Art: Mara Schasteen!



What kinds of things do you generally paint or take pictures of?

I think most people who know my art would guess my answer to this question is “flowers.” In recent years, I was on a quest to paint from life exclusively until I felt my skills had broken through to a new level. During those intense years, I painted flowers constantly for three reasons: I love flowers, they sit still and I could paint them fast. The only time I really had for painting was naptime for the babies, so I had to work efficiently! The real answer to this question is that I paint my little world. I paint my kids, my chickens, my plants, my dishes, my laundry, my garden vegetables, and my country surroundings. My paintings tell stories about my life. I do them for my kids so that they will remember their childhood vividly.

What inspires you to create?

It has taken me twenty years to figure out what inspires me. I’ve always been inspired by nature, people, color, beauty, poetry, music, God. It seemed like everything inspired me, but none of that actually came out onto the canvas in a way that I felt I was communicating effectively. Something is happening to me now, in my mid thirties. I am starting to settle into who I am as a person and understand my place in this world. My spirituality is maturing at the same time that my technical skills as a painter are maturing. Now I am beginning to know that real inspiration, the kind that results in ART, comes from sweat and tears. Hours in the studio, miles of canvas spent, intense study, exposure to excellent work and a willingness to fail are what deliver inspiration to me it it’s purest form.

Mara_Schasteen_Building_Blocks_WebDo you have the picture already in your mind before you paint it or do you start painting and uncover it?

I usually have a clear plan before I begin a painting. That is to say, sometimes I sit down because I am in the mood to paint and I look around and pick something from life to copy. That is a great way to build skill. It can also be very fun and rewarding! As time goes on, I’ve begun to know that a little planning goes a long way. Planning isn’t a sure bet for a good painting, though. My biggest flops have been planned paintings. I think I like mixing it up a lot. I even dabble in stream of consciousness abstractions. (But no one has seen one of those yet!)

Do you have a favorite painting of yours?

No! I have this little problem with despising all my own work. I need to work on that.

Who would you consider an influence on your art?

My first love was Michelangelo. I used to spend hours in the library immersing myself in all the books about him and his life. Then, I was really into Disney characters and backgrounds (can you see that in my work? I can!). Norman Rockwell came next, followed by an awesome illustrator from Oklahoma, Mike Wimmer. Mike was my one and only mentor until a year and a half ago when I took my first workshop with Phil Starke and my second with Jeff Legg. In the 15 years that fell in between Mike and the workshops, I read as many books as I can about Sargent and Monet. I studied Zorn, Sorolla and Van Gogh. In college, I traveled to Europe and fell in love with Impressionism and all those amazing artists. Then I discovered Richard Schmid, thanks to Mike. When I started using Facebook, my world exploded with the work of contemporary artists – the list too long to write! In conclusion, I’m influenced by every artist I’ve ever discovered. haha!

Do you listen to music when you paint? Who?

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for asking me this question! Music is my number one, most important ingredient for painting. I’d rather have no brush than no music (fingers really do a nice job, I have learned). Music is so important to me, in fact, that I love it more than art. I started playing the violin at age 9 and have tinkered with multiple instruments my whole life. I was trained classically and developed a deep connection to the work of Mozart, Dvorak, Bach, Beethoven and numerous other composers. Then there was my Dad, who had me listening to music like Cat Stevens, Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd from the time I was crawling. I got into folk music on my own at the same time as heavy metal and even some rap! Next came my love for jazz followed by bluegrass. I am not sure I could be any more eclectic. Right now, my favorite playlist includes:
Ray LaMontange
The Decemberists
Corinne Bailey Rae
Lauryn Hill
Harry Connick Jr.
The Beatles
Pink Floyd
Mumford and Sons (My favorite!)

Mara_Schasteen_HenAndEgg_DetailTell me something quirky about yourself.

It would be more difficult to think of something not quirky about myself! I think something that would surprise most people is that I am really shy and I would prefer to be at home than any other place. I am the hugest hermit you’ve ever known. When I get in public, I get nervous and the way I deal with that is that I talk and laugh a lot. It makes me seem outgoing, but really, I am super shy!

What do you aim to make people feel when they view your art?

I just want people to see more beauty in their world because all beauty points to God. I understand this is not a popular opinion, but I gotta keep it real, people. Nothing matters more than Love. God is Love.

