Mary Iverson Does Wonders with an X-Acto Knife on “Yellowstone Falls”

1xRUN’s International Women’s Day collection begins with an edition of hand-carved, oversized prints by Mary Iverson! A painter, muralist, and professor, the Seattle-based artist uses her stunning landscapes to pay tribute to the American Pacific Northwest and to incite conversations about climate change. Yellowstone Falls – Hand-Embellished Edition is based on a series of paintings that Iverson created depicting imagery throughout Yellowstone National Park. Read our exclusive interview with the artist below, and get a glimpse into her meticulous process.

1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about this piece, anything immediate you would like us to highlight about this image?
For all of my oil paintings, the first step is to go out in nature and do some watercolor sketches on site (that might actually be my favorite part of the process). When I was sketching in Yellowstone National Park, I saw this view and knew that it would be the perfect painting composition for a hand-embellished print! I composed the original painting so it would have some image area on the left where I could place cool geometric shapes.

1x: What is unique about this piece compared to your other work?
As I was sitting in the beautiful canyon sketching the falls, I had an epiphany because I was using iron oxide paints (a.k.a. earth tones), which are made up of the exact molecules I was staring at in the canyon walls – iron oxide pigments. The colors in the canyon are created from iron atoms in various stages of oxidation and hydration. So… the paint was the painting! I was tripping out. After that, I started researching the molecular structure of pigments and minerals in the landscape. It started a whole new series of drawings that inspired the geometric shapes I carved into the prints.

1x: Were these works created as part of an ongoing series?
The original painting was part of a series featuring Yellowstone National Park. I visited Yellowstone last year with my cousin Anne. We share a love of hiking and camping. It’s great to have women friends to do that stuff with. She is an amazing camp chef! We ate pancakes for breakfast, clam linguine and kale salad for dinner in the campground. One morning we woke up to a bison strolling among the tents.

1x: Can you tell us more about the Yellowstone series?
The paintings in my Yellowstone series depict iconic parts of the park. Over top of the pristine landscape imagery, I scratch in perspective lines with an X-Acto knife, then create a post-apocalyptic shipwreck scene with shipping containers scattered around the rocks. These paintings are meant to contrast industrial activity with the environment, inspiring conversations about climate change.

1x: How did you execute this image? What materials were used? How much time did it take?
The original painting is 36″ x 48″, oil on canvas. The landscape imagery took a full month to paint because I use a lot of layers of glaze, color, and detail to create the atmospheric perspective. When the landscape is finished, I let it dry for a week, then I scratch perspective lines into the surface of the painting using an X-Acto knife. Sometimes I feel like it’s two paintings in one.

1x: What were your earliest interactions with art growing up?
My mom gave me my first watercolor lesson. When I was little, my aunt used to bring me gifts from her trips to Japan, where she was researching her PhD thesis.

1x: Who was a prominent figure that played a major role in your formation as an artist?
My aunt, Betty Iverson-Monroe, was my mentor. She was a painter and full professor of art history at Northwestern University. She was a pioneer in academia and showed me that a woman can have a successful career in the arts.

1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist?
My art and my teaching job take up so much of my schedule that my biggest challenge is making time for recreation, family, and friends. I love my work so much that I often forget to take time to enjoy the world outside of art. This can lead to lack of life balance, which gets me into a mind and body decline. I am doing better lately at making more time for skiing, going for walks with friends, and goofing off in general. For example, I play trivia every Sunday night with a group of friends at a local pub. Our team name is “Alternative Facts.” My twin brother came up with that!

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I’m slicing up some prints for a hand-embellished edition with @1xrun for International Women’s Day, March 8th! The designs I’m carving are inspired by the crystal structure of minerals used to make paint. The background is Yellowstone falls. When I was there last summer, I learned that the colors of the canyon walls were created by iron molecules in many forms of oxides and hydroxides, each variation making its own color. This is what earth tones are made of : burnt umber, yellow ocher, burnt sienna, raw umber, raw sienna. I’ve been playing around with molecular geometry ever since 😍💎 🔨 . . #artandnature #handembellished #handembellishedprint #sacredgeometry #perspective #yellowstone #yellowstonefalls #landscapepainting #maryiverson

A post shared by Mary Iverson (@themaryiverson) on

1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more or less equitable for women?
I think it’s getting better. Galleries are making a point of evening out their rosters. I work with FB69 Gallery in Muenster, Germany that only represents women artists.

I would like to see more women out there doing murals! More women selling out shows and painting huge murals, like the Bowery Wall, for example.

1x: What woman-identifying artists inspired you in the past? Who are some woman-identifying artists that inspire you today?
The first artist autobiography I ever read was Georgia O’Keeffe’s. I loved reading about her passion for landscape painting, and she inspired me to paint plein air landscapes.

1x: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
: There is always a team: friends, gallery owners, mural festival crew, shippers, baristas, computer technician, doctor, and the boss at your day job. Love everyone who helps you reach your goals. If you lose track of love, you are on the wrong track.

Follow Mary Iverson on Instagram at @themaryiverson.