Introducing the Artists of the Painted Violins

Sandy Cohen

Artist, Painted Violin #1

Inspired by her irresistible grandkids, Sandy Cohen turned to an easel rather late, picked up brushes and started to paint portraits. This followed a long professional career of lawyering and law school teaching, and managing a federal project to restore Chesapeake Bay shoreline. But then her artistic "retirement" quickly took off. Sandy's paintings were soon juried into regional and national exhibits, she was having solo gallery shows, and was chosen to be an Artist in Residence at Maryland Hall.  Her work received numerous awards, and was honored by the prestigious Portrait Society of America. 

These days, Sandy has set up her personal studio in Annapolis, and continues to run the open portrait studio at Maryland Hall.  Examples of her work can be seen on her website at Her email address is


Sally Wern Comport

Artist, Painted Violin #2

Sally Comport began her career as an artist at age 15, drawing furniture newspaper ads for her dad’s [much more innocent] Mad-Men-era advertising agency. Since then, her prolific catalog of creative works span decades, applying visual problem solving to editorial concepts, corporate collateral, children’s publications, commercial branding design, and large-scale art. 

Comport is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design and earned her graduate degree from Syracuse University and continues to guest lecture and teach at Maryland Institute College of Art. She co-founded W/C Studio Inc., a commercial art studio in 1986 with clients as wide ranging as American Express Bank, Microsoft, UPS, and Simon Schuster Publishing. Her work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of American Illustration in New York.

Comport established her design studio Art at Large, Inc. in 2003, which specializes in large-scale artistic solutions for interior and exterior spaces. Clients include George Washington’s Mount Vernon, University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopedic Institute, the Harriet Tubman Visitors Center, Anne Arundel Medical Center, and the Maryland Historical Society. She serves as a designer/consultant to several non-profit Boards, including Providence Center, Visit Annapolis, and the public art initiative she co-founded in 2004 known as ArtWalk. 

Comport’s latest picture books include Nile Crossing by Katy Beebe, Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood, and Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs by Dr. Angela Farris Watkins. Recent recognition includes the Christopher Award, the 2017 Flora Stieglitz Straus Award and Children’s Book of the Year from Bank Street College of Education, Junior Library Guild Selections, the 2013 Visual Artist Annie Award, and inclusion in the Society of Illustrators Original Art Shows, Society of Illustrators Annual, and Communication Arts Illustration Annual. 


Melissa Gryder

Artist, Painted Violin #3

 While Melissa was growing up in Frederick, Maryland during the 1980s, Frederick was undergoing a transformation from a small town surrounded by idyllic farmland to a suburban community of Washington, DC.  She spent most of her early years on her grandparent's dairy farm and was privileged to have a glimpse into a disappearing way of life. Melissa began to capture these fleeting moments on canvas.  She felt so much of the art world seemed to focus on the ugly, harsher moments of life.  She aimed to dwell on the positive and the splendor that remained.  She received her BFA in Studio Art from Frostburg State University; went on to marry a US Navy Pilot, living and traveling all over the country.   


Upon settling in Annapolis, Maryland, she discovered a thriving Art Community deeply rooted in the color of Impressionism with a strong history of portraiture. Melissa spent years studying with Master Impressionist, John Ebersberger, nationally renowned portrait artists, Cedric and Joanette Egeli, as well as at The Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Melissa lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two children.  

She exhibits nationally, and is represented by Main Street Gallery in Annapolis. Her work is in collections throughout the United States, England and Japan.  She is a member of Oil Painters of America, The Portrait Society of America, the Mid Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association, and is currently a board member of the Maryland Society of Portrait Painters.


Neil Harpe

Artist, Painted Violin #4

Neil Harpe is a painter and printmaker. He approaches his work through a variety of media that includes watercolor, acrylics, graphite, lithography, and intaglio printmaking (etching). He often combines several of these approaches in a single work. Harpe is particularly well known for his marine art: workboats, lighthouses, and watermen. However, his works cover a wide range of subjects including landscapes, figures, automobiles, airplanes, and music subjects such as his “Blues Singers” series and “Guitar Portrait” series.


