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Inside Job

The Wonderfully Colorful Art Studio of Your Dreams

Inside Job BY courtney conway 07/26/2018

Mary Finlayson’s paintings practically overflow with color and cheer, and if you were to picture what her S.F. studio might look like, you’d probably land very close to the real thing. We’re talking mountains of paint tubes, a forest-green-tiled fireplace, a helpful pup, and so much light. But now’s your chance to see if for yourself.


“I tend to paint in this part of the room the most because it gets great light from the window. I generally sit at an easel, but for the fine details, I will often lay the work flat on my desk. I just bought a giant easel that can switch from being vertical to horizontal so I don’t have to swap the bigger pieces around when I’m changing from blocking in to detail work. It’s the best—I love that feature. That’s Japhy behind me. She and I spend a lot of time together.”


“I spend equal amounts of time at my desk and my easel. I use my desk as a giant paint palette where I mix all of my colors. It also doubles as my shipping and packaging area, so its function changes depending on the day.”


Paintedmary yellowsofaframedprint 1
Yellow Sofa Framed Print
50 OF A KIND .



“These are my paint palettes. I love them so much. I want to frame each and every one of them and cover my house in them! They are always changing because I continually use them, and I never wash them because I like how they look. I just keep piling the paint on them. They have inspired a few paintings and have also helped me come up with color combos that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. I can usually tell which palette is from what painting depending on how the colors are mixed.”


“I like gouache because the colors have this velvety, matte finish that you can’t achieve with other paints. They’ve taken me a while to adjust to, but now that I’ve got the hang of them, they’re my favorite medium to work in. I just wish they made bigger tubes since I go through a lot of these little ones. For my bigger paintings, I usually use a combo of house paint, acrylic, and gouache because it really doesn't make sense to cover a big area in this type of paint. It’s better suited for fine detail and small areas of color.”



“When the studio is full of art, it feels like I’m working inside one of my paintings. That’s what spurred my idea to start doing textiles—because the room starts to become the painting and feels self-referential. I like playing with that concept.”



“My studio is full of things that I’ve collected over the years. I found that horseshoe on a hike in Patagonia, and the gold cut-out art behind it was made by a mother selling them on the street in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. She was so talented. I wish I had bought more of them from her. It’s lived with me in Vancouver, Brooklyn, and now in San Francisco. I love books, and if there was more space in here, there would definitely be more of them. I love being direct about my references and incorporating bits of my home studio into the paintings. The dolls are by Alexander Girard, who is another artist I love. He had such great use of color and shape.”



“My favorite part of the studio has to be these windows. They fill the space with light all day long. The best light comes in the morning. It makes the whole room feel soft and quiet. I used to be a night hawk, but now I prefer the mornings. It’s when I focus best.”



“This is Japhy again. She is definitely one of a kind, and I wish I had her personality. She makes for very good company in here, though much of her time is spent nudging at my knee wanting belly rubs or for me to stop what I’m doing and take her on a walk. I love having her near me when I’m working. She feels like an extension of me because we’re always together.”

All images courtesy of Nicola Parisi.



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