Tag Archives: folk art

WIN a Signed Mary Singleton or Susan Winget Calendar

Over the next month, Calendars.com has partnered with LANG Companies to host giveaways for signed Mary Singleton and Susan Winget calendars!

Both Singleton and Winget have become well-known over the years for their heart-warming and beautiful folk art, inspired by their picturesque country surroundings. Their calendars are sure to bring life to your walls and joy to your heart!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is comment on this blog post. The contest runs until February 14, and winners will be announced February 15.

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Mary AutographWine Country JKT_14

Winget 1

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Winget 2

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Interview with Mary Engelbreit

In 1977, Mary Engelbreit took her portfolio to New York and received a suggestion from one art director that she try illustrating greeting cards. Mary took the advice and quickly found that the single-frame illustrations for greeting cards were ideal for her style and sense of humor. Once Mary focused her talent on greeting cards, success came quickly. Today, thousands of retailers sell Mary Engelbreit calendars, T-shirts, mugs, gift books, rubber stamps, ceramic figurines, and many other  products to her countless fans.

Be sure to read our heartwarming story about a customer and how much Mary Engelbreit’s work meant to her and her mother.

See all of the 2013 options in Mary Engelbreit’s calendar line.

What was the first picture you drew?
I drew a picture of my parents when they were all dressed up to go out one night — I was so impressed with their finery I had to get it down on paper!

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Probably from that moment! Really, as long as I can remember.

Is Ann Estelle a fictional character or is she based on a real person?
Her personality is based on me, but I named her after my maternal
grandmother.

How do you pick the quotes to go along with your art?
Before I settle down to do a calendar or a big batch of greeting cards, I take a couple of evenings to go through my quote books and/or troll the Internet quotation sites for quotes that really inspire me.

What inspires you?
Daily, everyday life inspires me, the situations that we all find ourselves in at one time or another.

What are a few of your favorite pieces of art that you’ve drawn over the years? Why?
I always tend to like the drawing I’m working on at the moment, but I do have some favorites. “Life Is Just A Chair Of Bowlies” is one of them. I also really like a calendar drawing from a couple of years ago– “The World Is Full Of Cactus”, and another called “Must. Change. Attitude.”

What do you like best about being an artist?
Just being able to express myself and reach so many other people by doing so is really great!

Do you draw all new art for your calendars each year?
Yes, I do, although I do have help coloring them all in. If I had to color in all those skies by myself, I think I would pack it in.

What is your family life like?
Chaotic, fun, frustrating — just like everybody else’s.

Do you own a Scottie dog?
No, we have a half shitzu, half poodle, all cute little puppy who goes everywhere with us, named Sophie.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to embroider all manner of things, and I read quite a lot, mainly mysteries and fiction.

How long does it take you to complete a new piece of art?
I would say a calendar drawing takes anywhere from 10 to 15 hours depending on how detailed it is.

Does the décor of your house resemble your artwork? Do you have cherries and fried egg flowers throughout your house?
I don’t anymore, although I used to. Our house now is very light, done mainly in yellows and oranges, and it’s a lot less cluttered than my earlier homes.

Do you ever get tired of drawing?
Never.

Which artist do you admire most?
I love William Joyce, Lizbeth Zwerger, Johnny Gruelle, Arthur Rackham — I could go on and on!

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An Interview with Shelly Reeves Smith

 

Shelly Reeves Smith began her career in 1988 when she and a friend co-founded a greeting card company, Among Friends. Twenty years later, her illustrations of home and garden can be found on cards, stationery, books, gifts and home decor.

Smith lives in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri with her husband and son where her surroundings provide plenty of inspiration for her work. When she is not painting or spending time with her family, Smith dedicates her time to her bluegrass band, Lonesome Road.

Take a look at the Shelly Reeves Smith calendar line at Calendars.com.

Tell us about your musical talents and your band Lonesome Road.
I grew up in a musical family. My father, mother and brother all sing and play. During my high school and college years, I was fortunate to get a job performing at a country music show in my hometown in Missouri. I also met my husband through those music connections.
The Lonesome Road bluegrass band started in 1997 as a group of friends who enjoy playing together. We all have full-time jobs, but we get together about once a month to perform at local and regional bluegrass events in the Midwest.  After 15 years we’re still going strong and having fun.

How does it inspire you?
As artists know, paintings need to have a place in them where the eye can “rest”. As a visual person, I guess I need that in my surroundings, too. Our little community in the country is the perfect place for that. We live in a farmhouse built in 1915. It’s surrounded by springs and creeks, fields and woods. My parents were both raised on farms, so I guess I’m naturally drawn to farmhouses and everything about them. Everyday things like tables and chairs, porches and windows, kitchen and garden tools can be so expressive. They, and the signs of our use on them, tell stories all by themselves.

What else provides inspiration for your art?
I’m inspired by my family, especially my son, Ison, who is now 2 ½. I also find endless inspiration when I study the Bible and when I read the work of talented people like Kerry Boone.

How long does it take you to complete a typical painting that appears in your calendars?
It takes me a couple weeks from start to finish…from concept, to pairing the idea with the verse, the rough sketch marked up for color, the final sketch, the finished watercolor painting, plus the verse and border art that accompanies it. Of course, that is if all goes as planned!

