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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Weaving Memories - the Art of Mary-Jeanne Reid Martz

Artist Mary-Jeanne Reid Martz
"I believe that painting is creating a spell—a mood—not recreating a scene or object," says artist Mary-Jeanne Reid Martz, who is known for her vibrant oil paintings, as well as watercolors. Many of these paintings are landscapes based on her extensive travels.

"I filter scenes or compositions through my experiences and emotions," she continues. "A finished painting is meant to be evocative, not necessarily narrative, of something I am seeing, and/or have seen or experienced.  The play of light, value, contrast, and perspective are critical, but remain mine to manipulate and capture within my own vision.  My objective is to make every work a piece of myself."

Fall on Lake Como, oil by Mary-Jeanne Reid Martz
Having been brought up in Florida, Martz was struck by the different light she found when first visiting the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Different types of light provided distinct moods and emotions, and she loved to watch the changes in light and clouds moving in the sky. "Increasingly, I have added more sky and clouds to my landscape paintings," she says.

Afterglow, oil by Mary-Jeanne Reid Martz
Since her early 20’s, Martz has traveled extensively, first to New Zealand, then around the world by ship, and later to adventures in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. 

"Certain scenes have provided me with a directory of light, mood, and atmosphere.  The challenge has been to weave memories of all those places with the present." 

Pacific Waves, oil by Mary-Jeanne Reid Martz
"Thomas Jefferson said he could not live without books," says Martz. "I cannot live without painting."

Martz's work can be found every month at Gallery Underground, as well as in various shows mounted by the Arts Club of Washington, the Art League of Alexandria, and the McLean Art Society. 

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Friday, July 15, 2016

Third in a Series on the Solo Show: THE WHEN (Because Timing Really Is Everything)

Many of us have done it, most of us have considered it, some of us have just dreamt about it: mounting a solo show. This is the third in a series of posts about the nuts, bolts, dos, don'ts, lessons learned, opportunities missed, psychological trauma and euphoria of mounting a solo show; the why, where, when, what, who and how.


Timing does matter - to both lower your stress level and prevent a last-minute "Ack! I'm not ready! I need more time to complete my works/do publicity/plan my reception...." freakout,  AND to maximize traffic to both your show, and the all-important reception, where much of your sales is likely to occur. With some (prestigious/competitive) venues, you may not have a choice as to the month of your show, but you should be able to control the year at least.  It is vitally important that you allow yourself time to get all your works complete before your show, so you'll want to research your venue's policies and deadlines to be sure you have enough time. Even if you think you have a body of work ready to go before you even get accepted for a solo show, you may find that you want fresher, and/or better, works, and you'll need planning time for the publicity and the reception (more on that in an upcoming post on "The How"). So, by all means, don't schedule your show 2 months after getting accepted!

Assuming you do have some control over what month to hold your solo show: taking a look at the calendar, there are some months that are better than others - both from a traffic standpoint, and a reception standpoint. Let's go month by month and look at the pros and cons:

January - Pros: no competition from other events; holidays are over so people are looking for things to do; NOT a time when people vacation. Cons: reception could probably NOT be at the beginning of the month (more on the reception timing, below) because of possible conflict with New Years; if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, this could be a factor in people getting to your venue. Conclusion: Good

February - Pros: No competition from other events (Valentines Day is mid-month); a month when people are look for things to do; Cons: Possible weather issues if in snowy area. Conclusion: Good.

March - Pros: No competition from other events (St. Patricks Day is mid-month); a month when people are looking for things to do; threat of snowy weather has usually passed, Cons: None. Conclusion: Optimal.

April - Pros: No competition from other events; weather good; usually not too much going on. Cons: None. Conclusion: Optimal

May - Pros: weather good. Cons: Competition with graduations and weddings when people are out of town/already scheduled. Conclusion: Iffy

June - Pros: weather good. Cons: Competition with graduations, weddings, and youth sports tourneys; weather is SO good that people prefer to be outside rather than inside. Conclusion: Iffy

July - Pros: weather good; people not on vacation may be bored and looking for something to do. Cons: reception could probably NOT be at the beginning of the month because of possible conflict with July 4th; people are on vacation. Conclusion: Bad

