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Mary McDonough’s Artwork Is Full of Detours

Anderson Artists Guild member Mary McDonough grew up in Salsbury, North Carolina, a self-described “high-energy child, always making stuff.”

When she enrolled at Clemson University, she said, “I started in nursing because I thought I had to get a job that was important.” But a difficult chemistry class and a professor who told her to find another major led her to graphic arts and later a master’s degree in art education from Winthrop University.

Over the years, in between raising her children, she waited tables, did freelance advertising work, and finally settled into a job teaching English and English as a Second Language in Atlanta. “I liked it,” she said. “It felt like a calling.” She finally got a position teaching art for a few years before she and her husband retired and moved to South Carolina, first to Pendleton and soon to Seneca.

McDonough’s artwork is a mix of collage and painting, of color and form. “I got into collage by mistake when I wasn’t happy with my painting,” she said. “Collage gives sculptural elements that I like.” She begins by creating sketches with blocks of colors, then ponders how to translate them into a collage. “When making the piece, it doesn’t look anything like the sketch,” she said. “I take a lot of detours. Collage can take shapes you wouldn’t have thought of until actually doing it and changing them around.”

On 300-pound watercolor paper, she adds layers and layers of acrylic paint, then scrapes and prints. One of her favorite techniques is to put gel medium on the painting in lumps, then spread charcoal on crumbled tissue paper. She puts this tissue paper on the painting, leaves it there for a while, and peels it off for a rough texture. “I just enjoy thinking of different ways to do things,” she said.

She often works in series. Most recently, she was inspired by a prayer called “Peace at Last” by St. John Henry Newman. “I guess it is a prayer for this year,” she said.

For more information about McDonough, visit


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