Meet Painter Mary Maxam, You’ll Be Glad You Did

"Blue Boat at Tofino" Mary Maxam, oil, 12'' x 16"

“Blue Boat at Tofino” Mary Maxam, oil, 12” x 16″


I’d like to introduce you to North Idaho painter Mary Maxam. If you know of Mary’s work,  then you know her paintings are full of beautiful, rich color, deliberate brushstrokes and a certain energy that goes beyond the paintings themselves. If  you have never heard of Mary Maxam or seen any of her paintings, I hope you will read on and get to know her  and her work. I think you’ll be glad you did..

"Swept Away" Mary Maxam, oil, 30" x 60"

“Swept Away” Mary Maxam, oil, 30″ x 60″

Getting to Know Painter Mary Maxam

There are a few reasons why I thought you would like to get to know Mary Maxam and her paintings. First of all it would be the paintings themselves. Beyond that, her website and blog are among the best of any artist I have seen in terms of showing the paintings, marketing the paintings, and interacting with her fellow painters, collectors and visitors. Mary makes it easy to look, buy, and to want to come back.

I reached out to her and asked her if she would be open to an article for CashArtBlog. She graciously accepted. Here is what we came up with…


CS –  When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist? Was art always a passion for you?

Mary Maxam – I had always wanted to draw, paint and just “make things” generally. In grade school for example, I wanted to make dolls more than play with dolls! So while I don’t know if it was a passion at that age, it was certainly a constant and part of who I was very early on.

CS – You graduated from Boise St. University. Did you study art there and if so did your study there provide you with a good foundation for the art you do today?

Mary Maxam – Well, not in my painting work, no. It was a time of experimentation and everyone was “finding themselves” by experimenting in the painting studio classes. What I wanted though was classic training in painting and design. But it did prepare me for my degree in Secondary Art Education and I taught high school art for 32 years and continued to develop my work on my own.


"Harbor Flower Box" Mary Maxam, oil, 9" x 12"

“Harbor Flower Box” Mary Maxam, oil, 9″ x 12″

CS –  How would you describe your painting style?

Mary Maxam – I’ve always been drawn to the Impressionists because I love the broken color and evident brushwork. So maybe I would describe my work as being closest to that. I enjoy seeing the hand of the artist and feeling as though a particular passage has just been laid down

 CS – Is there a person or artist who has been particularly helpful or a big influence to you in your art career?

Mary Maxam – Certainly my most influential art instructor was my high school art teacher who was a prolific artist himself. He gave us solid basics while allowing us to explore a variety of mediums. He had real excitement for methods and materials and conveyed lessons in a way that made us want more and more! I’ve also taken workshops in both watercolor and oil that I’ve enjoyed throughout the years. Irving Sapiro, Ovanes Berberian, Carol Marine and most recently Kathy Anderson and Michael Dudash along with several others have all been inspiring teachers.

CS – What do you think makes a work of art wonderful?

Mary Maxam – Sometimes it’s just amazing craft, where you might simply ask “how did they do that?” But the ones that make me sigh are those that are able to reveal a feeling of place, time or emotion that is both familiar and new. I think it’s very difficult to name one thing that is so compelling that you want to just keep looking. It is frequently the way light falls and reveals new color or unexpected shape or composition.

CS –  You paint a fair amount of still life paintings. What do you like about painting still life?

Mary Maxam – It’s interesting that you ask, because I don’t think of my paintings as dealing with still life very often. What I mean is that I don’t very often work with a formal studio set-up with lighting and props. What I really enjoy is coming across what I call “found” still life, especially floral. When I see a mass of flowers for example, I look for a small composition within, so that just a few blossoms are the focus. for me, part of the enjoyment is the discovery process this allows me, as opposed to setting up with an initial idea.

CS – Do you approach your landscape paintings any differently?

Mary Maxam – I am drawn to the shapes that are created with light and shade and the color play within those areas. So it can be very similar in both. It’s true thought, that with landscape, you have to consider the elements like the planes of the ground, sky, perspective, etc. Those do come into play with flowers and figures, but depending on the setting, usually not as much. My basic approach is to lay down a loose wash and start with a brush drawing of the subject. I have a few demos on my website that show some photo slide shows of my painting process.

CS –  Looking ahead, do you have any special projects, painting trips or artistic endeavors planned?

Mary Maxam – Since being retired, we’ve been able to travel more and incorporating our travels into paintings has been fun. I will continue that and am painting some new large works currently for Entrée Gallery at Priest Lake, Idaho.

CS –  Aside from painting, what else occupies your interests these days?

Mary Maxam – The opportunity to travel and visit family has been great. I’m always hunting for a workshop that interests me as well, but that’s not on the horizon right now.

CS – If you were starting your painting career over now, would you do anything different?

Mary Maxam – I would have enjoyed seeing what a career in illustration would have been like. I know it would have been different, though hard to say whether it would have been better…?

CS – Do you have any advice for young aspiring painters?

Mary Maxam – I think it’s always good to keep assessing your work as a group, to help focus on where you want to go with it. It helps to line up all your work and look at it together. Determine your common strengths and weak points and write them down to create goals for yourself. Keep building on your strengths and figure out a plan to work on those areas that need attention. Look at as much art, both on-line and in galleries that you have time for, and …keep painting as often as possible.


"White Roses" Mary Maxam, oil, 9" x 12"

“White Roses” Mary Maxam, oil, 9″ x 12″

Wrapping it up with Mary Maxam


I would like to give a big Thank You to Mary Maxam for her time. When looking at Mary’s paintings along with her website, blog, and all the little extra’s contained therein, it  would be easy to say that Mary Maxam is doing a lot of things right. Other artists, including myself, should take notice. You can see what I am talking about and check out more wonderful paintings at Mary’s website here. Be sure and check out the small painting gallery, You’ll Be Glad You Did!



"Good Luck", Mary Maxam, oil, 8" x 10"

“Good Luck”, Mary Maxam, oil, 8″ x 10″


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