Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Anna Rappazzo.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Mary Anna. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m a Los Angeles native. I was born deaf and grew up in a hearing family. I was raised completely “oral,” which means that I was immersed in the hearing world and learned to communicate only by lipreading; sign language and Deaf culture were not encouraged. My family, especially my mother, was a strong advocate for my well-being and pushed for a high-quality education. In those days, deaf people had to fight to attend regular school. My grandmother encouraged me to try out many creative skills such as art and even playing piano. I began painting at age 10, with her encouragement, because she felt that I had good spatial ability and creativity. No one in my family focused on my deafness. They expected me to fit in the hearing world. I credit this decision for making me build strong communication skills and aiding my successful personal and professional life. Yet, I remember feeling alien and isolated until my teenage years, when I learned sign language and connected to the Deaf community and Deaf culture.
I took a series of painting classes at Pierce College and California State University at Northridge, where I graduated with B.A. degree in Graphic Design and a minor in Painting. I pursued a career as a graphic designer in an effort to make a good income from art, rather than live as a starving artist. After working in the graphic design profession for 15 years, my career took a turn into a much more creative field: digital art and illustration. I got the opportunity to work for Disney, which was a dream job. I truly loved my position creating digital character arts, and I learned a great deal about the field there. After 12 years as an in-house artist at Disney, I started a freelance business as a Digital Artist/Illustrator. Today, I still work with Disney, as well as other creative companies that use digital illustrations.
During this time, I have continued to paint and exhibit my own art. Although trained to paint representational style by my grandmother, in my 20s, I began to explore and develop my own signature style: one-eyed figurative, expressing bold statements, using a bold palette of colors. My brother called it my “one-eyed” style, but often my figures would be missing a mouth or an ear. There are recurring themes of things outside looking in, social struggle and people missing a sensory organ or two who are still connecting with the world around them. Honestly, although it seems obvious to me now, it took many years for me to recognize how my life journey as a deaf artist came out in my work.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It definitely took ambition, drive, and persistent motivation to get where I am. Running a successful freelance business is not an easy road for anyone. The road was at times bumpy and at times smooth. Perhaps the quirkiness of my art, although appreciated by art collectors and art lovers, the style and subject matters along with my deafness can be foreign to many people. I feel that some people underestimate me, as an artist and as a deaf individual. I believe I miss some opportunities to connect because someone feels awkward or uncomfortable in communicating with a deaf person.
On the other hand, because I speak clearly and lipread well, people sometimes forget courtesies like facing me when they speak. It can be challenging at times. Those kinds of struggles have influenced my art, but I have worked hard to limit its influence on my business. Like most artists, I’ve had rejections when submitting my art to mainstream institutions and galleries, but I was persistent and my paintings have been exhibited across the United States and internationally. My artwork has garnered national awards and has been featured in several publications. The latest exhibition was at Silpe Gallery at Hartford Art School in Hartford, Connecticut in 2017. I had many years of success with a gallery representing my art in Palm Springs for several years until it folded in 2011. A highlight was a retrospective of my work at the Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology, which gathered 32 of my paintings from collectors that spanned three decades. Another highlight is when I see art from my teamwork at Disney or elsewhere on store products, clothing or books. I truly love creating art and am grateful to make a living at it, which makes the struggles seem small by comparison.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the 1 Eye Art & Design story. Tell us more about the business.
I started my own freelance business as a Digital Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Fine Arts Painter, after my 12 years as an in-house Digital Artist at Disney Consumer Products. As a Digital Illustrator, I do digital artworks in inking, coloring, airbrushing, vector graphics and illustration. Mostly, I work on consumer products associated with entertainment industries, such as character arts for toy packaging, games and clothing. I see a lot of my work on toy shelves and t-shirts, which is rewarding and fun for me. I also enjoy working on print media such as illustrations for children’s books. For some clients, I do concepts and sketches. Most often, I take rough pencil sketches and make the characters, icons and backgrounds into colorful and dimensional art, carefully matching any applicable style guidelines.
My longest professional work is as a Graphic Designer. I do a variety of projects in design, including layout, cover art, brochures, logos, web design, business cards, postcards, posters, Powerpoint/Keynote presentations, marketing collaterals and image photo retouching/manipulation. For both digital art and graphic design, I have a wide range of tools including Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign and Maya.
As a Fine Artist, I paint in a variety of mediums: acrylic and oil paints and digital. As I mentioned, I have a signature “one-eyed” style for my art, but I do vary from it. In addition to gallery showings, I enjoy collaborating with clients to create content, tone and color palates that complement their décor. Having my own business as an artist, it gives me the flexibility to do a variety of projects that I truly enjoy.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
In my career, persistent dedication and ambition have generally played a greater role than luck, although I am grateful for opportunities that have been offered to me along the way. I believe I am responsible to make things happen, to meet my clients’ satisfaction, whether it is a project involving my fine art or for corporate character art or graphic design projects. In my life in general, I have been very lucky indeed, having a supportive family and network of friends.
- Pricing for original paintings ranges from $500 to $5,000, depending on content, size and framing.
- Giclée prints are available for original paintings already sold and to provide an option for customers who are unable to purchase my originals. Giclée prints are priced from $30 to $700, depending on materials (paper or canvas) and size.
- Website: www.mar1eye.com & www.1eyeartdesign.com
- Instagram: mary_1eyeart
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mary-A-Rappazzo-Fine-Artist-Art-Inspiration-More-179131728798834/
- Twitter: @MaryRappazzo