What makes watercolor your preferred medium?
I started out with colored pencil, but I like watercolor because it can be either soft or bold and it allows the painter to build up to brighter colors gradually. It also provides opportunity for “happy accidents” – like the unintentional splash of color that ends up looking purposeful. Unlike most other mediums, watercolor allows one to see through to the sketch beneath. That glimpse of the graphite sketch behind the color is charming to me.

Are they real places, or do they spring from your imagination?
I sure hope they are inviting. That is my goal. They are sort of an amalgam of real and imagined places, from either my current surrounding or from memories.

Do you begin a painting with a Bible verse in mind?
Yes, it is a big part of the equation. I have a little book that I keep with my Bible where I record verses that are meaningful. When making decisions about the calendars images, I usually look first to that book for inspiration.

Tell us how you work with Kerry Boone, who writes the sweet, secular verses that complement your art so perfectly.
Kerry is one of the kindest and most talented people I know. Because we are friends, we appreciate the same kinds of things – the simple life and the value of close relationships –so working with her is like working with a sister. She is a prolific writer with a large body of work from which to choose. We often select verses for the calendars from her existing work. At other times I’ll send her a sketch of calendar ideas for a certain year and ask her to either pull a line from work she has (that I haven’t seen yet) or write something specifically for those images. She always comes through with some little thought or phrase that takes my breath away.

Is your home as comfortable as the interiors we see in your artwork?
I want my home to be comfortable and enjoyable. It’s often easier to create that in a painting than in real life, but it’s always the goal.  For variety, I try to paint interiors in various decorating styles, but I always end up coming back to the traditional American style. I guess we’re drawn to what speaks to our hearts.

Are you a good cook?
I’m clumsy in the kitchen, so I’m not a natural cook. But I love to cook and I really enjoy painting images that involved good food and gatherings like in the cookbooks I designed with Roxie Kelley. While working in her restaurant and bakery while in college, I personally served and prepared most of the dishes in those first two books, so they were like old friends. I also learned a lot about baking and gracious entertaining from her. The most important part of meal preparation, however, I learned from my mother…simply love the people you’re serving. That’s something we all can do well!

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Interview with John Sloane

John Sloane always wanted to be an artist, and his talents were noticed as he went through school. His teachers encourage him to develop his talents, and he decided on a career as an illustrator while he was still a teenager.

Sloane opted to pursue a liberal arts degree, but spent his spare time in college developing his skills in painting and composition. Shortly after his graduation, he began to obtain free-lance commissions and has since developed a loyal clientele of publishers and collectors.

Sloane’s paintings highlight the beauty and variety of nature in all four seasons and the simple pleasures of country life. Check out John Sloane’s 2013 Country Seasons calendar line at Calendars.com.

You’re able to capture perfectly the sense of each season. Do you have a favorite season or particular time of year?
I love experiencing every season, so I would have to say that my favorite season is whichever one I’m in at the moment. Whenever possible, I like to paint pictures in the months in which they are set, as this allows me to feel and observe the many nuances of the season from life. I enjoy trying to capture the feeling of the sky in different seasons, the foliage of trees in summer and the texture of snow in winter.
 Of course, an observer soon notices that there are many seasons within each season, as nature is in a constant process of unfolding. I think the most challenging months to paint are November and March, as those months are bare and rather colorless, and it can be hard to come up with new ways to portray them. But I have found that some of my favorite paintings turn out to be for those months!

Many of the scenes you paint have the feel of a bygone era.  How do you accomplish that without having lived during that time?
I have always felt an affinity for anything old-fashioned, so I just naturally tend to think in that way. I find old houses, barns, horses and buggies, antique autos and period clothes to be much more interesting to paint than their contemporary counterparts. Also, I admire the ideals of traditional country values and the importance of our nation’s agricultural heritage.

Your Victorian farmhouse, Hearts Haven, that you and your wife renovated sounds like a labor of love. Tell us about it.
It is indeed a labor of love.  Growing up in the city and suburbs, my wife and I shared a life-long dream of someday living in the country. We were fortunate to find a small nineteenth century farmhouse for sale, in need of renovation and situated in a lovely country setting. I was just young and idealistic enough at the time to be willing to undertake what would become a huge challenge of renovation. I think that over the years we have replaced or re-built just about everything on our old house, from the foundation to the roof. For one summer the entire house remained jacked up on a hydraulic lift as a new basement was dug and concrete was poured under it!And I designed and built a wrap-around veranda for the house. My dream was to be able to sit with my wife on an old wooden swing on an open front porch. Working together, we made the dream come true.

The places you depict in your paintings are so lifelike. Are they real places, or do they spring from your imagination?
The subjects of my paintings are imaginary, though they are often based on places I have been. Each painting usually begins with a kernel of reality that inspires me, and I then let my imagination take over. It has been said that writers often write the kind of books they would like to read. I guess I paint the kind of scenes I would like to inhabit.