Harpe’s lithographs were included in the "Art in the Embassies Program" of the U.S. State Dept. and displayed at U.S. Embassies throughout the globe. His art work is in many private and corporate collections, including the permanent collection of the U.S. Naval Academy, the Beverly Robinson Collection of Naval & Marine Art, Calvert Marine Museum, and Westinghouse. A series of Harpe’s abstract images based on mathematical proofs are on permanent display at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland.


Joan Machinchick

Artist, Painted Violin #5

Annapolis artist Joan Machinchick draws her inspiration from nature and from words. Her media include calligraphy, water color painting and artist’s books. An honors graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art, her background is in graphics, book design and illustration. Her artist’s books, maps, invitations, articles and book reviews have been featured in several publications and she has exhibited in many solo, shared and juried exhibits in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC area.  


Abigail McBride

Artist, Painted Violin #6

Compelled to chronicle the life and world around her, Abigail Faye McBride paints with the heart of a poet. Her oil paintings and charcoal drawings bear witness to a time, person or passing glimmer of light. Abigail paints landscape, figure and still life working interchangeably with brush and palette knife. Collectors, nationally and internationally, appreciate the color, mood and elegance of her work.

A consummate Cape School colorist, the draftsmanship in her work is born of an academic interest in the portrait and figure. Her work blends traditional subject matter with modern design sensibilities. She is part of a new breed of perceptual painters working from  direct observation be it plein air or in the studio. Though often free of narrative, her work is grounded in the present day as a contemporary interpretation of genre painting.

McBride has developed a reputation as a dynamic teacher. She teaches at the prestigious Chesapeake Fine Art Studio, Anne Arundel Community College and selected workshops. She is advancing principles of visual understanding acquired from years of study. 

Early national recognition by American Artist Magazine helped launch Abigail into gallery representation. Using skills gleaned as one of the founders of the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association and the Paint Annapolis plein air competition she launched Paint the Town, the first plein air event in Chesapeake City MD. Her work is featured in the 100 Plein Air Painters of the Mid-Atlantic large format book by Gary Pendleton, Shiffer Press. She is represented Berkley Gallery and Stewart Gallery in Virginia, Benfield Gallery and McBride Gallery in Maryland and The Egeli Gallery in Massachusetts. Abigail also shows her work in institutions and museum exhibitions.


Nancy McCarra

Artist, Painted Violin #7

Nancy McCarra has had a profound interest in art since childhood,and has pursued that interest with drawing and painting. She focused on an art curriculum in high school and college,then took a long interval away from an artistic life to raise her family of three children with her husband Andy. She was again drawn to her creative passion and began taking classes at the local community college and then at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

Soon she was immersed in the study of the portrait,figure and color; painting still life and landscapes. Nancy feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to gain knowledge and receive instruction from numerous renowned artists and talented contemporaries.

Her paintings are filled with the luminosity of light and the brilliance of color. She works from life,en plein air, usually returning to the same painting at the same time and conditions of the day until it is finished,whether she is painting a landscape or a still life set up or a model. 

"I am a color painter and strive to bring the beauty of the color and form in light to my paintings. Painting is a study of relationships; one color to another,warm and cool,light and shade. Painting is also an expression of what inspires me,whether it's a splash of sunlight striking a few branches of a tree,a dusty antique bottle casting a luminous shadow across a table top,or a face. Being an artist is a joyful journey,one which I pursue with passion,gratitude and dedication."

Ms. McCarra's paintings have been in numerous shows,exhibitions and juried events. She is part of a group of six artists-The Maryland Colorists-brought together by their love of color and the pursuit of excellence in their work. She is a member of the Maryland Society of Portrait Painters,serving as the organization's treasurer and secretary. As a former member of the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association she worked in a volunteer capacity for their annual plein air painting competition "Paint Annapolis" from 2003-2010,co-chairing the event in 2008 and participating as one of the 30 juried artists in 2010. Nancy is featured in the book "100 Plein Air Painters of the Mid-Atlantic" published in 2014. Participating as one of 21 artists in 2017 in Gloucester's Inaugural Festival of the Arts,Heart of the River Plein Air event she won an Honorable mention for her painting "Before the Rain".

