Mary Pierini-Allen looks for form, color and nostalgia all the time.
When she sees them – whether in a dilapidated shed with “No Trespassing” signs off Highway 152 west of Casa de Fruta, in a pair of geese taking off from a waterway near Firebaugh or in a barn behind her grandson’s apartment in San Jose – she starts painting.
“I get subjects and then I go with it. I usually change it as I go along,” Pierini-Allen said. “Probably like a photographer. What would make that a good picture. That’s what you look for, and the light. All of those things. Early morning or evening is always a good time, but sometimes you can’t always find that time to do that, so when you’re painting you can change it.”
Pierini-Allen’s art is now on display at the Los Banos branch of the Merced County Library, featuring prints of her original oil paintings. She also works in watercolor (adding flair with silk paper and gold leaf), but the display at the library consists of all-oil paintings on linen canvas.
“I paint from photos,” she said, “but I like to have really been there and studied it before I paint.”
With landscapes, that is easier said than done. Pierini-Allen said she and her husband, who live in Fresno and have a place in Monterey, almost caused an accident on Highway 152 while pulling off the road to study the dilapidated shed.
Pierini-Allen said she prefers to work with a linen canvas instead of the more affordable cotton.
“Your work goes much faster when you’re painting on linen, and you just get that fine finish without too much difficulty,” she said. “If you’re on plain cotton canvas, you have to work real hard to get the effects.”
Pierini-Allen was born in Dos Palos and lived much of her adult life in Firebaugh, where she taught painting classes for 30 years out of a studio in an old hotel downtown.
“I haven’t taught for a long time, but I found that when I was teaching, I didn’t feel like painting,” she said. “I had classes night and day for a while. It was fun; the girls were great. They all painted something different.”
Today she spends part of her time painting in a small studio in her Fresno house, then lugs her supplies to Monterey and paints there.
Pierini-Allen’s paintings have been featured in several Bay Area and Central Valley galleries and can be found at the Robert Hall Winery in Paso Robles. Her paintings also adorn greeting cards – both from large companies and from small-batch jobs that her husband prints.