Mary Jane Roberts is one of the artists that has been creating at Seventh Street Studio since it opened its doors two years ago. “My passion is art and I favor pastel, not the chalk pastels, but the real ones. Real pastels are made from 100 percent pigment with oil, and they are handmade,” she said. “Using them is considered painting.”
Mary Jane started drawing on school paper and ledgers when she was just five years old. At the age of eight she sat across the street from her church and drew it. That drawing was used for years in the church’s bulletin. “My parents didn’t take my art seriously, but drawing the church was the first time I was recognized as an artist – a little artist. I still have some of my drawings from when I was five, and in the 4th grade I won an art show for a creating a girl’s head that I made out of melted crayons. I wish I had a copy of that church bulletin,” she said longingly.
She also used to recreate the pictures in the Bible for her Sunday school teachers. That is where she learned to draw figures and faces. Along with Bible characters, she said that she must have copied every Breck models’ face in magazines and every model in wedding dress advertisements. Breck was a shampoo company with beautiful models that had gorgeous hair.
In 1991, Mary Jane started taking classes from local artist legend, the late Steve Grey. “I drew a picture of my son, Gary, and took it to Steve’s studio. He showed me how to use color. I didn’t know that blonde hair and skin had so much color. He showed me how to use pastels so that I wouldn’t have to mix paint. I took the picture home to my husband and cried because I didn’t think I could do it,” she recalled. “Steve asked me one day if I would give him credit when I got famous for teaching me how to use color,” she said with a smile.
Mary Jane told me about her first studio. “I turned my basement into a studio and did several paintings down there,” she giggled. “A guy brought in some building products and I made a full size ‘55 Chevrolet, complete with dice in the window, out of Styrofoam material. It was large and took a long time. It was used by the Shriners in one of their 50s dances. After that The Women’s Forum used it for a debutante dance. Some guy offered to buy it for $500 to put in his garage and I wouldn’t sell it to him. I have a problem with that,” she laughed. “I get so attached to my art that I have problems turning loose.” Although she holds on tight to her art, she does a lot of commission work, but honestly, she still has a problem saying goodbye to them, too.