August - Pros: weather good; no competition with holidays; people in town may be bored and looking for something to do, depending on where you live, it could be so hot that people want to be inside in air conditioning. Cons: Biggest vacation month of the year. Conclusion: Bad

September - Pros: weather good; people back from vacation and looking for things to attend. Cons: big wedding month;  reception could probably NOT be at the beginning of the month because of possible conflict with Labor Day. Conclusion: Good

October - Pros: weather good, but starting to get chilly so people like to be inside; no competition with other events (Halloween at the end of the month); Cons: None. Conclusion: Optimal

November - Pros: weather getting chilly so people like to be inside, but not a huge snow threat (depending on where you live); sometimes people do holiday shopping in November. Cons:  People usually take 4 days for Thanksgiving which would cut down on your traffic. Conclusion: Good

December - Pros:  Possible holiday shopping; Cons: weather can be bad; lots of competition from holiday parties; people generally take  a week off at the end of the month which would cut down on traffic. Conclusion: Bad.

One more note about the timing of your show/reception. Ideally, you want your show to run from the beginning of the month to the end. Psychologically, it is easier to for people to remember that they can see your show during the month of May than trying to remember "May 14 - June 9."  or "April 28 - May 30." Even if you hang your show on April 28, you should put the dates of your show as May 1-31. It's cleaner and again, easier to remember. Your reception should be scheduled as close to your opening is possible, hence the word "opening" - it doesn't generate as much buzz and excitement to attend a reception when the show has been open for 2 weeks. And keep the reception short. If it goes on for 4 hours, no matter when people arrive, it may look as though there are only a few people attending when they are coming and going. 2 hours is a good amount of time - that way you will get a critical mass an hour into it - and a crowd is always a good thing - it creates the impression that people are at a "must see" event!

Next in the series: "The What" - developing your theme.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Emotions and Imagination: The works of Anya Getter

Gallery Underground artist Anya Getter
"My art is a way for me to inject my inner world of emotions and imagination into the physical realm of our everyday lives," says Gallery Underground artist Anya Getter. Getter is known for whimsical mixed-media pieces and most recently, a fusion of mosaic and painting, and her work has always been extremely popular with gallery patrons.

Getter was born and raised in Moscow, Russia.  She immigrated to the United States in 1991, and having majored in Computer Science and Information Technology, found a job as a Software Engineer with Fairfax County Public Schools.

Ever since she was a small child, Getter was drawn to painting, sculpture,  knitting, sewing and many other forms of arts and crafts.  Working in the IT field never allowed her talents to blossom, but she always looked for an outlet for her creative energy.

Woman in Red  by Anya Getter (acrylic)
After her twins were born in 2000, Getter first ventured into the world of formal self-expression by decorating kids’ jeans and overalls with colorful  and whimsical appliqu├ęs that became an instant hit among mothers looking for one-of-a-kind outfits for their toddlers. With the help of EBay, her work was selling all over the world.   As her children were getting older, Getter's interests also changed. She experimented with various media, and eventually arrived at collage/mixed media art as a perfect match for her artistic vision.  Most of her art comes from her feelings and experiences, and is inspired by quotes or sayings that hold a special meaning to her.  Each painting has many layers to it, and you discover new details each time you look at it.

"I am drawn to bright colors, patterns and various textures, which I love to mix and match on my canvas to reflect a particular mood or a feeling," she says of her work. "I usually draw my inspiration from words – be that a beautiful poem, a meaningful quote, or a popular saying [see "Trust Your Journey," below] "That’s why you will likely find a lot of writing in my work.  Each piece is done in layers, which I believe better reflects the complexity and depth of our emotions, thoughts or experiences."
Trust Your Journey by Anya Getter (acrylic/mixed media)

 Getter is grateful to the many fans of her work for inspiring her art and sharing their insights with her, which in turn enrich her world and find their way back onto the canvas.  "I have heard many people say that every time they look at my painting they discover something new that may have been hidden from them before," she says.  Her paintings almost seem to change with the viewer as his or her feelings and emotions change and fluctuate throughout their daily lives.

Is Your Mama a Llama? by Anya Getter (acrylic)
Getter is particularly known for her fun animal pieces, portraying everything from zoo animals to pets in her work. These pieces always seem to strike a chord with gallery pieces who love the humor and whimsy in them. Titles such as "Is Your Mama a Llama" (shown here), "Owl you Need is Love" (an owl painting) and "Alpacalypse Now!" (a piece with alpacas) are examples of her humorous animal titles.  

