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Featured Article in The Humm

The Highs and Lows of Mary Loos - theHumm December 2023

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

Let There Be Light

Loos gets high on light. It is her inspiration. Her canvases glow with sunlight and moonlight and starlight, illuminating landscapes, waterscapes, cloudscapes and most frequently, treescapes. Her email address is mary.paintstrees@gmail.com .

Her paintings are, literally, testaments to her love and need of light. She is a sky watcher, both day and night. Her art provides a reliable bright spot in her life, a way to re-energize her spirits and cope with past sorrows and present concerns. Mary describes it as a dependable constant — just like the sun and the moon and the stars. When the sun is shining, Loos can usually be found outdoors, soaking up rays of happiness and storing them as fuel for inspiration and protection against sad or worrisome thoughts.

Even when the sun is behind the clouds she knows it is there. And she knows that when she picks up her brush to create a new painting, she can “paint her way out” of melancholic thoughts. It is a source of constant contentment and incentive to her that once she enters her well-lit studio with a beautiful view of the Rideau River landscape, she will “be in the zone” that creative people and athletes value so much. That flow state is described by Wikipedia as “a mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity...”

Don’t be S.A.D.

Her paintings are a great antidote for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Those big splashes of light and colour beat back the gloom of our long, cold winters for her viewers as well as for herself. When I talked to her she was just coming off an incredible high. A recent two-day workshop in oil painting with Kingston’s Michelle Reid resulted in one of life’s “aha!” moments. Loos began painting thirty years ago when her medium of choice was watercolour, and long-time fans still ask for watercolour paintings. When she felt she needed something new to challenge herself, she switched to acrylics, enjoying the new possibilities that medium offered. Her artworks became more vivid and focused on her celebration of light and colour.

 

I Can See Clearly Now

As the result of Reid’s workshop, Loos is now obsessed with the thrill of her newly-discovered medium. Her early results are truly spectacular. Many artists will recognize the feeling of exhilaration that comes from finally identifying their passion — the medium and/or subject that feeds their soul and immerses them in that addictive experience of effortless attention and the complete absorption in what one is doing. For Mary, the new medium is proving to be a real high. She strongly recommends participation in a workshop to stimulate creativity and present new challenges.

Going With the Flow…

…has been a lifelong activity for Loos. She grew up spending her summers on a small family island in the Thousand Islands near Gananoque. Her great-grandfather “Poppy” Tom Glover had purchased the island in 1928 for $450, and the island became known locally as Cunningham Island after her grandmother’s married name. Mary vividly recalls boating and driving to their summer home. Her father had purchased one of the German-made Amphicars marketed from 1961 to 1968, and ferried his four daughters in the amphibious vehicle across the short distance that they also were able to swim.

If light is Mary’s mainstay, water is her muse. As a teenager she joined the Gananoque Canoe Club as her father had in his youth, competing against Ottawa and Carleton Place in K-1, K-2, K-4 and War Canoe races. Today she finds inspiration by walking out the door of her stunning modern home and jumping into her kayak on the Rideau River near Merrickville. Light reflecting on water, sun breaking through the clouds, and night skies will never cease to awe and inspire her.

Loos remembers experiencing her first arts high at an easel in kindergarten, wearing a smock, and thinking, “This is it!” She became a celebrity at the age of eight when a reporter for the local Gananoque newspaper interviewed school kids to find out what they wanted for Christmas. Her reply was, “I want an Etch-a-Sketch because my mom doesn’t want me using all her paper.” Imagine her mother’s chagrin when neighbours started showing up to donate paper for the budding young artist.

Following her degree in sociology/anthropology at Carleton University, she earned her credentials in Early Childhood Development and worked with kids for years in HeadStart programs in Ottawa and Kingston. She continued her inordinate consumption of paper, and when her friend Lynne Kiel saw Mary’s watercolour art, she insisted that Mary put it on display at Lynne’s shop in the Ottawa Byward Market. Kiel is a silk painter and fashion designer lynnekiel.com , and she talked Mary into joining her at the “One of a Kind” show in Toronto. The logistics of transporting her watercolour paintings to Toronto led to Mary’s switch to acrylics and her continued celebration of light and colour.

Her marriage to Greg Loos, a member of Canada’s Air Force, led to many moves, which explains why art by Mary Loos is still available at a gallery in Yellowknife. There she grew to love the fantastic light displays of the night skies. She describes herself as a “big kid,” and thinks of the sky as a huge upgrade to her Etch-a-Sketch, where she can visualize an endless parade of imaginary creatures and scenes.