What’s next for you?

Learning how to play the banjo! I am so pumped about it!

Do you sing in the shower?

I do not sing in the shower because I think in the shower. This is why my family members are able to pop their head into the bathroom to ask me a question or grab the hairbrush and cause me to scream in terror! I go into another place in my mind when I think, but I don’t get much time for complete thoughts with four kids around. In those rare moments of quiet, like in a shower, I get so intense into my thoughts that scarring me out of it is fun for the whole family.

Recent Paintings:
Facebook: Mara Schasteen


Mara Schasteen is a Wyoming native and a lifetime artist. Her passion for art began as a small child, carving drawings into planks of wood with tools from her dad’s shed. Growing up in the beautiful Big Horn Mountains, Mara developed a passion for nature and a desire to express its beauty in unique and exciting ways. Today, Mara’s intense self-study of the arts has produced a fresh technical style that draws elements from many of her heroes in art, past and present.

Studying graphic design and advertising at Oklahoma Christian University provided Mara with a solid foundation in design, color theory and the effort required to become excellent at whatever the task may be. Mara began a family shortly after college and as she set about the important mission of raising four brilliant children, she discovered and slowly developed her true passion for fine art and portraiture.

Mara now considers herself an expressive naturalist painter, desiring to convey moods, emotions and energy with textures, colors and intimate subjects. Mara finds great joy in her gift of art and she boldly uses her talent to celebrate simple beauty.

Working most commonly as a direct painter, alla prima, Mara is most fulfilled when she expresses a subject in the simplest terms. Her ability to combine illusions of reality with expressive textures treats the viewer to a simple telling of poetic stories, inviting the eye to enjoy the nature of oil paint itself and experience the energy carefully placed into each stroke.

Mara currently lives and paints in Sheridan, Wyoming with her husband, four children and six chickens.


2013  The Bradford Brinton Memorial and Museum, Big Horn, Wyoming
2013  Oil Painters of America 22nd Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils, Fredericksburg, TX
2013  The Sheridan College Martinsen Gallery, Sheridan, Wyoming
2012  Davis Gallery, Sheridan Wyoming
2011  Oil Painters of America Western Regional Exhibition, Lee Youngman Galleries, Calistoga, CA
2011  The 16th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction, Stove Prairie, Colorado
2011  The SAGE First Annual Juried Exhibition, Sheridan, Wyoming
2011  The BLOSSOM II ~ Art of Flowers Premeire Exhibition, Naples, Florida
2010  The 15th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction, Stove Prairie, Colorado
2010  The Sheridan College Martinsen Gallery, Sheridan, Wyoming
2010  Davis Gallery, Sheridan Wyoming


2013  Finalist, BoldBrush February 2013 Painting Competition
2013  Finalist, You Be the Judge painting competition,
2012  Finalist, You Be the Judge painting competition,
2011  Finalist, ACOPAL (America China Oil Painting Artists League) realist painting competition
2011  Winner, Best of Show and People’s Choice awards, SAGE 1st Annual Juried Exhibition,  Sheridan, WY
2011  Finalist, ACOPAL (America China Oil Painting Artists League) realist painting competition
2010  Finalist, BLOSSOM II ~ Art of Flowers competition hosted by the Susan Kathleen Black Foundation
2010  Honorable Mention, BLOSSOM II ~ Art of Flowers competition, The Susan Kathleen Black Foundation


8 responses »

  1. Your paintings are beautiful! Thank you for sharing. And banjo?! Good luck. I always wanted to try (I played guitar) but never did. Go for it! 🙂

  2. I love seeing how much different creative arts have in common. I can’t write without music. Thanks, Misty, for showing so many angles on what we all do.

  3. Your work is lovely. My favorite also is the child playing just outside the sunbeam. It reminds me of a scene I would be drawn to with my camera. I also admire the portrait of you. Nice!

  4. Great interview! I believe that Mara’s art will go down in history in an amazing way. Her work portrays a slice of American life that many people believe is gone for good. She is proof that it is not, that life can be both simple and beautiful. People long for both, and Mara reminds us that it is still possible. I truly believe that one hundred years from now people will be marveling over her work in museums! Keep up the amazing work Mara, we love you!

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