Mosaics, sometimes mixed with painting, is a more recent medium for Getter. These works are similar in subject matter to her paintings, many featuring women with amazing hair. In addition to glass, Getter uses broken pottery and other found objects in her work.
Ride the Wave by Anya Getter (mosaic/acrylic)
Getter's work is as varied as her imagination and emotions - Gallery Underground is lucky to be representing her.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Friday, May 13, 2016

Second in a Series on the Solo Show: THE WHERE (Location, Location, Location)

Many of us have done it, most of us have considered it, some of us have just dreamt about it: mounting a solo show. This is the second in a series of posts about the nuts, bolts, dos, don'ts, lessons learned, opportunities missed, psychological trauma and euphoria of mounting a solo show; the why, where, when, what, who and how.


Yay! You've decided to apply for a solo show, for all the right reasons (see the first post in this series). The next consideration, perhaps before you even think about what your show will be, is whether it is possible - and what may be a determining factor there is whether there is actually a venue available to you. Galleries are probably the most desirable places to mount a solo show - a bit about that in a minute - but first, you may want to consider some other venues, since galleries - even co-op galleries - can be tough nuts to crack as far as being accepted. 

Local businesses may clear out an office for your show
Office buildings - especially those which may be storefront-type offices such as real estate agencies, doctors' offices and banks - often love the added traffic they get for their businesses when they host a cultural even such as an art show. They're hoping your contacts might become their contacts. Look for local businesses, not large corporations, who usually don't have the autonomy to make these kinds of decisions. Also look for businesses that have nice lobbies or atriums where there will be traffic and space to hold a reception.  The downside to this type of venue is that the venue probably will only do minimal publicity, if any, and the people who come in all month may not notice the art - and/or that it's for sale - if they are rushing in for an appointment. However, it is highly possible that you will gain new patrons who frequent this office and suddenly notice that there is awesome artwork up!

Libraries - Most libraries regularly display community art, and with steady local traffic and and out, there will be lots of eyeballs on your work. Depending on where you live, there may be multiple branches you can check out, and most will let you put your work up for a month. Usually the library will have someone on staff who is in charge of the installations, so find that person and make your pitch. Quite often you'll have an advantage if the subject of your art is local landmarks. Downsides?Here again you will most likely need to do a lot of publicity on your own, and libraries usually don't do receptions; if they do they will not allow alcohol.

Cafes are ideal settings for art shows
Cafes and Restaurants - Cafes and restaurants are highly desirable places to hang solo shows, for multiple reasons. First of all, there is steady traffic all day; and unlike in offices and libraries, people aren't buzzing in and out quickly to complete their business with only a passing glance at the walls. Here, people are in a relaxed social setting, taking their time while they eat and drink, sometimes with your art hanging right over their heads. Sales are quite often high at coffee shops and cafes. Coffee shops and cafes are preferable to restaurants because the lighting tends to be brighter (restaurants have low, ambient lighting), and people tend to frequent them all day rather than just for lunch or dinner; also, local cafes tend to attract women who are meeting about the PTA school fair, or catching up with their friends, having time to peruse the art. A huge plus here is that the venue will always allow you to have the reception (a great way to get new people into their establishment) and will (for a cost, obviously), provide the food and drink, taking that off your list of to-dos. The only downside here is that you may be limited as to the timing of your reception, since they usually won't want you to do it during regular business hours. And again, the publicity will be on you.

Gallery receptions, like this one at Gallery Underground,
attract lots of art lovers to your opening
Galleries - galleries, as most artists will agree, are the ideal setting for your solo show: Whether a high end city gallery or a local co-op, there is an authenticity attached to a show in a gallery. Probably the next biggest upside to a show in a gallery is that the patrons are there for only one thing, whether it's at your opening reception or on a Tuesday afternoon: they are there to see art. So the mindset of the patrons is optimal from the start. Another huge plus is that the gallery will do a lot of publicity for your show; they will hand out postcards to everyone who walks in during the month prior to your show, have flyers on the door, do a press release to multiple outlets, and some may even place ads. Most galleries hold their receptions on the same day every month, and have customers who attend every month - even if they're only there for the free wine, at least you know you will have a core group of bodies at your opening (which, let's face it, is one of the biggest worry artists have - "what if no one shows up?"). In the case of co-op galleries, you may also get a core group of artists at your opening, many of whom will be volunteering. All of these things take the stress off you so that you can concentrate on making your art. Downsides? As mentioned, galleries can be tough nuts to crack. You will almost certainly need to apply by jury, with all the teeth-gnashing and possible rejection that comes with that. However, if you get in, it will be an incredible experience for you, both personally and professionally.

