you are creating at the same time. Pay attention to what times of day you have the most creative energy, are you a morning person or a night owl? There may be times in the beginning when you don’t feel like making anything but just keep showing up, eventually the muse will show up too. After a couple of months of coming to the studio consistently you will have a habit, and after that I think it is pretty easy. I did a 100 day project 5 years ago and I’ve been painting nearly every day since, it’s just what I do and I love it.
2) Remove distractions. A few years back we got rid of our TV. Relaxation and enjoyment are good things, but for me Netflix was taking over my life, I felt like I wasn’t in control of how I spent my time. This was the best decision ever because while vegging can feel nourishing in the moment because it is passive, painting is what FEEDS MY SOUL.
3) Make your workspace comfortable. Do what you can to make your space not only where you want to be, but a place where you feel relaxed and able to let the creativity flow out of you. I once had a studio with no air conditioning in the summer in Texas. I did make work there but there was no lingering with delight over the process. You know I got out of there as soon as I could call the piece done! Recently I have been making work out of my home. It’s not glamorous. I could’ve rented a studio but home is just the only place I want to be at the end of the day (when I paint).
What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
Freedom! I get to be with my kids, make art and have a business. I get to make my own schedule. I don’t like people telling me what to do, LOL. I am allowed to follow my interest, passion, and muse. Making art isn’t all lollipops and fluffy clouds, sometimes there’s a wrestling that has to happen. Communicating what’s in my head, a thought or a concept into something visual on the canvas is hard work. There are so many ideas and in a way each one is a problem to be solved. Thinking, trying, thinking again. Once something clicks the work just starts coming out and I just have to keep up. The best word I can think of to describe this feeling when the idea is out and on canvas, is freedom. Sigh. Now I am ready to start on the next idea. ;)
Name a few artists whose work has had an impact on you.
Pastmasters: Cezanne, Van Gogh, John Singer Sargent. Contemporaries: Jennifer Young and Richard Claremont.
Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?
Oh yes! I have just barely started making work for my first solo show here in Austin at Revelry in September! I am soooo excited about this body of work exploring a slightly different landscape than my last collection, of plants and our relationships with them. It is work that I have been thinking about for a long time and I feel like I’m finally ready to get it out and put it on the canvas. Of course I’m very excited about the show too!