Mary Sparrow

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Updates and such ;)

Hi Everyone.. yes, yes, I've been M.I.A, so sorry, just lots and lots going on and all good I am happy to say. As you all know I have moved into my new studio along with my partner Geoff Robles and we are so excited about what is shaping up around here. Recently our studio, "Hanging the Moon", was featured in "Foothills Spotlight" magazine.. so rather than summarize what their editor Mark Hudson wrote I will just share the article with you. Thank you for all of your support through the years and I hope you continue to follow us as we continue to create and grow! More original paintings, portraits, prints, photography and metal sculpture coming soon...


New Shelby art studio welcomes you 

Words Mark Alan Hudson
     If you’ve been on West Graham Street near South Lafayette Street in Shelby over the past few months, you may have noticed the building slowly transforming from a time worn storefront to one with a welcoming façade. Perhaps you’ve noticed the trappings of an artist in the window … easel, brushes, partially finished canvas.
     Glance in the window: you’ll see warmly colored walls, finished canvases ready for delivery, pleasant work spaces and a pleasant seating area. It is a welcoming and that is exactly what the owners of the Hanging the Moon Gallery want you to feel.
     Mary Sparrow Smith and Geoff Robles (pronounced Joff) welcome you to come in, visit and learn a bit about what they are doing. This comes at a risk however, because you’ll likely be greeted first by Daisy, Breaker and Harry, three small and energetic dogs who demand attention, even if only for a few seconds.
     Many may already recognize Mary and her talent; since the mid 1990’s, she has been commissioned to paint literally hundreds of children and pet portraits. More recently, she has started receiving commissions to do portraits of adults, but more about that later. 
    Her partner Geoff has worked in photography and woodworking but is now concentrating in metal work, and like Mary, he creates a great deal of his work on site at the gallery.
     Both Geoff and Mary are skilled at what they do but neither has taken a traditional road to hone their artistic talents.
    Mary, a native North Carolinian, graduated from UNC with a degree in media and communications. Always interested in art, it was while working for a magazine in the Raleigh area she got a chance to work as a graphic artist and illustrator when the art director saw her “doodling” one day while she was on a phone call.
     One day, while talking with a long time friend of her mom’s, he asked what she wanted to do. “I want to paint,” she recalls saying. He then challenged her to do just that. And she did, growing more talented with time and effort.
     When she moved to Shelby, Mary says some local friends “encouraged me to paint portraits of children and as there were a lot of children here, I gave that a try.” Her technique of painting ‘from’ and not ‘on’ a photograph brought her even more business. To date, she has sent her work to 26 countries.
     Meanwhile, Geoff’s life was unfolding in northern California. A graduate of the University of California-Davis, Geoff has had a successful career as a software engineer, working with such technological giants as AT&T and Oracle. A company he helped create was eventually bought out by Oracle, who he now works for again.
     Geoff’s work allowed him to travel extensively in Central and South America. “Along the way, I developed keen interests in photography and woodworking and though I was not trained in these things, I learned a lot on my own.” 
     While working in Atlanta, Geoff became interested in metal work and took classes in welding. While working as a volunteer for “Project Open Hand,” a colleague challenged him to contact Korina Menshoff, a famous metal-smithing artist also living in Atlanta.
     Geoff notes Korina initially misunderstood his intentions, perhaps thinking he was “just a kid.” “I finally was able to talk to her and invited her to lunch, and we really hit it off,” he says. She took him on as an apprentice and over time, helped school him in his metal art work.
     Mary and Geoff, both active in artist forums, met just over a year ago. Mutual interests in art and marketing led them to discuss and finally and commit to a partnership in both their work and their lives.
     They considered options for where they would have their gallery and Geoff decided that since his job allows him to live pretty much where he wants, Shelby seemed to be a good place to try. After a diligent search, they found the building at 111 West Morgan. Mary says “the number 11 is special for me so I took this as a good sign.” The building has a northern exposure which is good for her painting and high ceilings, which helps Geoff with some of his equipment.
     Now remember the family friend who encouraged Mary to paint? He called her to reconnect recently and with a proposal. He’d remembered Mary had painted the portrait of Don Gibson for the Don Gibson Theatre in Shelby and had something in mind he thought she could do. He wanted her to come to Hollywood and meet some people who might like their portraits done.
     So Geoff and Mary headed west, not thinking much would come of it. They were wrong. Once there she met with, Dennis Haysbert (Allstate commercials) and Frances Fisher (actress) to paint their portraits. While she won’t name names just yet, she says if an upcoming trip works out, she’ll be painting many more w commissioned her to paintell known personalities in the months ahead.
     While exciting, Mary and Geoff seem grounded in what they are trying to do here locally. They think their success is tied to how they do operate. “We do our own marketing and representation,” Geoff explains, “which cuts out the middle man.” The result is works of art that cost much less than you would get in the big city. 
     More important, they get to create their art in an environment that is conducive to their work and in a place that they enjoy living.
     So if you get the chance, drop in to their gallery and visit for a while. Geoff and Mary don’t mind you watching while they create, and the dogs will let you know if you’re doing a good job of noticing them.

Details: Hours are variable but you can make an appointment. Their web site is "" or you can call 704-418-3059.

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