I love the process of painting. The lines, the effects, the values, the blending, the colors, the grays, the paints, the brushes, the whole experience - often back-dropped by worship or Spanish guitar music playing out of the radio at an unholy volume.

I love the unexpected nature of painting. Often I’ll see some faint thing in my painting that could become a reflection or splash of color. Most of my best and favorite paintings have been influenced by following these unintentional effects or strokes of paint that I didn’t plan, but discovered, and then enhanced.

And I love the unreliability of painting. This aspect for me, while it can be frustrating, keeps boredom at bay. How can you grow bored when every painting is a new experience with no known destination?

I grew up as an enthusiastic artist in graphite at the beautiful Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia where I passed the time exploring creation in the countryside and woods around my home. During these formative years, I pursued drawing and art as a passionate hobbyist. I rarely went out without my drawing pad under my arm, learning techniques that have been fundamental in my skills as an oil painter years later. 

After I married my best friend, I gained an interest in oils when my father took a painting class and began to teach me the basics. Thus began my foundation in painting. I soon began pouring over library books and videos. I also fit in a couple workshops as time and child-rearing permitted. Now with three active and delightful young children, the pursuit of my art is mainly a post bedtime ritual. 

Family roots add significance to my painting pursuit. My late grandmother and former League of Roanoke Artists member, Myrna Peterson, excelled at oils. I also enjoy painting with my children, nieces and nephews, and my father, David Peterson.

While the majority of my time is spent painting in the studio, plein air painting intrigues me. The difference between studio and plein air painting has stunned me. Nonetheless, I continue because it is delightful. Besides Virginia, I love painting up north; Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are among my favorites. I have also had the privilege of joining accomplished plein air artists in New England where our family of five vacations annually.

I am a member of the League of Roanoke Artists, and have been beyond delighted to have my work displayed at Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke, The Little Gallery at Smith Mountain Lake, Southern Provisions in Lynchburg, and The Artisans Loft in Staunton.

Exhibitions, Awards, and Publication


Street Ransom, Roanoke, VA
Night of Hope
Auction Contributor

Logan Gallery, North Cross School, Roanoke, VA
Group Exhibition

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, VA
Virginia's Blue Ridge, A Metro-Mountain Adventure Group Exhibition


Street Ransom, Roanoke, VA
Night of Hope
Auction Contributor

Land of 1000 Hills, Daleville, VA
Solo Show

Curata, A Blog by Circle Design
Local Artist Spotlight: Mary Vargas

League of Roanoke Artists, Roanoke, VA
33rd Annual Showcase of the Arts
Third Place Award, Oils

The Clutch Guide Summer 2018
Meet the Maker, Oil Painter Mary Peterson Vargas

MoArts Gallery, Moneta, VA
Solo Show

The Artisans Loft, Staunton, VA
Group Exhibition


Southern Provisions Company, Lynchburg, VA
Oh What Fun Artists Showcase

The Artisans Loft, Staunton, VA
Artisans Speakeasy Group Exhibition

Plein Air South Peak, Roanoke, VA
Third Annual Paint Out and Wet Paint Awards Show and Sale
Juried Third Place Award

Street Ransom, Roanoke, VA
Truffles Against Trafficking
Auction Contributor

League of Roanoke Artists, Roanoke, VA
32nd Annual Showcase of the Arts
Judge's Choice Honorable Mention

The Artisans Loft, Staunton, VA
Curious Thou Art Group Exhibition

The Artisans Loft, Staunton, VA
Art on the Block Group Exhibition

Lynchburg Art Club , Lynchburg, VA
Second Annual Paint Out Lynchburg and Juried Show


Lynchburg Art Club, Lynchburg, VA
Lynchburg Art Festival

Olde Salem Day, Salem, VA
Guest Artist

Addison Art Gallery, Orleans, MA
Celebrating Our National Parks Plein Air Event and Reception

The Little Gallery, Smith Mountain Lake, VA
"Discover, Connect, Collect", 11 Artists Invitational Exhibition

League of Roanoke Artists, Roanoke, VA
Member Exhibition

Lynchburg Art Club , Lynchburg, VA
First Annual Paint Out Lynchburg and Juried Show


The Little Gallery, Smith Mountain Lake, VA
Annual Small Works Exhibition

SPCA's 11th Annual Best in Show Fundraiser Exhibit, Roanoke, VA


Highland Park Association, Roanoke, VA
Art in the Park Plein Air Event
Sponsor's Choice Award