Mari O'Brien

I have wonderful memories of rainy days from my early childhood.   On these days when we were more or less housebound, my mother would draw paper dolls on the cardboard backs of lined paper pads (money for "extras" such as store-bought paper dolls was hard to come by), cut them out, and with crayons in hand, my younger sisters and I would design costumes for the dolls, using the little line drawings in the dictionary we owned as inspiration. I remember drawing a Native American girl in her "Pocahontas outfit," as well as a member of a harem in hers. Although we used the lined paper from the writing pads for our designs, we were a bit excessive in our choice of colors, since one extravagant purchase Mom insisted upon was a box of 72 Crayola crayons.  Such great fun; we never knew what we were missing by not having store-bought paper dolls - plus we learned a little history along the way.  Mom had inherited her artistic talents from her father, my grandfather, who loved to paint.  And my artistic capabilities encouraged and fostered directly from Mom's loving encouragement of my own budding talents.When I was in fourth grade, our local newspaper in southeastern Iowa ran a city-wide art contest for children.  Mom encouraged me to enter, and so I did.  The grand prize was a $10 gift certificate at the local Army-Navy store.  Wow!  Ten dollars back then (1961) was a fortune.  If I won, I would be able to buy Christmas presents for my whole family!   The challenge was to draw ads found in the local paper - or so I thought.  I set about drawing three or four ads, which I thought were pretty good, and Mom helped me get them sent off to the paper before the deadline.Imagine my surprise when I learned that I had won the contest.  We were in utter disbelief when we read the letter telling me about my award.  My parents, my siblings, my grandparents would all have a gift from me for Christmas.  I was pumped!!However, the letter also detailed the fact that the challenge in the contest was not about drawing the ads, but rather about tracing them.    I had not traced the ads as the instructions specified; mine were actual free-hand drawings and much larger than the ads themselves.  Apparently the judges were very impressed by my drawing skills, and I had ten dollars to prove it!In other words, I had won this art contest by not following the rules.  Even way back then I was a renegade of sorts, and I guess that experience set the stage for the iconoclastic artist I have become.  Now, having learned the "rules" of art, I feel justified in breaking them whenever my "maverick" streak starts to show!  I have become an incurable experimenter as an artist, since doing so allows me to set my own "rules," according to my lights.  It's also about always learning, and keeping it fun! 

"Flame Dancer" by Mari O'Brien
"Vigilance" by Mari O'Brien
"Flame Dancer" by Mari O'Brien
"Flame Dancer" by Mari O'Brien
"Vigilance" by Mari O'Brien
"Vigilance" by Mari O'Brien