Minnesota native Maury Aaseng can’t remember a time when he wasn’t drawing. “My dad used to keep my siblings and I quiet in church by drawing characters and critters in the bulletin for us, and I began to start mimicking his efforts. It quickly became one of my favorite activities, and I was soon filling up pages with dinosaurs, animals, fantastical creatures, and drawings of my family.”
As a child, Maury’s inspiration and influence came from illustrators of his favorite books. Maury says, “Their imaginative creations fascinated me and kept me turning the pages. Chris Van Allsburg, James Stevenson, and Bill Waterson were some of my favorite inspirations as a child, and I was thrilled by the stories they could tell with pictures.
Maury is the artist for Walter Foster's exciting new children’s release Learn to Draw American Landmarks & Historical Heroes and the forthcoming Drawing: Birds.
While Maury is a talented graphite pencil artist, he has been increasingly drawn to watercolor painting and in recent years found great inspiration in watercolor artists who depict the northern forests of the United States, such as Howards Siverton, Gordon MacKenzie, and Roderick MacIver. “These [artists] have been excellent fodder for my interest in painting wildlife found in the woods and waterways of Minnesota,” says Maury.
Maury’s mom was an early encourager for his artistic endeavors, enrolling him in every art class she could find as he grew up. “Along with my dad, she was my first “fan,” says Maury. In addition to family, Maury also found great encouragement and art instruction in some of his teachers. “In the 6th grade I struck gold by having Dan Ingersoll as my art teacher. He began giving me private lessons after school and continued to provide inspiration, valuable critiques, and much-needed friendship throughout my high school years.”
Maury was also lucky to find a mentor in professor Janice Kmetz while studying for his graphic design degree in college. “[She] mentored me with an independent study in illustration work and helped train me for the professional world.” Maury says his wife Charlene has been an enormous support and his biggest cheerleader for the last nine years. “Being a gifted designer with an MFA in fine arts, she has provided wonderful insight into my work and has helped push me further than I could have hoped to get on my own.”
A nature lover, it should come as no surprise that Maury’s favorite subject is wildlife. “Some things don’t change much over the years,” says Maury. “It’s been three decades since I first picked up a pencil and wildlife is still my favorite subject. However, I also enjoy cartooning and drawing people and landscapes.
As a nature enthusiast, when Maury’s not working in his studio he enjoys the outdoors as much as possible. “Getting outside to go canoeing, snowshoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, and fishing are some of my favorite activities. I’m also a fan of continued education and have been happy to take some woodworking and ecology classes post-college. Like most people, I enjoy good books, movies, and adore travel.”
Even for artists, finding inspiration and staying motivated can be a challenge at times. “Mortgages and bills are one powerful source of motivation,” says Maury, who is a full-time freelance artist. “But on an artistic level, there are three things that keep me motivated and inspired. The first is to work on a variety of projects in a variety of media. This helps keep things fresh and provides multiple challenges. The second is to view work of artists more talented than I. It’s a humbling and exciting thing that motivates me to always try to improve my work. And the third is to be surrounded with the beautiful scenery and fascinating creatures that captivate me in northern Minnesota.”
For artists just starting out, Maury has some useful advice and tips. “I would advise an artist just starting out to speak thoughtfully and kindly with clients and to accept criticism with open arms. Art collectors, publishers, and authors are looking for artists who they enjoy working with, and ultimately your talent will only get you as far as your people skills. Be grateful to work in a field that can be difficult, and keep working on ways to improve your skills.”
Maury also suggests that artists strive to strike a balance between work they get paid for and art they create for the sheer joy of it. “The first will keep you making art, and the second will keep making you enjoy it,” says Maury.
His last piece of advice for artists looking to make a career out of their art is to take a business class. “It’s a cheaper way to learn how to be your own boss than trial-and-error. Take from an illustrator who learned that one the hard way!”
To learn more about Maury and see additional artwork, visit his website at www.mauryillustrates.com.
Artwork © Maury Aaseng.