For more information about having a solo show at Gallery Underground, please visit our website:

Next in the series: THE WHEN - Timing is Everything

-- Sandi Parker. Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

First in a Series on the Solo Show - THE WHY (It Matters)

Many of us have done it, most of us have considered it, some of us have just dreamt about it: mounting a solo show. This is the first in a series of posts about the nuts, bolts, dos, don'ts, lessons learned, opportunities missed, psychological trauma and euphoria of mounting a solo show; the why, where, when, what and how.


There are many reasons an artist chooses to mount a solo show of their work, and many of them are not good reasons. Making money just might be the worst reason. If you are considering a solo show because you're behind on the the utility bill and want to make some quick cash, the process will not be an enjoyable one. You are automatically putting stress on yourself - a stress that will hinder your creative process as you produce work for "quick sale" rather than for the sheer joy and creativity you would normally bring to it.

All artists have learned throughout their careers that predicting what will sell is a near impossibility. Just when you think you have the art buying public figured out (you've sold 6 of those gorgeous seascapes, or 4 in a row of those cubist masterpieces), suddenly you have a studio full of paintings that aren't moving. You'll never figure out why - it could be that you are cranking these paintings out to sell and they aren't your best work, or that the same buyers are visiting your venues and you've saturated that market. More than likely though, it's a mystery.

So deciding to mount a solo show and assuming - or even hoping - that every piece in the show sells, or half, or a third sells - is setting yourself up for possible disappointment. This is where the psychological trauma comes in; setting goals that might not be possible to meet.

Another reason in the "don't doom yourself to disappointment" category is going into a solo show with the goal of obtaining press attention. The "art press" - if there even is such a thing in this online age - is notoriously fickle. Getting press for your show is based less on your talent and more on a writer or blogger filling space, timing, deadlines, your being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right person, and myriad other factors largely out of your control.

So why do it? The success of your show doesn't have to be measured in dollars or press. The number one reason you should mount a solo show is that you are excited about your current body of work; you want to have all your pieces done around a certain theme shown together to familiarize friends, relations, patrons, contacts - and those who have never seen your work - with what your are currently doing. You want to share your enthusiasm for it.  If this is the attitude you go into a solo show with, then you will not feel you have failed, whether you sell pieces or not. This attitude will translate to the work you produce for your show; your excitement and pride in your current body of work will show in the creativity and energy you bring to the work. You'll spend more time at your reception eagerly talking to guests about your process than mentally counting pennies and the stress involved with that.  Sales and commissions may well result - but they will be the icing on the cake.

For more information about having a solo show at Gallery Underground, please visit our website:

Next in the series: THE WHERE - location, location, location

-- Sandi Parker. Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

From Philosophy to Alkyds: The Stunning Work of George Bowles

Artist George Bowles
George Bowles is known for his highly realistic and meticulously detailed portraits, landscapes and still lifes, in alkyd. His work has a museum quality to it, bringing to mind the classical art of the 18th century. Viewers are frequently stunned at the photorealistic quality of the work, which is painstakingly done over time.

First of all, what is alkyd? 

According to Bowles, who swears by this medium, alkyd resins are composed of complex fatty acids and alcohols which are derived from natural plant origins. These ingredients are heated and combined with oils that are resistant to yellowing to form an extremely stable synthetic material referred to as an oil-modified alkyd resin. Once the oil is combined, it is no longer a free oil, but a completely bonded oil which will not separate from the resin. An alkyd resin is highly adhesive; pale and transparent; soluble, when wet in turpentine or mineral spirits; tough, flexible, and resistant to solvents when dry. Additionally, alkyd resin dries more rapidly than the linseed oil that is used as a binder for most oil colours, but more slowly than the plastic resin that is used as a binder in acrylic colours. Alkyd colours are less prone to darkening, embrittlement, and cracking with age than traditional oil colours. Given the timeless quality of Bowles's work, it is easy to understand his desire to use a medium that does not yellow, or otherwise disintegrate over time.

