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Thalo Spotlight Artist Mary Jo Ernst

Thalo loves to promote artists and each month, we spotlight a member of our community!

This month we are pleased to have Mary Jo Ernst as the thalo spotlight artist for December 2020!

Paris Night 2


Thalo Team: Can you give an "elevator pitch" of your work?

Mary Jo Ernst: “Fall Down the Rabbit Hole into a world of whimsical art full of textures and details that the viewer can join!”


TT: What is your artwork about and what do you want people to take from it? 

MJE: I create artwork that makes me happy, whether it is in my sketchbook or a solitary piece.  My wish is that I can draw the viewer in, make them look closer, feel an emotion, identify with a place, or trigger a memory.


TT: Which artists do you feel have influenced your art the most?

MJE: My Mother bought a 1920 s book at the local library sale when I was a child. It was filled with illustrations from Dugald Walker, a Scottish-American artist. The illustrations were ink and fairytale-like themes. Gustav Klimt is another favorite of mine, the common factor with both of these artists is all of the tiny details in their work, and the ability to transport the viewer into a different world.


Mary Jo Ernst - @mysteriousmannequin


TT: Where do you like to present your work, and why? (Galleries, website, social media, etc.)

MJE: I have some artwork in a gallery in Michigan that showcases locally themed compositions.  I create specific artwork for the gallery because my buyers identify with the compositions of the Great Lakes theme.  For my daily and travel sketches, I like to share my work on social media because I am part of a larger global art tribe, and seeing each other’s art is what gets us through the day


TT: Do you feel like your work has evolved? If so, how?

MJE:  I feel I have come full circle in some ways. As a small child, I was inspired by Dugald Walker’s ink illustrations and the little ones in the Nancy Drew series, so my first medium was Higgins Ink and a quill pen. I have been an artist for 50 years, using every medium and technique with a unifying result: light and whimsical. I tried dark and brooding because of trends but have finally just embraced my personal style. For the past few years, I have used mostly pen and inks for my artwork and have really noticed an improvement with my compositions and values from using monotones and through daily sketching.


TT: Do you have any tips or advice for fellow artists based off of your experiences thus far?

MJE: A blank piece of paper or surface will remain blank until a mark is made, so make your mark any mark.  Keeping a regular sketchbook is a must, something that I did not do when I was younger. I am an Administrator for Urban Sketchers of Chicago, a local chapter of the larger global group, and learned the value of always having a sketchbook to capture an on-location or an event.  Regular sketching and practice is how you improve, talent doesn’t appear out of thin air.  For example, if you want to be better at sketching people, you have to sketch as many people as you can. It is as simple as that. I also encourage people to take classes with artists that you admire their work, also sketch what interests you, and  to not be fearful of trying out new art supplies and techniques. Through regular creating, your style will emerge, embrace it because “Comparison is the thief to JOY”- this is my mantra!


Mary Jo Ernst - @mysteriousmannequin


TT: What are you working on right now and why? 

MJE: I am currently working on creating some shadow boxes with travel sketches highlighting my trips this year to the Great Lakes to rock and fossil hunt. In the  boxes are watercolor sketches of locations visited ( Lake Michigan and Huron beaches) and some of the rocks and fossils I found.  They are a great way to combine 2 of my passions.  I am also working on some instructional art videos, mostly pen, and ink-related, due to popular demand.


TT: What was your first work of art that you were proud of? Where is it now?

MJE: I grew up in a tiny town in West Michigan and they held a contest to create a piece of artwork to kick off the opening of a walking trail that was converted from old rail tracks.  My mother was the Village Treasurer and made me enter it. My pen and Ink sketch of the Rail Trail of New Era won. I received the$250 prize, a lot of money for a high school kid. The large sketch hung in the village hall  for 30 years, many prints were made, and eventually, someone from the village asked my Mom if she wanted the original back so now it is hanging in my parent.’s home. On a recent trip to visit my Dad, we went to the local diner, sat down in the booth, and saw a framed print of my sketch hanging with historic photos of my small hometown. It may not seem like much to some but it was the first time  I felt validated as an artist


TT: Do you take commissions? Why or why not?

MJE: I accept commissions of all types and have a love-hate relationship with them.  There is always a bit of stress involved, the questions of doubt that the buyer may not be happy. I have to remind myself that has never happened and commissions force me to deal with subject matter that I may not choose naturally  and offers me a chance to grow as an artist, I love sharing my art with others which is why I accept commissions

Mary Jo Ernst - @mysteriousmannequin


TT: What do you do when you aren't working on artwork (hobbies, job, etc.) 

MJE: My main career is a professional dressmaker and have had my own custom dress shop for almost 30 years. I make Bridal and special occasion clothing but have sewn just about anything. In my spare time I love to travel and rock and fossil hunt, nothing is more exciting than finding a fossil that is over 300 million years old.  


TT: How do you overcome art blocks?

MJE: I have a 2-second attention span and have never had to deal with art blocks.  I do not take my art too seriously so I am constantly switching mediums and do not  get too stuck creating the same subject matter, I am always on the move


TT: Where do you see your work taking you in the next 5-10 years? 

MJE: I have been Plein air painting the past  few years flirting with oil paints and would like to continue and perhaps do some figurative painting.  Also, I am in the process of creating some virtual workshops because I love teaching and encouraging others.  The simplicity of my artwork makes it easier for me to convince others on the sidelines to join in and become an artist.

Mary Jo Ernst - @mysteriousmannequin

TT: If you have links for your website, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, etc. that you would like to share, please include these addresses below.

Great Lakes themed artwork:

main art pages :