Interview by Rosalie Murphy
When Maria Uhase was a kid, her mother taught art lessons in their Wadsworth home. She experimented with arts and crafts from a young age, and when she was old enough, she began sitting in on classes.
“I kept getting kicked out because I talked too much,” Maria laughs.
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Maria learned the basics of drawing and shading under her mom’s tutelage. Choosing to study drawing at the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art was easy. After taking some introductory painting classes, she added a second minor in that medium. Maria graduated in spring 2019 and is now based in Wadsworth, developing her skills and her art business.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and brevity.
Rosalie Murphy: A lot of your work focuses on the natural world, but often features fantastic or imaginary creatures. Where does that come from?
Maria Uhase: I think a lot of it comes from my strange imagination. I always like to imagine the world a little bit differently from the way you see it, or am just kind of curious about, what if something was like this rather than what it actually is? A lot of the mythological or fantasy behind it comes from the fact that I grew up reading a lot of books in the fantasy genre. That encouraged me to think outside the normal realm of things, I guess. Now, I like doing those strange creatures because it’s unexpected. I hope that people, when they see my work, think, “oh, that’s a nice little still life,” and then they look a little closer and are like, “that’s really weird!” — and then they want to look a little longer.
RM: What is your process like?
MU: I like to control things, and my artwork is kind of about not having control over things as much as we think we do. My process is very much controlled. It’s the same every time. I’ll get hit with an idea, write it down so I don’t forget it, do thumbnail sketches of the composition, and then do medium-sized sketches, where I will lay out, in pencil and then in pen, how the image will actually look. Then I’ll lay it out on the final medium support and sketch it out. With watercolors, laying it out with pencil or graphite and then building up the layers of watercolor, and then I’ll do ink on top of that. With oil, I’ll do a base underpainting — I usually use the complimentary colors of what the final product will be to build up those naturalistic colors, to imitate nature as close as possible. That’s where I really slow down. I end up getting so focused on the details that I’ll spend weeks just doing the final detail layers of those oil paintings and getting everything I can in there.
RM: What do you hope to communicate to people who spend time with your art?
MU: I hope that when they see this, they start to learn to look a little closer at what they’re seeing. I feel like a lot of people walk around — and even I do this all the time — you walk through life or go through a hike and are lost in your thoughts; you don’t look at what you’re seeing. You see what your brain says you’re seeing. I hope that people, when they stop and look at this twice, they start to look deeper and find the details and the strange stuff. The whole world’s full of that, and if we don’t pay attention, we aren’t going to see it.
RM: What’s next for you?
MU: I’m participating in different group shows in the area. I’m hoping to start looking toward Cleveland and being involved in the art community there, and keeping contact with the art community here. Pushing my techniques, my skill level, branching out, and growing my art not only in terms of the physical pieces, but also the business side.
There’s a confusion about navigating the art world. I think art school tries to prepare you for it, but there’s not enough time to learn it all and there aren’t always set guidelines. Doing the actual artwork is almost the easier part, because you can sit in your studio and you can make work and know what you’re doing, and if not, you know you’ll figure it out. But I have a hard time being very business-minded and figuring out how galleries work. You can’t say, “artists just have to make art.” We have our own businesses and have to figure out how to do that.
With making art, there’s always the struggle to find inspiration and find the motivation to keep yourself working all the time. But you can find ways and techniques to get yourself motivated. Going out in the world and just seeing it, or giving yourself time to breathe.
Maria Uhase’s work is on view at Manic on Main in Wadsworth until Sept. 12. Follow her work on Instagram at @muhase72.
Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.