CINspirational People: Mara McCalmont
CINspirational People is a feature of Good Things Going Around profiling diverse people of Greater Cincinnati, what inspires them, and what is inspiring about them. You can read more profiles by clicking on the link at the top of the blog. Do you know someone to suggest? Please reach out. Thanks!
Mara McCalmont is a gifted artist in Cincinnati who specializes in capturing the hearts, souls and personalities of beloved pets. On her website, she says, “I have been endeared to animals and nature my whole life and have been involved with many charities dedicated to their protection including Pets in Need,UCAN, SPCA, Three Sisters Pet Rescue, Recycled Doggies and numerous other organizations. I have even drawn beside John Ruthevan in support of the Cincinnati Nature Center.” She lives with her husband, Paul, and Zoe, her Weimaraner of perpetual motion.
GTGA: How did you come to choose dogs (animals) as the focal point of your art?
Mara: Animals are fascinating and extraordinarily beautiful. It’s a challenge to capture, in two-dimension, the softness of their fur, the quirkiness of their body language and most importantly, the soul and personality that their eyes portray. They cannot speak and communicate through those eyes. The eyes always come first in my paintings. Only after I am satisfied with them can I continue with the rest of the portrait.
GTGA: We’d love to learn of how your art has touched lives. Can you give us an example?
A: Well, when big macho men cry… that’s always a sign that I’ve done my job well! Recently I was commissioned to paint a family dog, Riley that had passed away unexpectedly leaving two teenage children devastated. The mother was hesitant to ask me to memorialize him, as she wasn’t sure of what the children’s reaction would be. They were thrilled and said “I got him spot on” and they felt ” he is still with us every day, now”. They place tiny treasures from their adventures next to his portrait, which hangs above where his bed once was, and the Mom truly feels that it has helped in their healing process.
There is no better reward from my work!
GTGA: What is something people might not know about you?
Mara: A favorite quote of mine is from G. B. Shaw: “Animals are my friends, and I do not eat my friends!”
My husband and I are long-time vegetarians and believe there is nothing better that you can do for the animals, of course, yourself and for the betterment of the planet.
GTGA: Tell us about a challenge that you have overcome and how it impacted you.
Mara: I had my own small business for 32 + years in advertising and graphic design, specializing in print materials. I found myself, virtually overnight, in a field that was becoming nearly obsolete with the invasion of web and social media. In my late 50’s I had to make some hard choices about the rest of my life. I had always wanted to pursue painting more seriously than a hobby and thanks to the support of my husband… and his steady engineering paycheck… I decided to jump in both brushes drawn!
It took several years of hard work, practice and honing my style before I started seeing the recognition and acceptance of my work. I still have a long way to go, but feel I am finally on my way!
GTGA: What are some of your simple pleasures?
Mara: I get immense enjoyment from nature whether it be a walk in the woods, tending my gardens, or enjoying an incredible sunset. It never ceases to amaze me of the variety of beauty that surrounds us and that we sometimes walk past everyday and forget to take notice. There is no bad mood, in my opinion, that a butterfly, falling leaf or chirp of a wren wouldn’t change for the better.
GTGA: What is a motto you live by?
Mara: That it’s never too late to start anew. If you dedicate yourself, work diligently, love what you are doing… your passion will show through and eventually gain the respect and acceptance of others.
GTGA: What is one of your pet peeves?
Mara: The perception that art is fun and “comes easy to you”. Yes, I have a talent and enjoy what I do, but art is hard work. It has taken a lifetime of practice, learning to work with the mediums, and countless hours of failures to produce a worthy painting. Yes, this painting might have taken me 5 hours to produce… plus 10 years of self-education and trial and error.
GTGA: Do you do any volunteer work?
Mara: I’ve donated commissions for fund-raising to many local animal non-profits including, SPCA, Recycled Doggies, Three Sisters Rescue and UCAN,
For the last couple years, I have been involved with Pets in Need, which is an organization that allows for low -cost veterinary care to low-income families, a much-needed service and the only one of its kind in Greater Cincinnati. They provide the necessary care often needed to allow beloved pets to remain in their homes rather than be surrendered to a shelter.
GTGA: What is the best advice you have received?
Mara: Actions speak louder than words. Every time I sell a painting or receive a commission, it’s a confirmation of my talent and pushes me to be a bit better when I go back in the studio. Artists are extremely critical of their own work and never feel that they are good enough. Every time I am successful, it’s a “pat on the back” confidence- building push to continue what I am doing… even better than before.
GTGA: How would you like for others to describe you?
Mara: That I am creative, persistent, funny and was as good to fellow humans as I am to the other creatures with whom we share this beloved planet.