You guys. Stop whatever you’re doing and read this interview with Maria Bennett Hock.
Maria is a military spouse and painter who specializes in portraits. She blogs consistently about her work and her process. She is a warm, joyful woman and I’ve felt privileged to get to know her a bit through her blog, our emails, and this interview. For me, her story reads as an inspiration about how important our work as artists is to honoring and reconciling our intertwined identities of “dependent” and “independent”. Spoiler alert: Maria didn’t start painting until later in her life, but she now seems to be making up for lost time by practicing her art consistently and consciously building an artistic team of support.
I hope you find this interview valuable; if you do be sure to support Maria’s work by adding your thoughts in the comments section and visiting her on the web at any of her sites:
Maria’s blog: mariahock.blogspot.com
Maria’s newsletter: http://bennetthock.com/email-newsletter
Maria’s website: bennetthock.com
Maria on Facebook: Facebook.com/mariabennetthock
Maria on Instagram: Instagram.com/mariabennetthock
MilspoFAN: Can you describe your journey as a military spouse and how you landed where you are today?
Maria: I was born into a military family. My Dad was a pilot in the Air Force. We moved frequently as I grew up. My four brothers were and still are my best friends…they were the ones who were always with me…helped me get settled into new neighborhoods and are to this day the ones I turn to for support and encouragement.
I met my husband in Rutland, Vermont. He was attending West Point and home on Christmas leave his freshman (plebe) year. We married right after graduation and have traveled all over the world to include Europe and Asia and throughout the United States. My husband retired from the Army in Northern Virginia and then went to work for the United States Senate. He has since retired and continues to work as a consult.
MilspoFAN: What other careers or “day jobs” have you pursued (if any) and why did you leave them to pursue your painting?
Maria: As I traveled around the world with my husband to his various duty stations, I sometimes struggled to find my place. I took office jobs from time to time and did lots of volunteer work always offering to do the most creative tasks I could find. I was busy raising my two boys and dealing with moves and life’s adventures. I found a job as a graphic designer and loved my work…but knew I wanted something else…more creative freedom. I decided to go back to college…I was in my 50’s. It was intimidating to say the least…but while at school I started drawing and found my passion for drawing and painting. Our two sons had left home and I had time to reflect and decided where I wanted to put my efforts. I started painting every day and honing my skills. I found my love of painting portraits and figures and have never looked back. I paint every day and am constantly striving to improve.
MilspoFAN: I noticed many series of paintings on your blog. How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as an artist- creatively, logistically, or otherwise? And what is it that draws you in to painting similar subjects over and over?
Maria: While looking for direction in my art work, I kept hearing people say that you should paint what you know and what you are passionate about. I know the military and I feel like I have a lot to say about military life…especially the journey of the military spouse. It can often be a challenge to move frequently, survive deployments, long hours and deal with the uncertainty of what the future will bring. I decided to do a series of military spouses during different stages of their lives. Pregnancy, deployment, moves, and of course, the ultimate sacrifice, are all depicted in my Military Spouse Series.
I have expanded my military spouse series to include confident women in all walks of life. We all have a story…we all have a journey. I want to tell that story. What I have found through this art journey is that we all have challenges in our lives.
I also was fortunate to be able to frequent the World War II memorial and welcome the veterans from World War II, the Korean conflict and Viet Nam. I started a series of service members saluting. When I ask a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine to salute I can see their back straighten…a twinkle in their eye and the pride of knowing they served their country and how proud they are. I try to capture that twinkle and pay respect to their service to our country.
From my travels I have a “fun props” closet that includes Kimonos, renaissance outfits and a healthy collection of hats that I encourage my models to wear to make interesting compositions. Painting the intricate patterns on the beautiful fabric from the kimonos challenges me and, I think, makes me a better artist. Trying to decide what to realize and how much I can leave out is always a challenge. I want to provide enough information for the viewer to discern the composition but leave enough to the imagination to make it more interesting and more relatable. It is a constant push and pull to achieve the look I work for.
MilspoFAN: How do you meet other artists?
Maria: I have worked hard to cultivate a community of artists. I rely on my colleagues for encouragement, inspiration and comradery. I meet them at conferences, classes and on social media. I belong to a group of five artists who go by the moniker WAM…Women-artists-mentors. We work closely with each other offering support and help in all areas of art as a business and creatively. Carrie Roets Waller, Debra Kierce, Helen Beacham and Kim Minichiello are the members. We are conducting a show in Montana at the Waterworks Museum after the first of the year. I will be featuring my military spouse series at the show.
MilspoFAN: How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to start your blog?
Maria: I began blogging in 2011. At first I used it as a vehicle to promote my daily paintings. I soon realize I did not want to try to complete a painting every day. I needed more time to develop my ideas and I wanted to work on larger pieces…so I slowed down and now blog only when I do a work I am particularly proud of. I try to tell stories about my paintings, what inspired me and sometimes I will show my process. I hope to film a video in the near future.
MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Maria: I am always looking for Military spouses to model for me. I am currently living in North Carolina and would love to find someone nearby to add to my series.
My future goals include honing my skills, telling more stories and finding a venue to show my military spouse series. I attend life drawing/painting as often as I can…that along with preparation for the Waterworks show and commissions keep me very busy.
You can follow me on my blog mariahock.blogspot.com
Sign up for my newsletter at http://bennetthock.com/email-newsletter
My website bennetthock.com
Thank you, Maria, for taking the time to share your work and your thoughts with us here at MilspoFAN. Now it’s your turn, dear readers. What part of Maria’s story moved you? Tell us in the comments below or visit MilspoFAN’s Facebook Group and add a comment.