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Daily Rituals

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 29, 2016 — 1 Comment

I tried to avoid the steady gaze. It seemed like the brown eyes pierced into my very soul, asking questions, surveying my existence. So contemplative, so knowing. I unwittingly mixed in a little introspective therapist into the pastels I applied, and I had to giggle a little when I stood back to survey the finished product. He’s very regal, very convicting, on his leather couch, eliciting introspection as he silently listens.

While drawing this winter, I listened to Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, a fascinating book in bite-sized pieces detailing the routines and habits of around 160 artists, musicians, writers, and great thinkers. Along the way, as I layered fur and leather, I thought about my own daily habits, my own rituals to entice and encourage my artistic creativity.

I have to say, after listening to over 100 stories of artists’ bad habits – alcoholism, substance abuse, and some really weird rituals – I feel a little bit better about myself. They do take a lot of afternoon naps, though; I wish I could incorporate that into my life. What a lovely habit.

I began to worry, as I have joked in the past, based on the biographies of great artists such as Van Gogh, Degas and the like, that I will never be a very successful artist unless I have more problems, more existential throes, more drama. Luckily, after I finished Daily Rituals, I listened to Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Big Magic. Speaking on the same subject – these crazy artists literally killing themselves over their creativity, living in the bowels of anxiety and personal torture – she gives a different view:

On these grounds, naturally I am tempted to make the case for drinking myself to death as a creative exercise, but that would be self-destructive.

Creativity resides in making the choices that make you happy, and anyone who tells you otherwise — your inner critic, your outer critics — is fooling you. Originality is out, authenticity is in.

Whew. That’s good news. As I finish up “Bogie” the dog, I relax a bit, look him in the eyes and say “thanks.” We made it out together. He seems relaxed.

Bogie, 11x14 pastel on card

Bogie, 11×14 pastel on card


Mary Liz Ingram —  January 12, 2016 — Leave a comment

We have busy minds. We are always in the process of becoming. For better or worse, our thoughts, actions and choices move us forward, or maybe backward, along the line of history and personal quest. I frequently get caught up in the existential throes of being an artist, of trying to be the best person I can be for the time I have on earth.

One morning I was thinking about fear,

how to overcome it, how to lessen the fear around us. I realized that most cruelty, most fear comes from us, from humans. We humans, more than any other species, threaten each other – with hate, with guns, with war, with irresponsibility, with greed and robbery, with anger and disregard for human life. Recently two young boys that I count as nearly my own had a gun pointed at them while they were simply playing near their porch, and this in a safe neighborhood. There was no cause or prompting, just a quick move by a man with unknown motives. It causes fear. Fear that must be overcome daily.

May we live with more peace and regard for each other. May we treat each other with love and loyalty, as members of the human race, members of creation.

Peas, ink & markerI hope we can learn from the example that surrounds us, the peaceful cooperation found in nature. The trees, the soil, the birds, the animals work together to survive and thrive with beauty.

In my garden, I witness a microcosm that balances and cooperates to bear fruit. Insects, bacteria, nutrients, soil, water, sun, roots, leaves…it all works together to form food we can eat, beauty we can enjoy. And I get to be a caretaker, to guide and protect the process. May we do the same in our everyday lives, care for each other, guard the process of becoming.

At this point, I hear Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life,  waving dismissively, “Sentimental hogwash!” Maybe I’m laying it on a big too thick. To bring it a few steps down from mushiness, I hope we can be  more like our dogs. Our pets love us, even when we act like jerks, when we ignore them or forget to buy dog food. They are loyal and forgiving, and their love is constant. We are the ones who complicate things.

Here are a few furry friends that now have their portraits painted, a testament to their worth and value, and their loyalty to a fickle race.

Rest, 11x14 pastel on card

Rest, 11×14 pastel on card


Pet Portraits

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

A portrait is a wonderful way to create a lasting memory of your pet…any pet! Either in black & white or full color, I so enjoy creating a true-to-life painting to bring out the personality behind the photograph. With each detail captured, from the glint in the eye to the many hues in the fur, these portraits can be valued for generations. I’ve drawn everything from fish and dogs, to cows and chickens, to rabbits and cats.

Pet portraits make wonderful gifts…in order to ensure completion for Christmas, contact me today!

Pet Portrait Pricing:

8 x 10″: $175 ink or charcoal, $225 color pastel; add $90 for each additional subject

9 x 12″: $200 ink or charcoal, $260 color pastel; add $100 for each additional subject

11 x 14″: $250 ink or charcoal, $325 color pastel; add $125 for each additional subject

16 x 20″: $400 ink or charcoal, $465 color pastel; add $200 for each additional subject

18 x 24″: $550 ink or charcoal, $625 color pastel; add $275 for each additional subject

24 x 36″: $750 ink or charcoal, $850 color pastel; add $400 for each additional subject

Prices for other subjects and sizes available upon request.

Ink Doodles

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 2, 2014 — 2 Comments

One day I decided to have less noise in my life.

Since I run a preschool and have three young kids, this might sound futile. I’m surrounded by noise. Tattle tales, laughter, squealing, talking, cartoons, singing, crying; the grating sound of my son digging through legos, cereal being poured on the floor, the dogs barking, the kids asking.

This isn’t the noise I’m talking about. This noise will be missed one day, when I’m old and my kids are grown and moved away. This noise needs to be welcomed and noticed, even if it gets on my nerves.

The noise I aimed to reduce is the noise that I invite and create myself. This is the noise that clouds my vision, that distracts my purpose: picking up the phone every few seconds to check Facebook or Twitter, worrying and planning and fussing over the mundane, the stress, frustration, and a world of busyness.

