One of the first things I jumped in helping with once I started working at Biscuit was an upcoming artist collaboration. When Bailey's farm house was featured in the April 2015 issue of Country Living Magazine, the painted longhorn piece above the fireplace mantel received a good amount of attention and excitement. No one was more excited than the local Houston-artist, Mary H. Case, who up until she started receiving emails from interested customers, didn't even know one of her original works ended up on the glossy pages of Country Living. Mary reached out to Bailey to graciously thank her for the buzz the original piece had garnered and from there a relationship bloomed with Biscuit.
Everyone was interested in working together again and after comparing notes with Mary and bouncing a few ideas back and fourth about how we could make her art more accessible to interested fans, we landed on a clear collaboration.
Mary has always sold her pieces in the form of originals - a great thing when she has works available to buy, but a tough reality thing when you're wanting a specific piece or the instant gratification that comes with purchasing a print. We at Biscuit are really excited that we got to work with Mary to produce exclusive giclée prints and a limited edition glass tray that feature her sought-after longhorns - available through Biscuit and Mary's online shop. What we love most about the drawings are how straight forward and beautiful they are…they strike a balance of clean and bold; the contrast between the elegance of the sepia ink lines used along side the contemporary composition of the masculine subject matter makes each piece striking and special. Because we want everyone to know a little bit more about Mary H. Case as an artist, her process, inspiration, and techniques, I did a Q+A session with her that I hope you all enjoy!
Q: I think the most common question I love to ask artists like yourself is, “How did you get started?”
A: I remember when I was young that my favorite books where ones with artwork. I studied them as a child. I’ve also been fond of line/mark-making – I even considered my 3rd grade cursive lessons to be “fun.” My first experience with fine art making came from the classes I took in high school. That led to getting a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. My love of painting techniques led me to do murals in homes and faux finishing while I kept my hand in a smaller body of personal work. When moving to The Woodlands (just outside of Houston, TX) I transitioned exclusively into creating and selling fine art.
Q: Talk to me about the pieces you do with animals – they seem to be a favorite of your fans and Biscuit Home.
A: Drawing is my immediate reaction to the world around me (and I would say this body of work is drawing). Since the beginning of time man drew man first, then turned to the animal. Along these lines I enjoy drawing figures but definitely have developed an affinity for drawing animals, starting back in art school days. After moving to The Woodlands I visited the Houston Zoo and did a series of drawings based on the animals there. That led me to drawing farm animals…and then I got hooked on longhorns. (no pun intended)
Q: Yes! Bring me up to speed on how longhorns became such a focus of yours?
A: Texas Longhorns are a special kind of cattle and I’ve come to see them as beautifully built animals. Aside from finding them visually enjoyable, I like that they have an interesting history intertwined with economics. The cattle came from a blend of Spanish and English stock brought to Texas in the early 1800’s. After the Civil War millions were driven to market in a boom but faced extinction eventually due to the several factors one being change from free range land to fenced properties and the need for different qualities in cattle on these ranches. They are still today a more lean, tough breed and also represent a part of history treasured by many ranchers. The massive horns can make them appear dangerous to each other but they have such an awareness of their horns and body size – the way they are able to move is really incredible. My cousin owns some longhorns and I’ve been lucky to observe them. I just love them and they are my current muse.
Q: Your longhorn pieces each have a unique feel to them. How do you work accomplish that when representing the same animal over and over?
A: You could say that I like to “obsess” over a subject matter. I enjoy working the same subject (in this case, the longhorn) over and over. It’s important as an artist to push the work around with technique and represent them in different ways while keeping the subject the same.
Q: Let’s talk about your medium and techniques with the longhorn pieces…
A: I use varied medium to draw but a favorite is sepia ink. My technique is a cross between drawing and painting. I use fountain pens, reed pens, a variety of brushes depending on if the piece in process is going to focus on subjects represented by tonal values, contour lines or both. The sepia ink adds warmth and the dried puddles lend spontaneity. The pen brings back some control. Sometimes I have a general picture of a piece in my mind and other times it’s spontaneous and a surprise. Not every piece makes it! It’s exciting when I end up with a successful piece.
Q: You mention that when drawing the longhorns a piece will either focus on being done with tonal values or contour lines – can you speak to that difference a little bit more?
A: My Bocelli and 29 Head giclée prints are examples of works done with tonal values. Texas Longhorns are known for their diverse coloring and many have beautiful markings and spots…you can see in both those pieces that I’ve put a good amount of details in the work, taking artistic license to place longhorns with contrasting and complimentary coats in various spots and highlighting certain parts of the animal. Longhorns like what you see on the glass tray and in the giclée prints Field Store Muster and Napoleon are less detailed but defined by contour lines that vary in ink hues and line quality. I should mention a fun fact: Bocelli and Napoleon are the actual names of two of my cousin’s longhorns!
Q: I love the names! And I really love how you have taken the Texas Longhorn – an animal that sparks a combination of recognition and symbolism – and elevated it to become something beautiful and unique.
A: Thank you! My hope is that my prints can be appreciated and by people who have a love of art, animals, or both – longhorns might be a symbol of Texas but that doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyed by all.
Shop the pieces from the collaboration here!