Roses in a Glass Pitcher by George Bowles (alkyd)
An Iowa native, Bowles trained first as a philosopher, receiving a BA from the University of Denver in 1966, and a PhD from Stanford in 1970; he taught philosophy for over twenty years, publishing several articles on logic.  Having drawn and painted from childhood, and having done several commissioned portraits, animal paintings and landscapes, he has been painting at least since 1958.  After his academic career, he went in 1996 to the Bougie Studio in Minneapolis to get a rigorous four-year art education modeled on the French ateliers of the 19th century. 
Antonios, portrait by George Bowles (alkyd)

In a typical understatement, Bowles says of his work: “I aspire to create well-composed and, when possible, beautiful paintings." Most would agree, mission accomplished!

Light and Shade in Arlington Forest by George Bowles (alkyd)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Artist color palettes: Is Less More?

Every artist has a palette -- not just the physical vessel for holding their paint -- but a group of colors they are invariably drawn to over and over. The reasons they continually return to these colors - and how many colors they use - is as varied as the artists' work. 

Anders Zorn, Mrs. Frances Cleveland, Oil
Some famous painters are known for using a quite limited palette of colors. Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860-1920), for example, was known to have used mainly 4 colors: white, ochre, vermilion and ivory black - which have become known in artist and education circles as the "Zorn palette," with artists and students continually trying their hand with it.

17th Century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632 –1675) apparently used a palette of lead white, yellow ochre, vermilion, madder lake, green earth, raw umber and ivory black. His color selection may have been influenced by what was - and was not - available at the time.

Johannes Vermeer, Girl With a Pearl Earring
According to The Vermeer Newsletter, "In Vermeer's time, each pigment was different in regards to permanence, workability, drying time, and means of production. Moreover, many pigments were not mutually compatible and had to be used separately or in a particular manner...One thorn in the side of the 17th-century painter was the chronic shortage of strong, opaque yellows and reds...The exceptionally brilliant red and yellow cadmiums, now obligatory paints in any contemporary painter’s studio, had not been commercialized until the 1840s." (

Jackie Afram, Ghost of a Coast, Oil
Today's painters have a much wider palette to choose from, but sometimes are limited by the type of paints they are using. Gallery member Jackie Afram's palette is influenced by her use of glazes. "Because I use glazes in my oil paintings, I depend a lot on transparent pigments." she says. "I use ultramarine blue and burnt umber often for grays and shadows.  While my palette varies, I almost always have cerulean blue, ultramarine blue and burnt umber on my palette.  And I don't think I have painted a painting without white."

Member Deborah Taylor says that her palette is "pretty consistent: titanium white, alizarin crimson, cad red light, cad yellow med, cad lemon yellow and ultramarine and sometimes burnt sienna." She has recently begun experimenting (an artist's greatest joy is in experimentation!) with prussian blue, which she feels may become a staple of her palette, especially for landscapes. "I use it in skies as well as for making greens.  I used it in the far trees in Fort Hunt." 

Debbie Taylor, Fort Hunt, Oil
Gallery member Sandra Hill is a watercolorist, which provides different challenges with the palette, being done on paper rather than canvas. "The watercolors on my palette are winsor yellow, (a very vibrant yellow), burnt umber, yellow ochre, permanent rose, alizarin crimson, winsor newton french ultramarine blue (a sedimentary color), cobalt blue and burnt sienna," she says. "Notice there is no white or black.  Watercolor paper left unpainted serves as the color white.  Greys and deep dark rich watercolors (which approach black) are achieved by mixing colors opposite on the color wheel."

Sandra Hill, Layers of Leaves, Watercolor
Hill says (in contrast to the Zorn method), that as her skills have improved, and her paintings have gotten larger, she has begun to use bigger palettes with larger, and more, paint wells. She says,"There are three ways to alter colors: 1) mixing on the palette, 2) mixing on the paper (wet-in-wet), and 3) glazing (one layer of color is placed over another dried color). And, of course, all rely on using less or more water with less or more paint."

Artists' palettes continue to evolve, with lots of experimentation involved - and the viewers of their art are captivated by their colors, whether they use a little, or a lot of colors.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director