I decided to find another way to be.

Habits are hard to break. To get rid of a bad one, it helps to substitute it for a good one. Cue my ink doodles.

I didn’t expect to learn and change so much from carrying a notebook and pen in my purse, but it has calmed my life and taught me to notice.

Instead of browsing Facebook for 30 minutes in carpool, I draw something interesting around me. Instead of piddling around my house until I drop, I take a break and scribble down something funny I noticed my kids doing. It’s become a journal, a record of daily life. I see so much more than when I was deafened by the excess noise in my life. I hear the birds more clearly, breathe the air more deeply, enjoy the small moments with my family, soaking it in and doodling away.

It’s almost meditative, and it has helped me live with more peace in every moment. I wake up early and draw a sketch while sipping my coffee, starting the day by noticing life.

Most recently, thanks to this new practice, I doodled my way through Europe, creating an entire book of drawings that describe my experience.

Here’s a look at how it all began, with some of my first doodles. If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, this is old news, since I post them as I draw them, beginning way back in March!


Retro Icons

Mary Liz Ingram —  March 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’m gearing up for my art show next Saturday, April 5th in Crestline! Over the next few days I’ll introduce you to the pieces making their debut and ready to find new homes.

My newest series “Retro South,” is all about history, color and icons of the South, and even more specifically the city I call home: Birmingham.

Take a look and follow the links to read more about each piece:

Yellow Truck



Sloss Furnace & Airstream

Rusty Train






Mary Liz Ingram —  March 14, 2014 — 1 Comment

Quick snap of downtown B'hamWe load up in our late ’80s Dodge minivan, wearing floral dresses stitched by our Granny’s tight hands, with our long hair tied in ribbons. Heading down Red Mountain Expressway, we see the city as we turn the corner.

Nearing the 2nd Avenue exit of downtown Birmingham, my sister and I plaster our noses to the window, waiting for our weekly glimpse of Penny the dog wagging her tail.

Growing up, my family attended the beautifully historic 1st Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Alabama. We had certain landmarks to look for with each 12-minute journey from our suburban home into the heart of the city.

We always watched for Vulcan, Sloss Furnace, Penny the dog, the castle apartments, and on the way home we loved stopping for a Pete’s Famous Hot Dog.

So here’s my tribute to one of the many Birmingham icons, the Gold Seal Dog Food, and later Birmingham Hide & Tallow Company’s “Penny the Dog.”

Recently restored and moved to the new Region’s Park, home to the Birmingham Barons baseball team, Penny will continue to be a childhood memory for even the smallest Birmingham residents, like my three funny kids.

Penny, 11x12 pastel on card

Penny, 11×12 pastel on card

A Few Doodles…

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 11, 2014 — Leave a comment

After a few weeks of intense commission completion, making sure the fur moved correctly and the eyes sparkled appropriately, I was ready for a few doodles.

The first doodle to share with you is a 5×7 watercolor of Jerusalem, a gift from my family to some friends who travelled with my husband to Israel last Spring:

Jerusalem, 5x7 watercolor commission

Jerusalem, 5×7 watercolor commission

My sister was the Christmas recipient of several watercolor and ink doodles to adorn her new built-in bookshelves. When I say “doodle,” I mean I didn’t take time to sketch first, or stick strictly to detail. I give myself more freedom and relaxation as I doodle away with a brush or pen!

Oh, but there is one more special treasure coming…stay tuned for the grand finale of doodles…

Furry Friends

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 9, 2014 — Leave a comment

While I’m parading pet portraits, here’s one more I did as a Christmas commission. In this pastel, I put two friends together from separate photos, two beloved pets who passed away recently. I was touched to hear on Christmas day that the gift was treasured, thoughtfully given and happily received!

Tipping Point

Mary Liz Ingram —  September 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

Wow. September 8, huh? I used to be so good at posting…every other day, every 3 days. But this time I’ve waited a whopping 21 days – almost an entire month?!

How did that happen, we might ask.

Well, I’ll tell you.

This happened:

Ruby, 8x8 pastel

Ruby, 8×8 pastel

Because 3 kids, one a baby, at least 2 jobs a piece, not to mention a cat and 2 other dogs, weren’t enough responsibility for my husband and I. Apparently not.

Ruby is my tipping point. Google gives a handy explanation: “Tipping point, the point at which an object is displaced from a state of stable equilibrium into a new, different state.”

Yep, it is definitely a new and, ahem, “different” state we are now experiencing.

But seriously. We love this little pup, our miss Ruby. We may be in the throes of puppy potty-training, “No Bite!” yelling, toy eating, mischief making, vet billing puppy-hood, but she is already spoiled rotten.

And it was quite an adventure to get Ruby.

With the kids riding blind, we took them about 40 minutes out on a secret mission. We turned at the blue mailbox and met a great friend and fabulous co-worker at her in-law’s farm. And there was little Ruby.  Before we left, we visited some chickens and were chased by some goats. All in all, it was a grand adventure (thanks Mrs. Tina!!).

Here are a few photos of our newest addition:


I’m teaching a class to a group of beginning pastelists: Some students have read up on pastel techniques, others may have had a few classes. My first instruction always throws them for a loop: “Begin with lots of black!”

As I’ve said before, I’m a self-taught artist…When it comes to pastels, I fiddled with them alone at my art desk until I discovered results I liked. And it all started with black.

Below you will find a quick tutorial using my own technique to create vibrant, textured pastel paintings. Continue Reading…