Mary Kirby | Instructor Bio

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  • What is your teaching philosophy?
    My philosophy is based on the belief that everyone is as artist.  I provide materials and demonstrate some technical skills for each artist to add to their toolbox.  Then the artist adds their own style to their project, whatever their style is at the moment.  Since an artist’s style is the result of their experiences, knowledge of technical skills, and amount of practice, their style is always developing.

    How long have you been teaching? At YMP?
    I’ve been a preschool teacher for about 20 years.  Beyond the preschool level, I’ve been an art instructor for 6 years. I’ve been happily teaching at YMP for the last 2 ½ years.

    What is your favorite thing about teaching art?  
    The best part about teaching art, is seeing all the different ideas my students come up with, to add their own style to a project.  I learn something new from them every day.

  • What do you expect of your students in classes/lessons?  
    I expect that students will come to class ready to learn something new, have fun, and get a little messy.  They learn to be considerate artists by helping to clean up, treating our supplies respectfully, and providing positive support to the other students.

    What do you expect of student’s parents?  
    Parents have such an important impact on how confident their child feels.  When a parent shows that they value their child’s work, the child feels valued. Hang it up.  Take a photo and post it on Facebook.  Voice your appreciation of their art and the work that was put into it.  They notice.

    When did you first start making art?  
    Like most of us, I started drawing as a little kid – crayons, markers…the usual.  My first formal lessons were in high school.  There, I discovered the vast amount of art media that exists, and the endless ways I could use it.  I’m still on the never-ending mission to learn more.

    What is your educational background?  Did you study art in school and/or privately?  
    My first round of college was focused on Early Childhood Education.  I’ve since taken other college classes, on and off, in art – as well as other subjects.  I add to that by taking classes with other artists.  I’ve had the opportunity to learn things such as ceramics, bronze sculpture, henna design, collage, figure drawing, cake decorating, face painting, zombie makeup, and encaustics, just to name a few.  I still want to learn building with cobb and wood carving.   Always keep learning!

    Do you show your art in the Portland area?  
    On occasion, I hold open houses and art shows/sales at my home studio in West Linn.

    How do you handle mistakes while creating art?  
    Mistakes happen.  Lots. If it’s minor, it can often be corrected by reworking that part of the project.  If it can’t be corrected, sometimes it can become part of the artwork – a “beautiful oops”.  There are times when a mistake can be catastrophic and unrepairable, especially with ceramics.  Then I get more clay, and try, try again.

    Describe an artistic skill that was a challenge and you’ve had to work very hard to achieve.  
    For me, wheel throwing was a challenge.  That’s when you take clay, put it on a spinning platform, and manipulate the clay as it spins.  Everyone, no matter if you’re 4 or 40, seems to make the same first project – a lumpy, crooked, bowl-like blob. It takes practice and perseverance to get better at it.  There are no shortcuts.

    Who are your artistic influences?  
    My influences are Botticelli and Michelangelo for sculpture because they can make hard surfaces look warm and human, Monet and Van Gogh because their brushstrokes look alive, and Da Vinci because he can do anything.  Oh, and Dory the Fish, because she just keeps swimming.
    What do you feel when you create art?  
    Good question.  But it would be more accurate to ask what art I create when I’m feeling.  When I’m “in the zone” I give my feelings the reigns and let them flow without stopping:  love, lightness, anger, fear, frustration, happiness – all have their own look when they’re channeled out your heart, through your hands, into paper or clay.  After I’m finished, the feeling is relief, because I’ve managed to take those intense feelings, pour them out, and place them where they can be held, while I rest and observe them from a more objective point of view.
    If you had the chance to study with any artist, living or deceased, who would it be?
    Leonardo Da Vinci. And I can’t wait to tell him that he became so famous, society named a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle after him.
    When did you know you wanted to be an artist?  
    I just was.  We’re born to create.  As for getting paid to do it, I realized as a busy mom that the only way to do the thing I loved was to get a job doing it. There isn’t much time for hobbies once you have kids.
    If you weren’t an artist/teacher what might you be?  
    A hermit in a tiny house in the woods.  But the good kind.  Not the creepy, Hansel and Gretel kind.  If you got lost in the woods, you could come have tea with me.  And maybe cookies. Then we’d find the right trail on Google Maps so you could get home.