People and animals populate your idealized landscapes. Are the people based on people you know?Do you have pets, and do you include them in your paintings?
Like my landscapes, the people in my paintings are a blend of the real and the imaginary. I like to include figures in my paintings whenever I can, in order to give life to the scenes. Often I will pose myself or my wife, attired in appropriate costumes, in order to get just the right look for what I’m trying to achieve. Sometimes family or friends are called on to pose.
 Over the years, all of my dogs have been featured in my paintings, as well as local farm dogs, animals and wildlife.  

What inspires your paintings?
Living in the country and enjoying the cycle of the seasons as I do, I would say that just about everything is a potential source of inspiration. I have so many ideas that it can sometimes be difficult for me to choose what to paint next. Sometimes a scene will inspire me to paint, while at other times an old-fashioned activity will be the starting point, and a scene will develop around that. In each series of paintings, I always try to present an interesting assortment of images and moods.

Tell us about the space where you paint.
I paint at home, in my finished basement studio that I had specially built when the house was renovated. In it I have plenty of room to paint, work tables, a cutting board, a storage area and a darkroom. I also have plenty of shelves where I keep a large collection of audio books and music CD’s. I have always loved listening to audio books while I paint. As I listen, the hours of work seem to fly by.

How long does it generally take you to complete a painting for your calendars?
I am very methodical in my creative process. Each painting takes me about a month to complete, from the conception to the final brush stroke. I begin by making thumb-nail sketches of my ideas and developing my subjects patiently until I am satisfied with the composition. I make a small but very detailed preliminary sketch, trying to work out all potential difficulties before I get to the final drawing stage. Once I’m satisfied with the design, I transfer it to my large drawing board by means of drawing grids and eye-balling the image, drawing lightly, square by square, until the entire outline is transferred. From there, I refine my final composition freehand in pencil. After that, I’m ready to begin painting. The more figures or architectural details and perspective that are depicted in the picture, the longer it takes me to paint. But I can usually finish everything within about thirty days.

You’re incredibly prolific. How do you maintain the discipline required to continue to create for so many years?
I don’t think of myself as being particularly prolific, but I am steady in my work habits. As a self-employed person, I learned long ago the value of maintaining discipline in my work days. I am now working on the new series for what will be the twenty-ninth collection of my calendar paintings. That will make 348 paintings painted in as many months!Yes, it’s prolific in the long run, but it is the result of long and steady work, over decades. I am especially fortunate to have the opportunity to share my vision and my art for so many years.

What’s a typical workday for you like?
As I hinted earlier, I am a creature of habit, so my workdays are pretty much unvarying. I begin every morning with a long walk with my dog down the old cow path through the meadow behind my house. I find these walks to be creatively stimulating, as I often get some of my best ideas while on these outings. It also keeps me from spending too much time sitting at my drawing board.
 After breakfast, I usually spend some time on business and e-mails. As soon as possible, I head into the studio. I customarily paint through the afternoon and evening, while taking periodic breaks and walking my dog. I sometimes think that I spend as much time walking my dog as I do painting!
 It may seem like a long working day, but my enthusiasm for each painting carries my along.

If you could choose to live during the times that you depict in your paintings, would you?
I think we are blessed in the present day with the highest standard of living in history, so I wouldn’t choose to live in the past. Nevertheless, I believe that many vital traditional values and folkways have become lost or obscured over time. Each year I am saddened by the ongoing loss of the natural countryside to the relentless sprawl of urban development. In the years since I began painting, I have witnessed the gradual loss of many irreplaceable old barns, farmhouses and farmlands.  Part of my mission in painting is to celebrate traditional ideals and to capture and preserve the symbols of our vanishing heritage.  

Your fans have purchased your calendars for years. To what do you attribute their popularity and longevity?
The imaginary world that I depict in my paintings is my dream of an ideal realm of peace and rustic beauty. It is a contemplative world where life follows the unhurried cycle of the seasons. By contrast, the real world continues to rush on at an almost impossible pace, and day to day living can become quite hectic at times. I like to think that my paintings offer viewers a peaceful place to rest from time to time, a spacious country of the mind, far removed from the stress and distractions of daily living.

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Susan Winget

Susan Winget graduated from UNC at Chapel Hill with a fine arts degree and got a job painting watercolors for furniture stores, galleries, and gift shops. After having children, Winget began selling her artwork from home. In 1982 alone, she sold and shipped 9,000 watercolor paintings! Since she first began licensing her artwork in 1987, her business has grown substantially. Winget’s artwork now appears on a variety of products, including calendars, stationery, fabric, dinnerware, and other home décor and giftware items produced by Lang and a variety of other manufacturers.

Since 1987, Susan Winget’s heart-warming artwork has filled many homes with love, joy, and nature through her partnership with Lang Graphics, which has made the award-winning watercolorist’s work accessible to everyone through their high quality calendars.

Winget’s passion for country life, nature, and traditional values in rural America is evident in her work. Her versatile subjects and themes include beautifully captured wildlife, vibrant florals, rich wine themes, and simple scenes of classic symbols of America. Constantly surrounded by nature on her North Carolina farm, Winget never fails to find the inspiration to create artwork that is fresh and accessible while maintaining her signature style.

Check out the selection of Susan Winget Calendars!

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