Essex County native MaryAnna Coleman has been able to accomplish a lot in her life, including following her dream. MaryAnna started painting pet portraits on the side of her corporate job, and it has grown into a full-time endeavor. She now offers custom paintings to commemorate a milestone; house portraits; matchbox illustrations; and of course, pet portraits. Keep reading to learn more about MaryAnna’s small local business.
Montclair Girl: Tell us about growing up on Glen Ridge and your decision to move to Montclair.
MaryAnna Coleman: I grew up in Glen Ridge and after college moved to the city for a few years. I moved back home for a bit, unsure of where to go as my job allows me to work from anywhere. During the pandemic, I decided being near home in Montclair was the ideal combination of what I liked about being in the city and home in Glen Ridge.
MG: What is your favorite aspect about living and working in Montclair?
MC: I love the variety it offers and how something is always going on. There’s a good scene for food, art, small businesses, and living here has a personable feel.
MG: What inspired you to get into art? What were your first experiences with it?
MC: I’ve always enjoyed making and learning about art, but never would have believed it if someone had told me I’d be making a go of it as an actual artist. While I was still working corporate jobs I was painting on the side for fun, which eventually turned full-time.
MG: Tell us about MaryAnna Coleman Designs.
MC: What began as primarily painting pet portraits evolved into a wide variety of customizable art. I paint lots of house portraits for realtors/general gifts, restaurants, bars, as well as wedding art for invitations/save the dates and illustrative elements to be used throughout, like “His” and “Hers” drink menus. I also paint matchbooks and occasionally portraits of people.
Most of my work is smaller, more detailed watercolors and gouache, but I’ve just started to get back into acrylics and hope to create more large-scale work. In addition to original work, I also work with a professional giclee printer to make museum-quality giclee prints of subjects that more people might like, such as a popular restaurant, or an animal that might go well in a nursery. These are more affordable ways for people to enjoy my work.
MG: What subjects are your best sellers and why?
MC: The Parker House in Sea Girt, Bemelmans Bar within the Carlyle Hotel in NYC, and Nantucket’s Millie’s & Cisco seem to be the big hits in the prints department. Otherwise, people often gift their friends an original painting of a special scene from their wedding, or a house portrait of their childhood home, for example. Another popular subject is matchbooks – a fun way to pay homage to your favorite spot(s). People can choose specific places that are special to them, and put all of their specified matchbooks on one page. Seeing them represented in this way can instantly bring you to special memories in a compact, neat way. The memories of these places are what draw people to the art.
MG: What would you say makes your business special?
MC: How personal the work can be. In a broader sense, customizing something that’s used to celebrate a milestone like an engagement or first home, then there are the smaller details like hiding someone’s name or a significant date within a painting for the viewer to search for as an added bonus.
One of my favorite commissions last year was a scene of a family’s Christmas morning taking place around the tree pre-2020. The client gifted it to her mom, who they couldn’t be with during the pandemic. It was quite meaningful. The beauty of a business this small is currently if you need to reach me, it will be me – you’ll always know who you’re talking to.
MG: What’s something about you or your business that people might be surprised to learn about?
MC: While I majored in Studio Art in college, I am self-taught in watercolors.
MG: Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
MC: Architecture, childrens’ books, animals, textiles, artists… endless artists. If I start listing them it might be hard to stop.
MG: What are your goals for this year?
MC: To finish out the year with commissions and print sales for the holidays. By 2022, I want to start painting larger, incorporate more acrylics, explore new subjects, begin to sell in more stores, and hopefully get into more galleries. I would also love to get into hand-painted wallpaper/murals and textiles.
MG: What does a typical day look like for you?
MC: Each day varies. But generally, I like to get up, make my smoothie, go for a walk and grab a coffee at Paper Plane, and then return to tackle some emails and administrative work. Some days are more for the “prep” of the painting, others for the actual painting, and others for more administrative-type tasks like shipping products, website maintenance, contracts, accounting, etc.
MG: What has been the highlight in your career/life so far?
MC: I’ve been lucky enough to paint the endpapers for best-selling author Louise Penny’s last few books. Seeing the books in stores is always a fun feeling. I also always love when customers send photos of the paintings/prints they’ve purchased or been gifted in use throughout their homes.
MG: Anything else you want to share with readers?
MC: I’ll have a small pop-up at the Wellmont Arts Plaza Grand Opening & Fall Bazaar on 11/13! I was also invited to be part of the “Spotlight on Art Artists Market” in Atlanta this coming January into February.
MG: What is your favorite restaurant in Montclair?
MC: I’m sorry but I cannot choose one! Bluestone or Ray’s for breakfast, Nicolo’s/Rosario’s/Sparo’s Deli for a sandwich, Ani Ramen, Cafe Giotto, Ruthie’s for pizza/fun outdoor space & music, Paper Plane and the Corner for coffee (walkable right by my place!). Faubourg/Pharmacie/Egan’s for drinks.
MG: What is your favorite boutique in Montclair?
MC: Monty, & son, and Watchung Booksellers.
MG: What do you love most about Montclair?
MC: How it has an urban aspect with the small-town feel, with lots going on. And it’s just pretty.
MG: What is your favorite thing to do in Essex County?
MC: I love walking around Edgemont Park, and the views at Eagle Rock.
MG: Tell us about another business in the area you admire.
MC: Good Bottle Refill Shop – Deanna Taylor-Heacock, is very passionate about her business, and I love the mission of the company. Four Flavors Art – gallery owned by four women with their particular expertise in art.
MG: What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Essex County?
MC: Edgemont Park or Brookdale Park
MG: Where do you go out with friends in the area?
MC: Faubourg for a nice cocktail/dinner, or Egan’s, Montclair Brewery, or Amanti Vino for drinks.
MG: What is something you think needs to come to Montclair?
MC: For a while, I would’ve said a beer garden but looks like that’s happening in Lackawanna Station! I love Pharmacie Bar & Kitchen, but not sure of its status, so think a cocktail bar would be a nice addition.