Updated: Jan 12
Mercy Maclay is a 31 year old, self-taught watercolor painter based out of Erie, PA. When she’s not working as a Custom Framer, she lives in her small attic studio with her spouse and best bud, Aarron. Artmaking and working with other artists is her passion. She dreams of one day opening a local art supply and frame shop in Erie. (We believe she can absolutely do it!) She devotes her time to learning her trade, sharing her work through Instagram, meeting artists, and visiting as many art shows as possible.
Not only was I fortunate to meet her due to her Custom Framer position, but also because she agreed to talk with me about what artmaking means to her and where her inspiration for her own work comes from!
What does artmaking mean to you?
I know that I’m on the right path in life if art is the main focus of it. I’ve cycled through a lot of career paths, from construction to office work. But the only work that I’ve felt has given back as much heart and soul as I’ve put into it has been creating. It’s the reason that I want to keep going in this world, creating and sharing my work and meeting people who have the same passion.
It’s the reason that I want to keep going in this world, creating and sharing my work and meeting people who have the same passion.
How long have you been creating?
Oh geeze, I’ve been drawing faces, women, goddesses, monsters, and superheroes from the moment I could pick up a pencil. Truthfully, I was a child coming from a place that didn’t really allow emotional exploration or expression, so I found a way to explore how I was feeling by creating personifications of emotions in the feminine form. Growing up, I knew that expensive art colleges would be out of the question for me, but there was so much to learn. So I taught myself from library books, Youtube tutorials, and creating with other skilled artists.
I’ve been drawing faces, women, goddesses, monsters, and superheroes from the moment I could pick up a pencil.
What inspires you?
The actual imagery is inspired by a lot. I love old mythological, neoclassic, and religious painting for
their crisp storytelling. I also really love meeting artists and seeing and talking about art. I get the opportunity a lot at my current job as a Custom Framer; not only to meet and talk to artists from all walks of life, but to see, touch, and elevate their work. That is probably what has been inspiring me the most this year.
I love old mythological, neoclassic, and religious painting for their crisp storytelling.
How has creating art helped you navigate life’s challenges?
You know, it’s funny. I just had someone say to me “Mercy, you’re such a happy person but you paint
some sad and scary stuff sometimes.” While I do consider myself a happy person, I struggle deeply with my mental health. Painting is so much more to me than making a beautiful picture, it is very much an emotional experience for me. It’s my meditation and self-care.
Painting is so much more to me than making a beautiful picture, it is very much an emotional experience for me. It’s my meditation and self-care.
What’s your medium of choice? Why?
I’m in love with watercolors. How it can be layered, blended, and just how pigments move and run together in puddles. I didn’t always like them though, I used to use exclusively oil paints because I found them vibrant and forgiving. Like, 7 years ago now I decided to give watercolors a try but I didn’t have much money. I bought three tubes, Viridian, Magenta, and Cerulean Blue. I experimented, made a ton of crappy sketches until eventually they started looking okay. Been hooked ever since.
I’m in love with watercolors.
What are your favorite subjects or themes?
I can’t stop painting faces and skulls. It’s almost a compulsion. I love exploring soft, fleshy textures. Oh, and eyeballs for days. They creep me out but I never miss an opportunity to pop one in where it doesn’t belong.
I love exploring soft, fleshy textures. Oh, and eyeballs for days.
How do you know when your painting is done?
I ‘peel the tape’ when I know that nothing I can add will make it better. I’m not a great multi-tasker
when it comes to paintings. I’ve learned that if I interrupt a piece, I’ll lose my train of thought on it and, more than likely, never come back to it. I can do sketches and studies but whatever is on my easel is what gets my complete attention from the moment I lay down my ugly green tape until I peel it off.
I ‘peel the tape’ when I know that nothing I can add will make it better.
When you are working through problems in your work, who do you talk to?
I’m lucky enough to have made a few great art friends. If I’m stuck on a piece, I have faith that my
buddy Ryann Burke can give me solid advice with her extensive art and tattooing experience. It also helps that my incredibly logical partner, Aarron, can advise me where his eye gets hung up, and what looks cluttered.
I’m lucky enough to have made a few great art friends.
What advice would you give you your younger self?
I know me. I know the younger Mercy wouldn’t listen to a damn thing I say, but just in case she does, I would tell her that you don’t need to be everything for everyone. It will bring so much more joy to be what you need for yourself.
I would tell her that you don’t need to be everything for everyone. It will bring so much more joy to be what you need for yourself.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I don’t frequently have the opportunity to talk about myself, my journey as an artist, or my mental health struggles. I’d like to round up this interview and mention that this year is the end of a two year struggle with burnout and depression. Near the beginning of this year (2021), I made major changes to my life to realign it with my true joy in life, creating. Coming back stronger, I have to say how thankful I am for the warm welcome back I’ve been given.
... I have to say how thankful I am for the warm welcome back I’ve been given.
I also want to thank you Melissa, for inviting me to be a part of your blog. I’m so excited to have the chance to work with such a skilled and experienced artist. And thanks to everyone that reads through this, you can find my work as merciful_mortis on Instagram, and I hope to soon launch a website to give folks the opportunity to purchase my work.