Mary Iselin of Marlborough, New Hampshire, raises sheep and grows hay and organic vegetables. Her husband raises beefalo and they have riding horses. But her place of peace is not found in the fields, barns or gardens — it’s in her studio. “My studio is my heaven,” says Iselin.

That’s where she follows her heart. When that love translates onto the canvas, it’s not surprising we can see she is in love while she’s painting.

But it wasn’t always so at the beginning of her career. At first, painting felt like a guilty pleasure — something she didn’t deserve to do. But supportive family members turned an attic into a studio and forbade the family to take it over.

“I certainly got over my guilt!” she says.

Mary works almost exclusively in oils. She paints landscapes outside, except for her animal paintings, which are done in the studio. Her studio work is usually done in a series.

She explains, “I do the under-paintings — always in raw sienna — for three to five or more paintings. Working in a series allows me to keep exploring the various motifs I am excited about — I tend to get very excited when I am painting.She works from thousands of reference photos, but sometimes paints animals from memory.

“Frequently, animals come out of my head. I think it helps to know

what the animal feels like. For example, I have memorized and drawn

the anatomy of a horse over and over, but that sort of knowledge is, for

me, in one ear and out the other. But while painting, I can easily refer

back to what a horse’s hock or shoulder felt like while I was currying it.”

Her plein air paintings are not usually done in a series, at

least not consciously. Once she’s found a location that gets her

creative juices owing, she goes there every day for a week or a

month. Iselin also paints in what she calls her “fantasy” genre.

In this style, she explains, “Animals, usually horses,

become mystical or fairy tale versions of the way I feel.”

Mary is inspired by her love not only for animals but for

where she lives. Her roots here go very, very deep, many of those

roots deepened by decades of raising sheep on her farm.

She says, “I have bred sheep for over 40 years. Every year

I await the birth of my new ‘models.’ eireece takes the

light, reecting color and atmosphere in wonderful ways.”

Lastly, she’s inspired by the feelings of love, especially for her

farm and family.

Whatever she is painting, she loves her subject matter and her process.

Mary’s approach to art — both what she paints and how she feels about

what she is painting, makes us, the viewers, love what she loves.

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