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(Image: Andrei Kozlov)

Artist of the Week: Maria Olano

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
Maria Olano: My interest in visual arts became serious about 15 years ago. Before, I was in a completely different field. My first degree was in foreign languages.

Do you work with other mediums?
I usually work with oils, but occasionally switch to pastels, graphite or even metal point.

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Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
I was trained as a classical artist. I used to do a graphite drawing first, transfer it to canvas, do an underpainting and only then move to the full color. A few years ago, I started to incorporate more impressionistic and alla prima technics. This forced me to do some changes in my process. I still do a quick drawing, but with a brush directly on canvas and not as elaborate as before. It looks more like a map - I place the objects where they're going to be and what size they're going to be. At this stage, I also try to create a sense of movement, or direction, or stability - whatever is essential for this particular piece. After that, I go directly to color.

Though I said that I try to incorporate alla prima technics, I rarely finish my paintings in one sitting. It's more like I try to set my mind that way every time I approach the canvas. It helps me keep my work fresh even if I have to work on it for some time. Though I already have decided what the piece is going to be, I still feel flexible and open to changes through the whole process.

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Telling the truth, sometimes the painting "just happens," and I have no idea how. At some point after I take a brush in my hand and start to paint, I somehow get "disconnected," and the magic of painting happens by itself.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
It comes from everything. From nature, from objects that surround me, from the thoughts that are wondering in my head, from something that I witnessed and for some reason, it impressed me. It could be anything.

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Do you have a specific "beat" you like best, nature, food, profiles, etc.?
I usually switch from one theme or subject to another. It tires me, or maybe it's better to say it empties me to paint the same over and over again. I could paint a couple landscapes and after that, switch to a still life or portrait drawing or something else. And then go back to landscape.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
It's a tough question, because in different moments of life, I feel connected with different works of art. I guess it depends a lot on my mood and inner energy, or whatever is going on in my head.

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What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
The experience of beauty. Beauty and harmony surround us and influence our perceptions. They could be found in a very different forms and presentations. It's up to the artist to find the way to express it in his/her work. And in my opinion, the presence of beauty and harmony in the art piece is what makes it strong.

If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
You could go to my website:

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What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're excited about?
Recently I started to experiment with "newspaper paintings." I incorporate newspaper as part of a story. It could be a background for the painting that gives the piece a motif, a theme. And on top of it I perform an oil painting that goes with the theme. Sometimes I use newspaper just as a symbol or additional information. I'm still experimenting with the possibilities here. I really love it. It feels like I'm using two different ways of expression, visual and verbal, at the same time.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
I usually take latte or cappuccino!