Artist Statement

Hybrid visual artist Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, MA, MFA

art·ist.

/ˈärdəst/

a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby; a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.

flower stamped icon by MRM Illustration

I am an artist.

*That* ???? is a wholehearted proclamation — and the artist definition (as shared above) helps underscore my hearty statement. Forwardness aside, the word artist is, in fact, a mere noun — and nouns without adjectives usually indicate that something or someone is simply just a person, place, or thing. Without descriptive words in association for added context, one may know what something or someone is, but will lack information about the type of person, place, or thing they are … or aren’t.

The lack of adjectives in the phrase “I am an artist” is no accident.

And that’s because I myself am not clear on the type of artist I am — at least, not quite just yet. Despite this admission, I’m also not exactly in a hurry to put a label on my artistry, either. Instead, I choose to spend my time simply savoring my acknowledgment of being an artist, because reaching such a point has taken me almost an entire lifetime to realize and fulfill.

In fact, it’s only been about five years or so since I decided to pursue an art or drawing direction.

Back then, my drawings were unskilled and lacked finesse, despite their latent potential. Still, my doodling and sketches came from a powerful “gnaw to draw” that overtook my life at some point during 2015. The longing to draw everything in sight soon became inescapable. After two years of mulling it over, I decided to plunge heart first into an Illustration MFA with the Academy of Art University in the Fall of 2017.

My first MFA semester, I recall, was a time of wonder. 

The Academy kicked off my grad degree with a class in oil painting. This was an exciting but intimidating experience because while I was eager to learn how to hand-paint in oil (instead of digitally with Photoshop!), I’d never once held an oil brush in my life. Ever.

An early oil painting by visual artist Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, MA, MFA

One of my very first oil paintings: Autumn Pumpkins. October 2017.

Yet I dove headfirst into that medium, never imagining I’d become as transfixed as I did with how luscious and beautiful painting with oil paints would be.

Beyond the oil

The same kind of endearing intoxication occurred when I started drawing with charcoal in the Spring of 2019; I’d be covered in soot, especially my hands and fingernails, but I’d be delighted at the beautiful rendering of my charcoaled outcomes.

Learning to draw with charcoal and chalk pastels

Learning to draw with charcoal and chalk pastels


La Belle Bleu (2018). Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on 24″ x 36″ newsprint.

La Belle Bleu (2018). Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on 24″ x 36″ newsprint.

Then later that year, learning to paint with watercolor and gouache completely expanded my ideas about illustration and painting using water mediums.

Additional reflections

After twenty-five years earning a living as a relatively successful graphic designer, working in analog and with traditional mediums has been a true challenge for me. Yet the subsequent artistic experiences which have since unfolded have completely transformed my approach towards image-making, no matter what the medium. Since enrolling in my MFA program, I’ve been jolted wide awake and can now see a vast and riveting range of new visual expression possibilities at my artistic disposal.

Through the doubts

Admittedly, this journey hasn’t always been a bed of roses. The first 18-months during the program were especially difficult as I grappled with the intensity of the classes and sheer volume of learning. There were late nights, while juggling multiple art homework assignments, where I’d start to doubt if I’d even stay in the program, if my artworks were good enough, or if I’d endure through to the graduation finish line.

With arms wide open

But now, as I near the end of my MFA (with less than a year to go), I don’t worry as much about not yet knowing what exactly my drawing style is or if I’m a this or that type of artist. I recognize such an answer will come naturally with time. Most of all, any such misgivings have been dramatically overshadowed by my interminable joy and excitement at what creatively lies ahead of my artistic journey. So while I’m still far from being the kind of artist I (think I) want to be, borrowing a quote from Vincent Van Gogh feels quite fitting to describe my current outlook and aspirations:

“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

A hybrid design studio

MRM Illustration: brand art, digital design, and custom illustration services in Hamilton, VirginiaMy name is Mayra Ruiz-McPherson and I launched MRM Illustration as a hybrid design studio in 2019. My practice combines a 20+ year interactive design career with classical art methods to beautifully render visuals for any occasion.

Freelancing & subcontracting

I welcome creative collaborations and freelance opportunities with ad agencies, graphic design firms, creative marketplaces, and art licensors who find my unique perspective, design flair, and aesthetics expertise curious and refreshing. And yes, small and local business collaborations are also welcome.

Hybrid Visual Artist Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

MRM Illustration | 331 W. Colonial Highway, Hamilton, VA 20158 | mrm.illustration.studio@gmail.com