Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Month: July 2016

Persistence pays off… eventually.

Portrait painting of woman by Marianne Morris

Portrait of Maggie Hamilton. 12×12″ Acrylic on Canvas. Private Collection.

This is a portrait of my Aunt Maggie. She passed away at way too young an age. It was a tough time for her immediate family… they are a tight knit group that spends a lot of time together. Her husband is my mom’s younger brother, and one of my favourite relatives.

Eventually, as it goes when there are artists in the family, my uncle asked me to paint her portrait. I was hesitant to say yes, since I don’t consider myself to be a portrait artist at all. I did’t want to disappoint him, and I had no idea if I’d be able to capture a likeness. But I finally agreed to try, and set about attempting to convince myself that if I just kept going, eventually I would get there.

I think I did this painting about 20 times. The photo I started with was taken at a family wedding, and she was laughing. It was a great photo that really captured who she was. But every time I got close to completing it, I’d realize she looked like a little old asian lady. Every. Single. Time.

I procrastinated. I would do anything else but work on this piece. Then every couple months I would see it staring at me in my studio and I’d devote a weekend to trying to get it finished. Eventually I decided that the photo was the problem, and went through the files until I found another one that I thought might work. My fist attempt at that one was pretty awful too. As was my second. I was beginning to think I was never going to get this finished. Not to my satisfaction anyway.

I finally got a book from the library on capturing a likeness. Then I came across a Craftsy online portrait class by Gary Faigin. I only had to watch the first lesson to figure out what I was doing wrong. I went back into my studio, determined to get this thing done.

And I did. And he was happy. And so was I.

Speaking in your own voice

This is a recent drawing. I finished it last week. But it’s taken me years to get here.

Years ago, before I started my music series, I was part of this little art group. Only a few people, very informal, none of us doing any showing. I had started working on a few drawings in a similar style to this one. I did a bunch of small ones in my sketchbook, and a couple at a larger size on watercolour paper. I took it in to show the group.

There was one artist in the group, and while she worked in a style drastically different to my own, she was very skilled and had excellent taste. I respected her opinion. So when she told me she really didn’t like these drawings, I took it to heart. And I stopped.

Fast forward a few years. I’ve been posting a #paintingoftheday to Instagram pretty much every day for a while now. I have a large inventory and have been painting regularly for years. But still… after a year of daily posting, I was running out of images. So I dug out these drawings. And you know what? They got a pretty decent reaction. I even got a commission out of it.

So why did I stop? I thought these drawings were pretty good. But I didn’t have the confidence to speak in my own voice. I was relying on other people to tell me my ideas were good enough. That I was good enough. But somewhere along the line I have figured out that I can trust my own instincts. If I think something is good, chances are there will be someone else around that agrees with me. Undoubtably there will be a few that don’t, but I know now that I don’t need to be everything to everyone. I’m ok with who I am. And I will speak in my own voice.

5 Books that Made Me a Better Artist

I had a conversation with a friend last week that got me thinking. She asked what university was like for me, and had assumed that I had spent the few years I was there happily painting away all day under the watchful eye of my oh so helpful professors. Not exactly… apart from the fact that to get a University degree in Canada I had to take a load of courses that were not at all art related, my actual art classes were big on the theoretical stuff like composition and colour theory, but not so big on instructional stuff like how to actually apply paint. Or how to come up with ideas. Or how to market yourself. She was surprised… and asked how I managed to learn all that? My answer? Books. The library is a fantastic resource. There are books to learn practically everything. And now of course there is youtube… you can find professional artists demonstrating techniques that you can watch until you get it, without having to leave the comfort of your studio. But not in the 80s. Anyway, I thought I’d list my top 5, for any beginner artists looking for somewhere to start.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – Betty Edwards

Book by Betty Edwards

Book by Betty Edwards

This was one of the first art books I went out and bought after borrowing from the library. We took drawing in school, and even learned some of the same things she goes over in the book, but it helped me immensely to understand what I was actually learning when I was doing a contour drawing (how to see the edges and understand the shapes), or wtf the prof was expecting me to do when he went on about “drawing the negative space”.  I hadn’t had any real art instruction before uni, and I needed to start at ground zero. This book seriously helped.

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I picked up this book on a whim when my son was a toddler and I felt like I had become the invisible mom. I worked my way through it chapter by chapter, and started following some of her suggestions like journaling and going on “artist dates”. I’ve gone back to this book from time to time and reread some of the chapters, as a reminder to myself that if I can’t invest the time it takes to nurture my creativity, I will never get where I want to go. This isn’t a easy book to work through… it dredges up all kinds of crap from childhood onward that you may think is best forgotten, but if you don’t understand where your insecurities and limiting beliefs come from, you will never be able to defeat them. It’s worth the effort.

The New Acrylics – Rhéni Tauchid

Book cover by Rheni Tauchid

New Acrylics by Rheni Tauchid

If you are going to paint in Acrylics, you really should grab yourself a copy of this book. Rhéni has experimented extensively with anything and everything, and covers so many interesting techniques. She and her husband own Tri-art paints, so she has had access to pretty much any kind if medium and pigment. Get the low down on the best way to get to most out of your paint, with this clear, concise resource.


Experimental Painting – Lisa Cyr

book by Lisa Cyr

Expermental Painting by Lisa Cyr

The first book I picked up on mixed media, it is a great idea book on ways to stretch your limits. Lisa Cyr mixes powder graphite with oil paint, makes stencils, builds levels into her substrates, uses found objects for printing, transfers for background patterns… all kinds of stuff I had never thought of. And she has the technical know-how to pull it off. This book is a wonderful way to stimulate your imagination and  get you going in a new direction.


Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon

book by Austin Kleon

Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon

This book was recently all over the internet… and there is good reason. I got it from the library, and promptly went out and bought a copy for both my son and my niece. It’s a short book, an easy read. But he deals with an issue artists face every day… where to get your inspiration.  I’ve read it a few times now. And I’ll probably read it again. It’s a good one.

Art Journal: Emerging Selves

I’m soon to become an empty nester. The thought scares me. I only actually gave birth to one child, but over the years our house has become the place where his friends come to hang out and practice. Especially this past year, when his high school friends have gone away to school and the new ones come from elsewhere. Coming home to a bunch of kids making music in my basement has become a regular, and not unwelcome thing. I’ve enjoyed it.

The thought of the house being empty makes me a little lonely. As much as I enjoy the quiet, (especially given my new “open concept” working environment… I don’t even turn on the radio in the car on the way home), I’m not sure a 24/7 kind of quiet is all that appealing either. But whatever… I’ll just have to get used to it. I’m sure he’ll come home now and then to visit his mom. And get food.

I have read a load of books on ancient cultures and their ceremonial masks, and the the concept of transformation comes up again and again. Actually, that seems to be one of the themes I’m drawn to… all my favourite books, movies, and even tv shows have to do with transformations of some kind. Right now, I am watching my baby boy transform into the an adult. He’s emerging from that protective cocoon of his childhood and setting off into the world. I remember fondly how exciting everything seemed then… this is a wonderful time for him, and no matter how sad it makes me, I have to suck it up and let him go. Hopefully, I’ve done my job well.