“Deep Canon in the Fall.” Original acrylic painting by Mary Pat Ettinger.
It all came in handy when living on a remote ranch in northern California (her husband worked for the forest service), she did some commercial work, including a series of wildflower cards for a San Francisco publisher. She also did graphics and illustrated several books. “We were over an hour from the nearest town,” she remembers. “Our phone service was a crank phone on a party line. Our ring was three long and two shorts. The road in and out was pretty rugged, but we thought it was a hoot. We went back recently and that road was still ugly. We asked ourselves, ‘How did we ever do this?’ I was scared out of my mind.”
“After the Storm.” Original acrylic painting by Mary Pat Ettinger.
In 1980, Mary Pat and her husband, Harry Dunn, moved to the Yampa Valley in Colorado (near Wyoming), where he had a job in the power industry, and she continued her painting as well as teaching art classes around the Western Slope from Steamboat Springs to Montrose.
Back in those early years, is when Mary Pat began painting acrylic on canvas. “My husband was away,” she says, and I had paint and canvas, but no Gesso. So, I painted on raw canvas. It was wonderful. The texture, the interaction between canvas and paint is very dynamic.” That started a life-long trend of using clear acrylic sealer (which is not slick, like Gesso), on the canvas, so she still gets the texture. Her paintings look like watercolor on canvas.
The system is also very challenging, but the results are worth it. ”If you make a mistake with acrylic, it’s not forgiven, she explains. “Once dry, it’s set in stone. But it’s also magical when you treat like acrylic like watercolor. It takes a lot to control on canvas. The interaction between canvas and paint as a watercolor is just magical for me. It’s very exciting. What I enjoy the most, is the surprise. You never know what a wash is going to do. Inside the tight edges I am able to achieve, I can create some incredible washes that can be almost abstract.”
Welcoming artistic surprises, exploring her art and finding a world that might otherwise be lost, Mary Pat’s personal path is to “follow beauty, a trail of loveliness…to a place where truth and kindness still exist, and there is hope for tomorrow.”
MaryPat is a storyteller. She has written and illustrated books. She took up weaving as a form of rest and relaxation. She paints because it is an integral part of the story of her own life.
See Mary Pat Ettinger’s work at the Montrose Center for Arts, or visit her website,