Abstract artist featured in spring show

From the kitchen to the gallery, mother finds inspiration in the ordinary

When Mary Bristol, graphic designer and abstract artist, is looking for something to add texture to her work, she turns to her kitchen for inspiration.

For the self-taught artist and mother of four, creating art comes naturally to her. Bristol said she knew she wanted to be an artist when she was 5-years-old. In kindergarten, her mother encouraged her to enter a women’s club art contest.

"I drew a teddy bear and I won," Bristol reminisced fondly on that fateful event. The victory propelled her to pursue her passion and she has been painting ever since. Bristol’s work can be seen hanging in Glenstone Gallery in Maryville and in Morris Gallery in Sweetwater. Her colorful and creative murals grace the walls of Mary Blount Elementary and other local schools.

Bristol explains that her art work has evolved through time. She said she used to paint traditional watercolor pictures.
"For me, I found it stressful to get it perfect," Bristol said. "I started to loosen up and went to abstract."

Now, Bristol explores color and texture in acrylics. She explained that she enjoys working with acrylics because if a mistake is made, it is easy to cover up.

Studying, exploring and experimenting with the principles of design have been Bristol’s recent inspiration. She begins with a bare canvas and smears it with Gesso, a thick white substance which resembles paint and provides an underlying texture.
In Bristol’s abstract paintings, she also achieves texture by infusing aluminum foil from the kitchen into the painting.

"It makes it more interesting," Bristol said. From a distance, some of Bristol’s paintings appear flat and two-dimensional. Upon closer examination, one can see and feel the materials used to add dimension and texture. In the painting, "Industrial Blues," Bristol incorporated plastic netting from a bag of oranges and burlap on the canvas to add interest. In another untitled piece, Bristol experimented with string, tissue paper and burlap to give texture to the painting.

The naturally shy artist primarily paints in bold, warm colors. "I like bold colors that shout at you, ‘Hey, come look at me,’"
Bristol said in an unassuming, reserved manner. She said that painting provides her with a mental health outlet. "When you create something, it’s a part of yourself."

Bristol does not limit her work to abstract pieces. She challenges herself in her paintings. She said that in the past she would become frustrated because she felt she was unable to paint people. Her piece, "Purple Dress" of a romantic, graceful ballerina indicates otherwise.

Bristol, who has a graphic design degree, also has a creative outlet in her own graphic design business. She said she likes graphic design because her clients need her to convey a message in a certain amount of space. Problem solving is a necessary skill to meet the advertising needs of her customers. Her client list includes Maryville High School, Green Bank and Harmony Adoption, to name a few.

Bristol will be one of the artists featured in Fine Arts Blount Spring Members’ Show on April 27 -29 at the Blount County Library located at 508 North Cusick Street. More than 100 pieces from members of Fine Arts Blount will be on display along with art from local high school students. Cash prizes will be awarded to winners of the member’s show and certificates will awarded to student winners with matching certificates for their art teachers. Visitors to the art show will also have an opportunity to vote for their favorite in the People’s Choice award.

The Fine Arts Blount Members’ Spring Show begins Friday, April 27 for patron’s night and continues Saturday, April 28 during the library’s normal business hours and concludes Sunday, April 29 from 1 - 4:30 p.m.

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