Previously showing her work at Gallery 1683 until their closing in 2009,Nancy is currently represented by Main Street Gallery in Annapolis,Maryland and Stewart Gallery in Gloucester,Virginia. Her website is: 


Phyllis Saroff

Artist, Painted Violin #8

The iconic shapes found on a violin are what inspired Phyllis’s artwork. Titled “Variation on a Theme”, Phyllis painted animal and plant forms to playfully connect the man-made object with similar shapes found in nature. 

Phyllis Saroff is a freelance illustrator and fine artist working in Annapolis. Her original oil paintings and watercolors have sold through McBride Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland since 2001. Her natural science illustration is featured in wayside signs and educational materials across the country. Clients include, the United States Department of the Interior, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and Virginia’s Fairfax County Park Authority. 

She has worked with children's book publishers such as Charlesbridge, Arbordale, Lerner and Schleich Toys to illustrate fiction and non-fiction books. Her latest books are “Maggie, Alaska’s Last Elephant” by Jennifer Curtis, and “Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos” by Terry Jennings. Both books are published by Arbordale Publishing. 

She creates children's illustration for magazines that include Boy's Life, the National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick and Highlights Magazine. Other clients include the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D. C., the Annapolis Maritime Museum and the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Phyllis has a Masters of Fine Art from The Academy of Art University. She also has a Bachelor of Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University. 


Andree Tulliér

Artist, Painted Violin #9

Andrée Tullier was born in Lafayette, Louisiana. After graduating with a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of Maryland.  Andrée received her Art Education degree from Bowie State University, Bowie, Maryland.  She was a high school Art Teacher for a short time before embarking on a graphic design career.

In high school Andrée was drawn to Impressionism and became passionate about the color of light in nature, which continues to both amaze and challenge her.

Returning to her passion in 2001 she studied with John Ebersberger, whom introduced her to the Cape School of Art.  He also led her to nationally renowned portrait artists Cedric Egeli and Joanette.  Andrée has studied the portrait and figure extensively with the Egelis. Sculpting the portrait and figure in order to understand form in space has elevated her skills and abilities to paint the portrait and figure in a setting.

While Andrée paints en plein air (in the open air), her beautiful north light studio provides the ideal setting for her indoor work and commissioned portraits. 

Andrée teaches Drawing and Painting at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis and in her Edgewater studio.  Andrée can be found online at: and


Sarah Wardell

Artist, Painted Violin #10

Maryland artist Sarah Wardell is a painter of landscape, still life, and the figure in the American Impressionist and Plein Air painting tradition. She particularly enjoys painting sunsets, immersed in the changing light as she captures the brilliant vibrancy of the scene. On painting trips, usually prepared with multiple small panels, Sarah will begin with one, and then start another as the light changes rapidly in the evening, resulting with a series showing the progression of the sunset.

Sarah received her BA in Graphic Design from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and continues to study at the Art League in Alexandria, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, and at the Chesapeake Fine Art Studio.

Sarah shows her work at the Egeli Gallery in Provincetown, MA, at the McBride Gallery in Annapolis, and at the Benfield Gallery in Severna Park. Her last solo show, Airscapes II, was at Gallery 1448 in Baltimore.

She is one of six artists in The Maryland Colorists, a group of like-minded painters who paint and exhibit together in the Maryland area. She is also currently a board member of the Maryland Society of Portrait Painters.

Artists that have influenced and inspired her include: John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Henry Hensche, Claude Monet, Alphonse Mucha, and Wolf Kahn. Also, teachers and renowned artists Cedric and Joanette Egeli, John Ebersberger, Abigail McBride, Ted Reed, Robert Liberace, and Danni Dawson.