Mary Coffey is an artist who explores spirituality through creative expression. This is her second installment in a 4-part series as Artist Strong’s Artist in Residence.

You see the art as she creates on Instagram @artful_spirituality. Visit her website and subscribe to Studio Updates at

The Gathering for The Crone Project Continues!


This week in The Crone Project, I started gathering a list of Crones I would like to paint and interview. I haven’t decided whether age should be a qualifier. I want to limit this project to women who have left the Motherhood stage and moved into the Crone stage. Does that mean at least 50? Must a Crone be post-menopausal? Or should I consider only those who the government considers old and ready for Medicare: 65+? I’m not sure yet; I will hold that question loosely. 

My list is shaping up! I’ve contacted three Crones so far. I’ve had one volunteer herself and I am willing to take other nominations. I am mindful that I have very few connections with Crones of color, but I do have one in mind.

As the project develops, I am realizing that while capturing the essence and spark of these Crones is critical to restoring their dignity and visibility, the gathering of their stories of courage in the face of life’s obstacles is just as important.

Why is it important to tell your story? 

Because you matter!

  • Telling your story validates your experiences, your life, and your being human. Telling your story is an opportunity to express your truth, as you see it. And by expressing your truth, you give permission to others to express their stories, and their truth, too. 
  • By taking the time to listen to your story, I am conveying the idea that your story is important enough to be listened to, and that your life is important enough to be witnessed. It proves that you matter.  
  • Expressing things that have happened to you, the good, the bad, and the ugly, enables you to lay down the burden you have been carrying by yourself. And that is a liberating relief.

Here are the interview questions I’ve come up with so far. Let me know if you have any I should add:

  1. How would you describe your upbringing?
  2. How did you perceive old women as a child? as a young adult?
  3. How did you perceive old women now?
  4. What was the most joyous event that happened to you?
  5. What was the hardest thing that happened to you? 
  6. What was the most courageous thing you ever did?
  7. What is the best decision you have ever made? 
  8. Do you have any regrets in life?
  9. How do you want to be perceived by others at this stage in your life?
  10. What advice would you give to women younger than you/ or to your younger self?

I have two interviews scheduled so far! And I need to decide what size and type of substrate I will use for these paintings. I am comfortable with a 9” x 12” size and will probably use gessoed watercolor paper that I’ll eventually affix to cradle boards. There is still no precise end goal in mind. I know that this project, the artwork and the interviews, can live on my website. I am open to seeing how I could develop this into a more permanent and publicly accessible format.

You can see how my mind is turning the project over and over, thinking about every aspect. It is multi-dimensional, so a fair bit of  thinking is required. I appreciate your witness of the project’s unfolding. Eventually I promise to produce a finished painting or two, hopefully by the end of my Artist Strong residency. 

Let’s take a look at the next step in the creative process: DOCUMENT.

Instagram plays a big role in my documenting stage. I take a lot of photos and some short videos of my work in progress and add them to post or reels. The collection of my artwork displayed in my feed helps me to see how my style has developed and my technique has progressed. You can follow me on Instagram here. 

But I don’t share all my work on Instagram. The place to really explore without concern of what people think and without the pressure to finish a piece of artwork is in a studio log. Whether digital or on paper, the studio log is the place to work out the details, to experiment with concepts, and to explore color palettes. 

A studio log or a sketch book is a great tool to keep track of your work in progress in more detail than you would reveal on Instagram. It’s a place to record the highs and lows, the frustrations and breakthroughs. These can give you great insight and help you recapture your train of thought after stepping away.  And, eventually, you may want to share the nitty gritty of your process. Non-artists love to see how the mind of an artist works, and how the process unfolds, so keep all those preliminary sketches!

Here are a couple of steps I took this week that will end up in my studio log:

Trying out flesh tones: The complexion on my mom’s face is a cool pink tone, so this color combination is what I am exploring.  Combining titanium white with alizarin crimson and just a touch of red was recommended by Lee Hammond in her book Paint People in Acrylic. I also experimented with some dairylide yellow, yellow ochre, hansa yellow light, burnt umber, and prussian blue for the shadows. This mix of the right flesh tone for my mom’s face will take more experimenting. I actually painted it directly onto my hand but didn’t quite get the match right. Hands can be a different color than faces.

swatched paint in red and pink flesh tones

It helps to figure out where the lights and darks are before moving forward on a painting.  Here is my value study along with the original photo and my preliminary sketch: 


These pieces felt like the Creating stage but they are part of the Gathering of research and preparing to paint. 

My goal for next week is to have the  first painting for this project finished. I mentioned last week that the Creating stage is filled with risk for me. Is that true for you? What kind of risks come up for you when you are ready to create?

In addition to all of the gathering information particular to the execution of the paintings and the interviews, I’ve been gathering information about Crones as an archetypal energy that beckons women my age.

Here is a list of delightful attributes from “Crones Don’t Whine; Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women” by Jean Shinoda Bolen (2003), that I invite you to consider cultivating regardless of your age:

  • Crones don’t whine. 
  • Crones are juicy.
  • Crones trust their own instincts.
  • Crones don’t grovel. 
  • Crones do meditate. 
  • Crones choose the path with heart. 
  • Crones are fierce about what matters most to them. 
  • Crones speak the truth with compassion. 
  • Crones listen to their bodies. 
  • Crones reinvent themselves as needed.
  • Crones savor the good in their lives.

Which one of these attributes resonates with your soul right now?

Every month, 1-3 artists show up in our Artist Strong community to share their artistic process, journey, explorations with us over the course of a month.

The goal is to normalize the MANY, VARIED experiences of being an artist.

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